Making the Transition
By the Jewish Magazine staff
Lazer Lloyd is not an up and coming musician on the Jewish music scene; he is a veteran musician with quite an impressive background in pop, folk and rock music. Lazer was born in Connecticut some thirty-eight years ago as Lloyd Blumen to a family of Reform Jews. His father was an active musician in college and sang in a folk duo, but he ended up becoming a lawyer. His mother is also very much into music so he received much encouragement in this direction.
He grew up as most Jewish boys in America. Not much emphasis on being Jewish and into the mainstream Jewish culture. He majored in music at Skidmore College where he had his own band. He played with many famous musicians such as Milt Hinton, the famed Negro bass player and Johnny Winter, the noted white blues player.
When he left college he formed his own blues/folk/rock band that played original music at the local bars. He was meeting success and Atlantic records liked his band so much that they brought them to New York to showcase. This means that they brought him to a nightclub in NYC to play and they had their talent scouts and producer come to review him and his band. They liked him, realizing that he possessed unique talent and a special sound, which they saw as profitable. They brought him into the studio to record for them.
The recording sessions were carried out during a long period in New York. Had all gone without any extra special outside influence, Lazer Lloyd would have been famous as the lead singer/guitar player in the Lloyd Blumen band.
But then heaven sometimes has other plans for man.
Lazer has one sister who wanted to learn about being Jewish. As part of a program that her school in Middletown, Conn. had, they placed her with an orthodox family for a Shabbat. This was a turning point in her life. From that experience, she decided in 1994 to go to Israel to teach English to the Ethiopians Jews. Lazer's parents asked him to go to visit her for her birthday. She was teaching at Iyanot at the time, an institute for troubled Israeli children.
This was Lazer's first trip to Israel and the experience proved to be a turning point in his life. On the airplane he sat next to an Orthodox man with whom he engaged in a conversation about a variety of different matters and thoughts. Lazer, who had never met a religious Jew before, was impressed with the Orthodox man's deep ability to understand various ideas and concepts, his original style and brilliant thinking. He was also impressed with the man's personality and refinement. This was the first time that he had met a religious Jew and he was very impressed. Prior to this chance meeting, Lazer was of the opinion that religious Jews were not very intelligent.
Then his plane landed and Lazer's mind was redirected in the opposite direction of thought. There was the Baruch Goldstein event that had occurred while he was in flight to Israel. Goldstein was a religious man who entered the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and killed some thirty Arabs. Every Israeli that Lazer met would give his opinion of the affair. People were saying that the study of the Torah was dangerous and that the religious people were ruining the country.
Before leaving New York, Lazer had been under the impression that Israel was just a country with sand dunes with camels. He was surprised and shocked at the complexity of the turmoil that greeted him.
He was confused. He had always thought that religious people were primitive and wasted their time with insignificant tasks. He had just revised his opinion after seeing this Chassidic man on the plane and now the Israeli public was bombarding and castrating this very type of fellow in public.
After meeting his sister, together they arranged a tour. She took him to Kibbutzn Ein Gedi, a non-religious kibbutz, to be in the vicinity of the Dead Sea for the Shabbat. However, they ended up staying with the only religious man on the kibbutz. Lazer was upset since he had rented a car with the understanding that he and his sister would spend the Shabbat discovering the beauty of the Dead Sea area. His sister told him that he should not play his guitar in deference to the religious host, which disturbed Lazer greatly.
As they sat together to make the Shabbat meal, Lazer made fun of this man's observances, but the man would give very deep and well-based answers to each of Lazer's questions, which again made an impression on Lazer. Then they got into a discussion about G-d. The discussion answered questions Lazer never even knew he had. Without effort, he had observed his first Shabbat. Afterwards, he felt that this Shabbat was a very special and moving spiritual experience.
At this point, he returned to New York very confused about Zionism, Torah, Israel and his own Jewishness. He returned to his recording sessions and found a day job to support himself. At this time a "coincidence" occurred. He bought an old book about Pirchei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, an ancient tractate dealing with morals and philosophy. He had studied Buddhism and eastern philosophy in college. He wanted to compare the rabbinical thought to that which he had learned in college about the eastern philosophy.
One day he took his bike to Central Park near a fountain where people came to play music. He was reading his book on the Ethics of the Fathers in which it states that there is nothing in the world that was not created for a purpose. As he pondered on this point, he saw an old man who was a beggar. He normally avoided these people; he did not want to get involved with them. But he said to himself, what could I learn from him?
This beggar had a dish that he told people to put money in and make a wish, but not to tell your mamma. Lazer put in a few quarters. The man asked him what he was reading. So he said something about Hebrew philosophy. Right away, the man said a blessing in Hebrew.
"Are you Jewish," Lazer asked.
"I pray every morning," he responded.
The Jewish beggar lived on the street. He was a homeless person. He said that he attended the Millinary Synagogue where since they did not have a minyan, the rabbi would give the beggar something for breakfast and a few dollars for his coming to complete the minyan. Lazer spent the whole day together with this poor homeless Jewish person. The man took a shower in Lazer's apartment and told his life story about how he was abandoned in Central Park while just a baby.
The next day Lazer decided to visit the synagogue. It must have been that the homeless person had told the rabbi about him. When he arrived the congregation was just taking out the Sefer Torah for the traditional reading. Lazer could smell the odor of the beggar in the synagogue. The rabbi invited Lazer to come to the bimah to hold the Sefer Torah while the prayers were said.
After the service the rabbi introduced him to tephilin. He asked him about his past and invited him to join him for breakfast. He asked him for his Jewish name, which he remembered. Hereafter, the rabbi would only call him by his Jewish name, which irritated poor Lazer. When the rabbi heard that he was a musician, he immediately proposed a concert to be performed the next week together with the rabbi's good friend Shlomo Carlebach.
Lazer had never heard of Shlomo Carlebach, but he agreed to come to perform. When he came on that night and he met the legendary Shlomo, he was shocked how Shlomo, upon meeting him, gave him such a warm embrace. This was a totally different experience than that which he had with his prior musician friends. He could feel the true warmth and love that Shlomo had for him. Shlomo told him to take his guitar and play for him. Shlomo did not want to play but rather Lazer should be the only guitarist. Shlomo's honest warmth captured Lazer. Lazer refused to play alone; he did not know Shlomo's music. Shlomo relented and the concert began.
From the first note that Shlomo sang, Lazer realized that this was not the same as the other gigs. With other musicians in college auditoriums, bars, etc, the relationship between musicians is totally different. The relationship can be warm or cold, but here the relationship was warm electric. He felt that the goal of Shlomo's singing was to bring people to a high level of spiritual awareness, to bring joy and simcha, and to weld the people together which he did. People from the audience would participate together, singing in harmony and dancing.
Shlomo would stop singing for periods and tell stories. Lazer was mesmerized by Shlomo's personality and his story about the mezuzah. He related that the mezuzah helps us take the inner joy and spirituality outside with us. In the middle of the concert, Lazer realized that this was the real life; this was where he wanted to be. He felt compelled to continue in this direction and pursue the Jewish aspect of song and joy.
He contrasted it to the shallowness of his hippie friends who spoke about love and peace. He realized that they were just trying to break away from responsibilities and live a life of pleasure seeking. He contrasted this to his experience at rock concerts when men never danced together with joy and love in such an ecstatic feeling, not drug induced. These were mostly religious men who danced separately from the women.
After that Shlomo spoke to him and gave him several tapes with his stories on them. Lazer was confused. Shlomo convinced him that Israel was the place for him. Shlomo told him to go there and that they would meet at a particular place in concert together. He met a man at the concert who invited him, with his long hair, to try a yeshiva.
He interupted his recording dates with the record company and went to Israel.
Unfortunately, Shlomo never was able to keep his promise. He died a few months later before coming to Israel for his concert.
Meanwhile at the Yeshiva, Lazer began learning about his Jewish heritage. The head of the yeshiva invited Lazer to accompany him to the funeral of Shlomo. However, a bus was just blown up by Arab terrorists so he refused the offer.
While learning at the yeshiva he met his wife, an Israeli girl of S'fardic ancestry. After the marriage he went to Yavne to live. He felt from the first time that he came to Israel that Israel was his home. He started to play at the simchas but it was difficult since the music was completely different than that which he was familiar with.
About five years ago, he began composing some songs to personalize the style of music. This time he changed the content to reflect his newfound heritage. He was very fortunate to met Avi Piamenta, an popular and well established Jewish musician. He influenced him regarding learning how to play for Jewish audiences. Through Avi, he met many of the top Jewish musicians in Israel. He made many connections in the Israeli music scene and was able to cross over into the Israeli market. It was not long until he had the reputation of being the best blues player in Israel.
Now he plays with the Reva LeSheva band as their lead guitarist, and he tours with Shlomo Gronick, a very popular non-religious Israeli folk pop singer. However, he still enjoys playing at Jewish weddings, this is his main mode of support. He does tours and shows around the world, both in the Jewish and non-Jewish world.
He has inserted much of the philosophy of Chassidic thought and his unique concepts of universal brotherhood into his music. Israel has truly become his home and has captured his heart.
You can download for free one of his songs that show off his unique Jewish Blues style by: clicking here Approximately 5 megabytes (about 5 minutes).
For more information about Lazer see his website at
from the October 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine