Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig is a man of many talents. Not only is he a Rabbi, with many pastoral skills, he also is a very inspiring speaker and a fascinating teacher. He has been praised by many of his students (of all ages) for his ability to teach complicated subjects to people who have little or no background in the subject matter. Also, he is an accomplished musician and composer of modern Jewish music based on scripture and liturgy. Reb Yosil (as he is known to his many friends, congregants and fans) has composed Jewish music over the past 40 years and some of his compositions have won major awards in Jewish song festivals world over.
Reb Yosil recently recorded his first CD (Album) with his new band The Kosher Gravy Co. When Reb Yosil and the Kosher Gravy Co. first took to the stage they took his music to a whole new level. Some of the songs are played as they were originally written; others have been re-worked and expanded. The Kosher Gravy Co. is a collection of musicians who Reb Yosil played with, composed with and is inspired by.
Reb Yosil and the Kosher Gravy Co. have also released a 4 song EP. Another full length CD is due to be released soon with a compilation of 12 songs recorded over a 40 year period, some solo and some with various musicians. These songs were featured on this past year’s free Rosh Chodesh downloads. Reb Yosil is a singer, songwriter, storyteller and teacher and combines all these talents in his musical presentations.
Reb Yosil has been playing Jewish music since he was 17 years old. He started playing one night at camp Gan Israel in Fenton, MI. with his mentor Rabbi Akiva Greenberg, and fellow camper Dave Berg. Since the time that he bought his first guitar, he has played all genres of Jewish and popular music. In the late 60′s he was befriended by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the most prolific Jewish performer, songwriter, storyteller and mystic in the modern era. Reb Yosil, together with many other musicians, played with Shlomo across the Land of Israel and North America. In 1971 Reb Yosil and Avraham Rosenblum formed a duo called B’nei Tziyon in Jerusalem and played acoustic versions of traditional Jewish songs as well as many of their own original compositions.
In the mid 70′s Rosenblum formed his new band the Diaspora Yeshiva Band (DYB) that single handedly revolutionized contemporary Jewish music. During the period of 1974-78, while Reb Yosil lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, the DYB toured Israel and the world playing their “new Jewish music,” much of their repertoire were Reb Yosil compositions. In 1976 the DYB won the Israel Chassidic Song Festival with his song Pitchu Li, and it 1978 they won again, this time with his song Hu Yiftach Libeinu.
In late 1978, Reb Yosil and his family returned to Israel and he occasionally played onstage with the DYB. In 1981 he co-founded the Livnot U’Lehibot (To Build And To Be Rebuilt) program in Sefat, a half day work, half day study program which is so successful that it recently won the President’s Prize in Israel.
Reb Yosil plays music by ear and connects spiritually to the words and sounds. All of his inspiration comes from prayer and scripture and has written original music for weddings and other venues. As an artist, he mostly performed as a solo act, while other musical groups performed his music. Many Jewish music aficionados don’t even know when they are singing his songs.
Over the last 40+ years Reb Yosil’s songs have influenced many Jewish musicians and lovers of Jewish music. He has always incorporated music into his life and shared his love of music with the people around him. While living in Israel, Yosil owned three American style Delis (if you had real corned beef or pastrami in Israel between ’82 and ’85 it was probably from Yosil’s). Before coming back to North America, he continued his career as a pulpit Rabbi in a number of different communities.
Something that most people don’t know about Reb Yosil is that he is an excellent speaker. He has traveled around the world giving lectures and speeches on hot topics, including but not limited to weekly Torah portions, Jewish mysticism, Israel and the cycle of Jewish life. Reb Yosil is a singer, songwriter, storyteller and teacher and combines all these talents in his musical presentations.
Reb Yosil is also known for his writing. He has a following of over 2,500 readers of his weekly Parsha essays and calls them Vorts (Yiddish for small teaching or word). He takes a section of the weekly Torah portion and goes into great detail and depth and connects it to our life in the 21st century. To find more information on Yosil’s Vorts, click here.