How Matisyahu's Hasidic Reggae Music Made Me Cry

But it spilled out instantly when he did something most artists don't. He opened the interview by talking to me, not just waiting for questions. After introductions, he said "I heard you were at the show last night" with a question in his voice.

This kind of threw me off. "Oh... Yes, I was. It was really emotional."

"Oh?" he said.

"I didn't expect it. During the song 'Jerusalem'... I'd just been thinking about Jerusalem a lot. I've never been to Israel. I just got really emotional and, sort of, cried."

"Oh wow. That's... That's just awesome."

"My right fist was raised for the whole song. I don't even know why, really. You saw me, I think. You raised your arm back at me. Everybody in the crowd around me saw it and sort of cheered."

"Yeah! I saw you!"

"Do you remember?"

"Yes, I totally remember! You were standing there, just standing still in the middle of the crowd, right?"

"Yes! Oh, man. Wow, that means a lot to me. In some ways, all a fan really wants is to feel some kind of connection with the performer, you know?"

"It's so cool, because I was just in Krakow, in Poland. At the show, there were about six (Holocaust) survivors. And something happened that doesn't really happen too often when I'm playing. But I was just come overcome with emotion and broke up. It was really cool. So, I'm glad you had that experience."

"Was there a moment when you had an epiphany? I'm a fairly assimilated Jewish kid from the suburbs who used to follow jam bands. Was there one moment where the faith just kind of clicked, in your head?"

"Well, basically, it was a combination of things, not necessarily one experience. When I was 14 and into Bob Marley, it was just all about the lyrics. I totally got into the culture and the history, knowing where you come from and your identity and strengths. And I was like, wow, he's Rastafarian and there was so much history there. And when he sang it, there was so much strength and power based on where he came from. And I'm thinking well, I'm Jewish, what does that mean? It wasn't something where I'd say 'I'm Jewish' and it would feel like my identity and my strength. Then I started to think more about the history. I started thinking about all this rich history; about pogroms, about Germany, one thing after the next. But not just the bad either. There's so much history of sheltering, and of strength, and overcoming and all these things. It overwhelmed me. There's so much strength in that identity. But that message today, for an average Jewish kid, somehow doesn't come through."

For at least one average Jewish kid, for at least one night, that message couldn't have been more clear.

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Hampton Stevens is a writer based in Kansas City, Missouri. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, ESPN the Magazine, Playboy, Gawker, Maxim, and many more publications.

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