Our Rabbis taught that if we create even the slightest opening in our hearts, God will open it the rest of the way. We have found that music is the crowbar that pries open the heart, awakening us and reminding us what’s possible in our lives and in the world. Our music is so much of what brings people back week after week — the pulsing meditative rhythms, the melodies both joyous and plaintive reverberate all week long. Every week people share with us that IKAR’s textured and CDs elevate the time between Sabbaths and inspire them to dive more deeply into their Jewish lives. The music, people tell us, is transformative. It infuses everything with a depth, sincerity and gravitas, a joy that makes the deeper message of Judaism resonate with the greatest of force. And it builds community.
IKAR’s Davening Team
Hillel majored in musicology, and specialized in composition, classical guitar, the renaissance lute and pop music. He went on to co-found the Jewish rap band MOT. The son of a rabbinical scholar, Hillel has spent his life expressing his love of yiddishkeit. He spent several years living in Israel, has cantored during High Holy Days since his high school years, and has been the bar mitzvah tutor at Beth Am in Los Angeles since 1991. In addition to leading IKAR services, he spends his time writing his own Jewish music and posing as an international male tweed model.
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When Devorah is not drumming at IKAR and soaking up her sister’s Torah, she is banging out rhythm as a community organizer. She spent 15 years designing campaigns to advance human rights, community self-reliance, and environmental justice in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. In 1999, she founded BUSTAN, working with the Bedouin in the Negev, and ran it for nine years.
Judah has been playing the drums since he could gather all the toys around himself and bang on them. He has attended IKAR since before he was born, so the music of IKAR is in him. He idolizes Ross and Hillel and also Steely Dan. He began playing with the IKAR daveners at the Shabbaton in 2011. He plays the drums in a rock band, Moose, with his brothers and other friends from IKAR. Being on the davening team is the coolest thing that has ever happened to him. Judah is 9 years old and in the fourth grade.
Gary has been a professional drummer most of his life. He also runs his own law practice, where he represents musicians and helps them navigate the music business. He has published two books on the music industry and teaches a class on music licensing at UCLA Extension. Like so many American Jews, Gary had lost his love of davening until he was brought to IKAR. There he re-discovered how powerful the union of music and prayer can be.
Ross Levinson grew up in Brooklyn, NY acting, acting out, and playing violin and football. He began studying piano at age five, and switched to violin at age eight. He has written music for television and film, and is currently a professor at CSULA. He performs live with a number of bands and loves davening and drumming at IKAR.
Bon-vivant and achiever Akiva Potok has been percussionist to IKAR’s Davening Team for going on ten years, and was the original drummer to Hillel Tigay’s Pop-Rock period when they were both Jewish Day School students back in Vitebsk (a suburb of Philadelphia). A graduate of the USC film school, Akiva continues directing, shooting and writing independent films in the Los Angeles and New York areas.
Leah, a longtime member of IKAR, is thrilled to be on the davening team. IKAR is one of her favorite places to be – a place where she can freely express herself through song and dance. When she’s not at IKAR, Leah mentors b’nai mitzvah students and has been teaching in the Jewish community for 20 years. Her passions include speaking Hebrew, farmers markets, and her adorable dog, Moxie. Purple, as anyone who knows Leah can attest, is her signature color!
Janeen Rae Heller
The IKAR Music Lab
For the past several years, rabbis, cantors and lay leaders from across the country have sought our support in bringing a new spirit to their communities. Recognizing the impact of our musical model on our community and the breadth of possibility that emerges when communities around the country are inspired to experiment, stretch and create, we have decided to build the IKAR Music Lab, which will help revitalize and reinvigorate Jewish life in schools and synagogues across the country.
The first collaborative project of the IKAR music Lab, Hillel Tigay’s Judeo is an immersion into Second Temple sounds with a contemporary aesthetic.
“The album Judeo, as well as being hauntingly beautiful, is also radical.” – The Huffington Post
“The sort of tunes that you could imagine being hummed in the Temple, millennia ago.” – Tablet Magazine
“Evocative of ancient energy with a contemporary New Age sensibility.” –Hadassah Magazine
“Ambitious, powerful and ecumenical.” – Forward Magazine
IKAR Albums available for purchase online: