La Brea ‘Eastbound & Down’ billboard removed after Orthodox pressure


For the second time in two months, the Orthodox Jewish community in Los Angeles has successfully pressured a major billboard company to take down what some considered offensive advertising.

The latest, a billboard located at the corner of Beverly Boulevard and Detroit Street in the Hancock Park neighborhood, was a promotion for the fourth season of the television series “Eastbound & Down,” which airs on HBO. On the billboard was the star of the show, actor Danny McBride, throwing hundred dollar bills in the air with two women behind him dressed in bikinis. To the right read, “You don’t retire from being awesome.”

Hillygram, a listserv read mostly by the Orthodox community on Sept. 10 posted in its news section information as to how community members should write in protest to CBS Outdoor, which owns the billboard.

“We need the community’s help in ensuring that the offensive billboard on the corner of Beverly and Detroit is removed as quickly as possible,” the Hillygram email said. “In the past, the way we succeeded in pressuring CBS to remove the billboard was through swamping them with emails.”

“By sending them hundreds of emails, we were able to show that we were a voice to be reckoned with,” the email continued.

Hillygram’s Sept. 12 email indicated that the billboard was taken down.

In July, the Sephardic Orthodox outreach group Bait Aaron convinced Van Wagner Communications to remove a suggestive billboard posted near the Pico-Robertson neighborhood. It advertised XO energy drink and showed a mostly naked woman.

Tim Fox, a representative for CBS Outdoor, was the contact person for community members who wanted the “Eastbound & Down” billboard taken down. He could not immediately be reached for comment, but an editor of Hillygram, Ben Savit, expressed his gratitude to Fox for working with the community.

“He explained it to us that he had no legal obligation to take it down,” Savit said. “He’s such a nice guy, and he didn’t have to take it down, and he did.”

Billboards accusing Israel of taking Palestinian land posted at suburban N.Y. train stations


Billboards showing a series of maps to bolster claims that Israel has systematically confiscated land from the Palestinians have appeared at some suburban New York train stations.

The ads that went on display this week at Metro North train stations in Westchester County show a succession of shrinking Palestinian territories in four maps and contain a headline stating that 4.7 million Palestinians are classified as refugees by the United Nations.

The billboards were posted under the auspices of The Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine and paid for by Henry Clifford, an ex-Wall Street financier who lives in Connecticut. Clifford, 84, is the chairman of the organization, a 10-member group that says it is dedicated to organizing activities and educational events that advance the cause of peace and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.

According to Lohud.com, Clifford paid $25,000 to display thebillboards at 10 Metro-North stations for 30 days.

“If the facts are inflammatory, then they are inflammatory,” Clifford told Lohud.com. “All of the Middle East is infected with the virus of the Arab-Israeli conflict. People need to know the truth of the matter.”

The Anti-Defamation League called the ads “deliberately misleading and biased.”

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely complex and cannot be summarized in a series of four maps,” said Ron Meier, ADL New York’s regional director. “This ad campaign completely ignores the facts, including the history of land ownership prior to 1948, Israel’s repeated efforts to exchange land for peace, and the commitment of successive Israeli governments to achieving a two-state solution with the Palestinians.”

Metro-North said the ads did not violate its guidelines.

“We do not decide to accept or reject a proposed ad based on the viewpoint that it expresses or because the ad might be controversial,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Aaron Donovan said in a statement. “The MTA does not endorse the viewpoint expressed in this ad, or any of the ads that it accepts for display.”

In June, the Coalition to Stop 30 Billion to Israel put up 23 billboards across Los Angeles in an initiative to halt military aid to Israel. The ads were taken down under pressure shortly after they went up.

Anti-Israel aid billboards coming down


A subsidiary of the CBS Corp. removed 23 billboards in the Los Angeles area calling for a stop to U.S. foreign assistance to Israel.

The Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, which sponsored the billboards, said in a statement that it received a letter from CBS Outdoor, a subsidiary of the CBS Corp., saying the contract was canceled because the coalition “used the ‘CBS Outdoor’ name without permission” in its publicity. CBS Outdoor refunded the undisclosed amount of the contract to the group, the coalition said on its Facebook page.

The coalition is asking supporters to demand that CBS Outdoor put back the billboards.

“If you support us trying to get our message of ending military aid to Israel back up on billboards in the nation’s second largest city, won’t you help flood CBS with phone calls demanding that our billboards be put back up and our contract be honored to the full term?” the coalition said in its statement.

U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) had slammed the group for its billboards in a June 21 letter to the organization.

“We are the leading voice in the international community, and have the world’s most powerful military, yet your organization would have us abandon our closest ally in the Middle East and allow its deterrent capability to wither on the vine,” Berman wrote to the group, which posted its billboards in the San Fernando Valley. “That is not the way to demonstrate international leadership.”

The pro-Israel organization StandWithUs said it will launch an ad campaign to counter the coalition’s, as it has when the coalition has posted similar billboards in other cities, including Washington, D.C., Albuquerque, Houston, San Francisco and Seattle.

“People and companies should avoid getting entangled with these anti-Israel activists,” said Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs. “They distort facts, exploit the good name of organizations and companies, and harass those who disagree with them.”

Calif. Rep. Howard Berman raps coalition behind anti-Israel billboards


U.S. Rep. Howard Berman slammed a Los Angeles-area group for anti-Israel billboards that call for an end to U.S. aid to Israel.

In his letter to The Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, Berman (D-Calif.) emphasized the importance of providing assistance to Israel.

“We are the leading voice in the international community, and have the world’s most powerful military, yet your organization would have us abandon our closest ally in the Middle East and allow its deterrent capability to wither on the vine,” Berman wrote to the group, which posted its billboards in the San Fernando Valley. “That is not the way to demonstrate international leadership.”

Berman noted in a follow-up statement that aid to Israel was a top legislative priority for him. He is battling fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman for the seat in California’s redrawn 30th Congressional District. Both are Jewish and both are known for their pro-Israel stands.

Sherman secured 42 percent of the vote and Berman 32 percent in a recent primary, but under California law the two top vote-getters on primary day face each other in the general election regardless of party affiliation.

In a statement, Berman said “I am not going to stand by and remain silent as some outside group comes into our community with these outrageous billboards calling for an end to our security partnership with Israel.”

A student-designed billboard


Most billboards along La Cienega Boulevard might hawk Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton, with lots of skin and pouty looks, but a new one that just went up across the street from Pressman Academy presents quite a different image.

Last week, Pressman Academy unveiled an anti-bullying billboard, thought up and designed by students themselves and supported by CBS Outdoor.

The billboard features an image of last year’s eighth-grade class and beckons passers-by to “Be An Ally” and “Take A Stand Against Bullying.”

For years, the billboard, located at the intersection of La Cienega and Olympic boulevards and owned by CBS Outdoor, showcased a “constant barrage” of sexually inappropriate advertisements that offended students, according to Pressman Academy Administrator Deborah Engel Kollin.

As part of a curriculum about body image, sixth-grade students learned about the media’s influence surrounding societal expectations of physical appearance. Tired of racy imagery on the board, the students decided to attempt to use what they had learned in school to change the content.

In 2009, a group of 12 sixth-graders began writing letters to CBS Outdoor in an effort to inform the company about the billboard’s upsetting display of sexually explicit images and words. The efforts had little effect for about six months.

“[CBS Outdoor was] lovely, but our letters just sat on someone’s desk for months and months,” said Pressman Academy middle-school counselor Inez Tiger.

But the sixth-graders pressed on, and got some help from OneLA, an alliance of churches and synagogues devoted to community organizing, as well as Pressman Academy parent Melissa Patack Berenbaum and Temple Beth Am Rabbi Susan Leider. Together, they were able to communicate to CBS Outdoor the students’ concerns and hopes for a new billboard.

Ninth-graders Rina Goldman and Monica Ramsey — graduates of Pressman day school — spoke at the press conference on Nov. 28, describing the discomfort they and their fellow students felt when they looked out their classroom windows at the billboard every day.

Rabbi Mitchel Malkus praised the girls and their classmates and elaborated on the negotiating process with CBS Outdoor.

“As our students were able to meet with representatives of CBS Outdoor, they learned that they were able to tag the billboard as school-adjacent” and determine the appropriateness of advertisements placed on the billboard.

CBS Outdoor Vice President R.B. Brooks met with the students and granted them the opportunity to design a billboard at no cost to the school.

The anti-bullying billboard will move around Los Angeles for the next three months,  whenever CBS Outdoor has available advertising space. The next location slotted for the billboard is the intersection of West Pico Boulevard and South Shenandoah Street.

The billboards near Pressman will remain designated as school-adjacent, and CBS Outdoor will monitor their content.

“We want our graduates to be leaders in the community with strong Jewish values who are involved in whatever community they’re in,” Engel Kollin said.

Wodka vodka ads, called anti-Semitic, removed


An offensive billboard that the Anti-Defamation League said reinforces anti-Semitic stereotypes was removed.

The Anti-Defamation League, which had criticized the New York ad campaign of Wodka vodka, welcomed the company’s apology and the removal of the billboards from locations throughout New York.

The ads feature two dogs, one wearing a Santa cap and one wearing a yarmulke with the message “Christmas Quality, Hanukah Pricing.”

“We welcome the response of Wódka vodka, and are glad that they were sensitive to our concerns and the concerns of the many New Yorkers who were offended by this advertisement,” said Ron Meier, ADL New York Regional Director. “The company acted quickly and appropriately in recognizing that the billboard was offensive to many and should be removed.”

The company announced via its Twitter feed that it had decided to pull the ads. The company tweeted: “Although rarely serious, we apologize to anyone we may have offended through our holiday campaign and are removing our billboard immediately.”

ADL initially called the billboards “crude and offensive.”     

On Wodka’s website, other ads include a sheep wearing a sombrero with the message “Escort quality, Hooker pricing.”

Jewish teen rapper’s album tops Billboard chart [VIDEO]


A Jewish teen rapper has had his first album debuted at the top of Billboard 200 chart.

“Blue Slide Park,” the first album-length effort from Mac Miller, a 19-year-olf Pittsburgh-reared emcee, sold 144,000 copies in its first week.

The rapper, whose real name is Malcolm McCormick, has a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father. He has a prominent “chai” tattoo in Hebrew letters on his upper arm.

The rapper’s feat is all the more remarkable since his album is independently distributed by Rostrum Records. The last and only indie album release to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard chart was Tha Dogg Pound’s “Dogg Food” back in 1995.

Miller’s meteoric rise is in large part due to his adroit use of social-networking media. He has more than a million “likes” on Facebook and nearly the same number of followers on Twitter.

Miller’s most popular song on YouTube is “Donald Trump,” and the “Celebrity Apprentice” host has signaled his approval of the track. Another big hit for Miller is “Nikes on my Feet,” which is an ode to his footwear in the same tradition as Run DMC’s “My Adidas.”

The billboard revolution


If you’ve driven down La Cienega Boulevard recently, you may have noticed a large billboard that says, “Free Gilad Shalit.”

What you may not have seen was the small print at the bottom of the billboard that says, “35 people crowd-funded this billboard using EpicStep.com.” 

Created by two business-minded 28-year-olds from the San Fernando Valley, the new crowd-funding Web site allows anybody to pitch an idea for a billboard and collect pledges online to get the billboard funded and up in their city. 

“Almost anybody can get a billboard up, but most people don’t know that,” said Lev Reys, a Valley Village resident and co-founder of

EpicStep.com, along with partner Gene Veksler. “Most people don’t have the funds or the passion to take $5,000 or $10,000 out of their accounts to fund one. We figured, ‘Why not break up the costs?’ ”

As soon as someone launches a campaign on EpicStep.com, Reys and Veksler contact companies that own billboard space and inquire about availability and cost to get the proposed billboard up.

Once they are given a price — which they say is a discounted figure from what billboards usually cost, given the relationships they have built with companies like Clear Channel and CBS — a target fundraising figure is listed on the Web page for the campaign. The organizer has 30 days to meet that target. If a campaign hasn’t reached its fundraising goal by the deadline, the campaign is canceled and everyone who pledged gets his/her money back.

Those who pledge funds can also pitch designs for the billboard and vote for their favorite one. Billboards funded through EpicStep.com remain up for approximately one month.

Since EpicStep launched in March, two billboards have been successfully funded calling for the release of Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas — one in Los Angeles and one in New York — as well as a pro-WikiLeaks billboard and a billboard that advocates for SWAAY.org, a sex-worker education Web site.

A proposed pro-Charlie Sheen billboard that read, “Newsflash, I’m Special” and a Lakers billboard, which was set to go up in New Orleans when the Lakers were playing the Hornets in the playoffs last year, were among the campaigns that didn’t make it to fruition.

Reys and Veksler, who are both from Jewish Russian immigrant families, met in their sophomore year of high school. Veksler attended Valley Alternative Magnet in Lake Balboa and Reys was a student at Grant High School in Van Nuys.

Recently, over drinks in the lobby at the Marriot hotel in Sherman Oaks, Reys discussed why founding a company with a friend beats working in a traditional office.

“We’ve been working together for three, four years now, and I consider him my best friend,” Reys said. “I’ve had other partners in the past, but we kind of just fill in each other’s gaps. I can call him whenever the hell I feel like it. I can wake him up.”

Reys — who previously ran a coffee shop in North Hollywood and had a mobile billboard business — has idealistic reasons for starting EpicStep, which offers people unprecedented access to mass advertising to further a cause.

“This could revolutionize the world,” he said.

The two friends came up with the idea during a drive from Los Angeles to Phoenix, when all they saw were billboards advertising product after product.

“Every billboard we saw was something being sold,” Reys said. “We were kind of shocked that there weren’t more causes on billboards.”

They ran the idea by friends and found that it struck a chord of inspiration.

“Very few people we spoke to said, ‘I would never give money to a billboard,’ ” said Veksler, who recently left a job with Capital Group Cos. to focus all his attention on EpicStep. “For the most part, people said it’s a great idea.”

Running the site is a full-time job for Reys and Veksler, who invested approximately $50,000 into developing the Web site — working with Veksler’s older brother, Eugene, and another friend, Igor Rashnitsov — and their compensation is 10 percent of the total amount raised for each successful billboard campaign. They hope to make EpicStep available worldwide, but, as of now, it’s only for cities in the United States.

The Web site is still in its infancy, the young founders said, and they agree that what EpicStep needs is more users.

“We need more people to know that we exist,” Veksler said, “that this is even a possibility.”

Perhaps they could put up a billboard.

Omri Casspi’s image defaced on billboard again


The face of Israeli NBA basketball player Omri Casspi was vandalized on a Sacramento Kings billboard in the city’s downtown.

It was the third time that Casspi’s image has been defaced on a team billboard.

The portion of the billboard with Casspi’s face painted on it was ripped off. The painter of the mural, Anthony Padilla, on Monday painted a message in the space offering a reward for information on the vandal.

Last September, two billboards with Casspi’s image were defaced with red-painted swastikas. No one was apprehended.

Casspi, a forward for the Kings, is the first Israeli player in the NBA.

He recently wrote in a column on the Israeli sports website ONE that he would like to be traded from the Kings since he spends much time on the bench. Playing about half the game, Casspi is averaging 8.8 points and 4.4 rebounds this season.

The Billboard Debate on the Middle East


“Be on our side,” the clutter-free advertisement reads. “We are the side of peace and justice.” It shows two men smiling. One is Palestinian, the other is Israeli, and each is accompanied by a smiling young girl. The ad, which first appeared in three Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations on Dec. 5, is not in the least bit edgy — until you get to the tag line: “End U.S. military aid to Israel.”

Paid for by Northern California Friends of Sabeel, American Muslims for Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, the ads made an earlier run on the platforms of the Chicago Transit Authority in October 2010, and they represent a new, cuddlier look for a familiar message.

“Visually, it felt like ads that you see for children’s hospitals,” Matthew G. Jarvis, assistant professor of political science at California State University, Fullerton, wrote in an e-mail after seeing the ad. Jarvis, who studies political behavior and public opinion, felt that the jump from families, peace and justice to the end of U.S. military aid to Israel was too abrupt. “It’s happy, then wrenching,” he wrote.

“It’s a deceptive advertisement,” Roz Rothstein, CEO of the Israel education and advocacy organization StandWithUs, said of the BART ads, which recently came down at the end of their four-week run. “The main impediment to peace is hate training.”

That’s the message that StandWithUs is trying to get across in its own counter-advertisement, which will hang in six BART stations around the Bay Area, including the three stations where the “Be on our side” advertisements ran.

The StandWithUs ad, which is set to start its four-week run Jan. 17, pairs a photo of hate-filled eyes framed by a red-and-white keffiyeh with a second image showing young boys in soccer uniforms running through a green field, laughing. “Stop Palestinian Terrorism,” the text reads, “Teach Peace.”

“The ad’s message is that all people of good will should urge the Palestinians to begin teaching peace to their children,” a spokesperson for StandWithUs explained in an e-mail.

Advertisements urging action against Israel aren’t new. They have been popping up in U.S. cities with increasing frequency of late — and they don’t usually include smiling Israelis alongside smiling Palestinians.

