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From Yoni’s Desk: Imagining a Jewish Woodstock

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Woodstock Music and Art Fair, August 1969 (Wikimedia Commons/Woodstock Whisperer/https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)

It’s been 50 years since Woodstock, and while efforts to officially mark the occasion with another music festival failed miserably, that shouldn’t stop us all from reminiscing.

I wonder: what would the ultimate Jewish Woodstock look like? Three days of shalom and shirah, featuring the all-time greatest rock stars of the Tribe, dead or alive. Take a trip back with me to Max Yasgur’s farm…

Day 1 of the festival opens with Lenny Kravitz’s searing rendition of Hatikvah before organizer Michael Lang steps to the mic to expound on the three set times, henceforth known as shacharit, mincha and ma’ariv. Festivalgoers are still milling in from across the Jewish world as David Lee Roth struts his stuff, with a little help from surprise guest Perry Farrell. Kiss kicks off the mincha portion, followed by the inaugural performance of supergroup Nu Nu Sha, featuring Geddy Lee, Donald Fagen, Mark Knopfler and Joey Ramone. Ma’ariv – informally dubbed “Lilith Shver” this evening – is a tribute to the greatest female Jewish rockers. Check out performances by Carole King, Lesley Gore, Susanna Hoffs, Mama Cass and Pink, before headliner Amy Winehouse caps the night.

Jefferson Airplane gets the morning started on Day 2. Midway through the set, Grace Slick stops the band to announce that “volunteers” are needed to round out a minyan at the Chabad tent. Robbie Robertson is up next, and he brings out Neil Diamond, too! Mincha features an eclectic group of acts: Lou Reed, Beck and Vampire Weekend (featuring. Haim). The smell of kugel wafts through the air, and when the rain starts, Adam Sandler exhorts the masses to mudslide. (He is only slightly more successful than Howard Stern, whose efforts to enact a communal mikveh go unheeded.) When the sky finally clears up, it’s time for the Beastie Boys, with special guests Mac Miller and Rick Rubin. Later, Phish takes the stage for a mammoth performance, including a note-for-note rendition of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (despite the protests of Roger Waters).

Shacharit starts early on Day 3, as Drake leads an alternative service of his own creation, inspired by the songs and poetry of Leonard Cohen. Those looking for something a bit more traditional, meanwhile, have Billy Joel’s mid-morning show to look forward to. Country Joe and Arlo Guthrie provide a taste of the original Woodstock prior to a lunchtime set by Paula Abdul. Lisa Loeb sings the songs of Naomi Shemer in the early afternoon, and then it’s time for everyone to rest up before the evening’s double-headliners.

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As the third star pokes through the night sky, the lights go down. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel stroll to the centre of the stage to begin an intimate, 90-minute performance. And then it’s time for Bob Dylan, who greets the crowd with his signature mumble (it sounds vaguely like he’s reciting Dayenu, but no one can be totally sure). The festival ends with a stirring rendition of “I Shall Be Released,” Dylan singing a duet with Carly Simon.

As the exhausted festivalgoers make their way back to their cars, everyone seems to be thinking the same thing: “We must be in heaven, man!”

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