For more than a decade, Jewish music superstar Yaakov Shwekey has performed for sellout crowds around the world.
He has dedicated his talents to brightening the lives of people with special needs and performing for soldiers in the Israel Defence Forces.
Shwekey will be featured at the Toronto Centre for the Arts at NCSY’s annual concert Dec. 14. NCSY, the youth movement of the Orthodox Union, is dedicated to inspiring and educating unaffiliated Jewish teens.
“No matter what the illness, music brightens up anybody’s soul,” Shwekey said in an interview. “Music is a powerful tool. We have to inspire because music is inspiration.”
Speaking of his performances for Israeli soldiers, Shwekey noted that he wants to express his great appreciation for people who give their lives every day for the people of Israel.
“Music can also unite people no matter what background they come from. That’s what music is all about.”
He believes a singer has an obligation to do more than just give big concerts. “When we can do it, we can reach out to our brothers and sisters who are in pain and give them something to smile about.”
Shwekey was born in 1977 in Israel and raised in Brooklyn. His father is of Egyptian and Syrian heritage and his mother is Ashkenazi. He combines both heritages in his music and performs in many different styles.
For a short time, he sang in the Miami Boys Choir and performed as a wedding singer.
His first solo album, Shomati, was released in 2001. He has since produced more than 10 albums, including a Middle Eastern-style album titled Libi Bamizrach – My Heart is in the East.
His extremely popular song, Racheim, composed by Pinky Weber, has lyrics from the prayer after eating. “It’s not just a song. We connect with God and ask him to have mercy.”
Shwekey believes that any prayer is better if you have a beautiful song with the words of the prayer in it.
His songs are generally in Hebrew with some English, Yiddish and Aramaic. His albums include Cry No More, Kolot – Voices and Live in Caesarea, and he performs on many others.
Shwekey now lives in Deal, N.J., with his wife, Jenine, and their four children. His wife is the founder of the Special Children’s Center of Lakewood and Deal, with respite and support programs for children with special needs. Shwekey is a volunteer there.
He feels that the success he has experienced in his music career has come because of the work he does with these special children.
“I’m looking very much forward to singing and dancing in Toronto with everyone and uniting them to me.”
“We are excited to welcome Yaakov Shwekey to our stage,” says Rabbi Glen Black, chief executive officer of NCSY Canada. “His music brings out the joy of the Jewish experience and works hand-in-hand with our efforts to ensure that Jewish teens at a critical juncture of their lives feel pride in their Jewish identity.
“At a time in Jewish history when Jewish children have never been more at risk of dropping out of Jewish life, NCSY, with its many programs, has never been more vital.
“This concert is NCSY’s way of bringing together the community to support NCSY’s life-changing programs.”
Yaakov Shwekey performs Sunday, Dec. 14, at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. For tickets, call Sonya Budd, 905-761-6279, ext. 226, or go online to www.ncsyconcert.com.