From Jerry Garcia to Temple Mount Awareness Day [Jerusalem Post]
(Jerusalem Post Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) With the world wired to the Internet and the ever-cheaper costs of computers and bandwidth, broadcasting has been democratized: Without a radio license or any expensive equipment, anyone armed with a notebook, a musical preference and a social message can reach a virtual global audience.
Witness Jerusalem residents Lorelei Kude and Steve Levine, who for the past year and a half have been streaming their quirky combination of Shlomo Carlebach and Jerry Garcia six days a week on http://RadioFreeNachlaot.blogspot.com from a PC "transmitter" located "somewhere deep within Nahlaot, Jerusalem's coolest neighborhood." Kude, 53, and Levine, 59, both made aliya four years ago, bringing a wealth of communications and computer skills but limited Hebrew. As well, both Kude, a cable TV producer and interactive media maven from Tinseltown, and Levine, a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, who'd been an information systems manager for a nursing home in New York City, were disciples of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and keen fans of The Grateful Dead.
Levine calls himself "a religious hippie, who played piano with Shlomo Carlebach, and had his own rock 'n' roll band in the '90s called "Subject/2/Change." In November 2009 the two launched Radio Free Nachlaot (RFN) and have since been spending some 60 hours a week creating their off-the-air-and-onto-the-net broadcast niche.
"Since we've launched, we've had just a little south of 100,000 hits to our site," says Kude. "We're averaging 2,000 listeners a week, split almost evenly between Israel and the US, with 5 per cent tuning in from 95 countries across the rest of the world. Considering that we've never spent an agora on advertising, and only rely on social media and worth of mouth, that's tremendous," she smiles.
What's the content? "Our station is where Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach meets Jerry Garcia, and everything in between," replies Levine. "We're music, talk and Torah from Jerusalem to the world, 24/6. Our motto is: 'Nahlaot: Not just a neighborhood. A state of mind." It's a format that appeals especially to newly religious American Jews and Anglo olim for whom 1967 was both Israel's near miraculous victory in the Six Day War and the Summer of Love emanating from psychedelic Haight-Ashbury, where Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach operated his House of Love and Prayer.
Broadcast primarily in English, RFN's news-free format includes Hebrew-language music exclusively from 1 to 3 p.m. from Monday to Thursday. "The programming philosophy is that we're a conduit for the music that needs to be played so that our listeners respond 'That was the music I needed to hear.' People have told me that. People have said, 'You're playing the sound track of our lives,'" says Levine.
Starting with a few hundred dollars worth of software and $99 monthly for an audio streaming service, "We bootstrapped our own operation for 13 months," says Kude. "Having spent more than a year building an audience and a brand, in January we began incorporating video into our operation." With the streaming of "video radio," RFN's underground aura of a pirate radio station no longer quite fits. Kude, Levine and their video partners are now building a state-of-the-art multimedia studio in Givat Shaul. "We formed The Jerusalem Media Group, and we're focusing on commercial success," emphasizes Levine, who declines to discuss budgets.
"The real challenge is to convince artists, businesses and service providers who want both local and worldwide attention that Internet radio advertising is the way to go," he adds.
Recent RFN video broadcasts, available at the website's archive, include "Confessions of a Former Haredi Housewife." Another popular show was an interview with Yosef Ibn Mardachya, author of Cannabis Chassidus. Musical guests who have been showcased on their Sunday Night Live program have included religious music scene stars like Lazer Lloyd Blumen from Yood, Yehudah Katz from Reva L'Sheva, and Shmuel & Rafael from Aharit Hayamim.
"The 9 days of Jerry - broadcast last August 1-9 to mark the birthday and yahrzeit of Jerry Garcia - was our breakthrough event. We got coverage from San Francisco to Mumbai," remembers Kude.
Another milestone was International Temple Mount Awareness Day, broadcast last year two weeks before Pessah, and being repeated this year Tuesday, April 5, from 2 to 8 p.m.
"The idea of the annual International Temple Mount Awareness Day event is that we want to make Judaism new and fresh, and open up our minds to new perspectives on old topics," explains Levine. "We're not changing the Torah, God forbid. We're trying to understand the 'whole trip' to the Holy Land, from the Exodus from Egypt to the construction of Temples one, two and three." "Rosh Hodesh Nisan is the day the Mishkan [Tabernacle] was erected for the first time. And that's why it's perfect for Temple Mount Awareness Day," says Kude. "Last year we broadcast about the Temple with Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute here in Jerusalem. Now that we have video broadcasting, we're taking it to a whole other level." Among the show's guests being hosted by Rabbi Richman will be experts on the Levites' musical service and biblical instruments, the archeology of the Temple Mount, the clothing of the High Priest and the Kohanim, the current political status quo whereby the Wakf prevents Jews and Christians from praying on the Temple Mount, and the Temple's vessels including the golden menora and copper laver.
"There's a controversy in Judaism over whether the Temple will descend fully built from Heaven, or whether we have a role in rebuilding it," says Kude. "I hold we can visit the Temple Mount in a halachically prescribed way.
"The Muslims wouldn't be holding on to the site so tightly if there wasn't some tremendous kedusha [holiness] there," she adds. "Building the Temple and bringing the Jews home to Israel are both part of the process of redemption. Everyone wants to connect to Jerusalem," says Kude.
"My dream is to be broadcasting 'This is Lorelai Kude and Steve Levine live from the Temple Mount bringing you The Grateful Dead.' The first song I'll play is 'Eyes of the World.'" For more info about the secnd annual Temple Mount Awareness Day, visit http://mim.io/b647f(c) Copyright Jerusalem Post. All rights reserved.
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