“End Israel’s Occupation of Palestine,” reads the mostly black billboard that went up last month on the north side of Milwaukee, Wis., courtesy of Friends of Palestine. In 2007, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation put up advertisements in the Washington, D.C., Metro featuring an image of a Palestinian child facing a large Israeli tank. At the time, StandWithUs responded with its own advertisements — posted right beside the anti-occupation ads — telling its side of the story. One with an image of Palestinian preteens holding automatic weapons read, “Teaching Children to Hate Will Never Lead to Peace.”

Mike Harris, spokesperson for the Bay Area chapter of StandWithUs, said that even if the tone of most “Be on our side” ads was different, the message was the same. “These are very misleading ads,” Harris said of the San Francisco campaign. “They’re not like the ones in Seattle that were extremely inflammatory. They look really nice, but the message that they’re promoting is just as anti-Israel as the Seattle ones were.”

Counter-ads from StandWithUs urge Palestinians to teach peace and will run in BART stations.

Harris was referring to an advertisement that was supposed to appear in late December on the sides of public buses in Seattle, Wash. Paid for by the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, it featured a picture of a building in Gaza reduced to rubble as part of Operation Cast Lead. The text, in all-capital letters, read: “Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars at Work.”

The Seattle bus advertisement was made public in late December, just days before its run was to begin. Jewish community groups — including the local chapter of StandWithUs — argued that running the ad could cause anti-Jewish violence along the lines of the shooting that took place at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle in 2006. King County Metro Transit decided not to allow the ads to appear, due to fears that its content might either cause a disruption to the bus service or incite anti-Jewish violence, the Seattle Times reported. The transit agency has temporarily ceased accepting noncommercial advertising.

“That’s fundamentally wrongheaded,” professor Barbie Zelizer of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania said of the decision to limit what can and cannot be said in an ad on the side of a bus. “To cut down the opinions, to cut down the display out of fear — I don’t think that’s the right way to go,” Zelizer said. “It’s not as if these opinions are not out there. They’re not cut out from the Internet. They’re not cut out from letters to the editor or online news articles. Why would we cut them out of advertisements?”

The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign is also exploring its legal options with the help of the Washington Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Rod Such, a spokesperson for the group, said.

He said his group was familiar with the “Be on our side” advertisements, but that they wanted to send a more unambiguous message. “We wanted to target Israeli war crimes,” Such said of the rejected advertisement, “and we feel that Israeli collective punishment is a war crime.”

BART chief spokesman Linton Johnson said that his agency had reviewed both the “Be on our side” and the StandWithUs advertisements and found that both fell within BART’s policy. “They did raise red flags,” Johnson said. “We reviewed them, they fell within our policies, and so we were required to accept them.”

So far, the advertisements have inspired media coverage, been met with complaints from members of local communities and have been rejected by one transit agency in a move that could lead to a constitutional fight. What’s unclear is whether any of these necessarily brief advertisements — no matter which side of this complicated story they try to tell — have convinced anyone (or will do so in the future) to change his opinion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rothstein of StandWithUs couldn’t say whether more people had visited the group’s Web site as a result of their advertising campaigns. “We saw an uptick in appreciation from people,” Rothstein said of the reactions to the 2007 counter-campaign in Washington, D.C. “We got notes from people.”

Jarvis, who called himself a “self-aware observer,” didn’t think that either of the ads appearing in San Francisco would cause people to reconsider their positions on this issue. “Those committed to one side or the other aren’t going to be swayed,” Jarvis wrote in an e-mail, “and chances are those in the middle aren’t going to be moved either.” l

Billboard mystery ends with interfaith twist


The mysterious billboards went up across the Los Angeles area just after the High Holidays. Each used a variation on the same theme, juxtaposing illustrations: Latkes or fries? Bagels and lox or sushi? Yarmulke or cap?

They carried no other information, and from the beginning it had the Jewish community guessing.

Was it a new kosher deli appealing to ba’alei teshuvah? A catering outfit hoping to penetrate the interfaith market?

Try Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries.

Yes, the big reveal last week that stretched from Westwood to Westlake Village featured the name of the Sinai Temple-founded cemetery, which has locations in the Hollywood Hills and Simi Valley. And the edgy twist is that Mount Sinai is reaching out to interfaith couples.

While many Jewish cemeteries with consecrated land bury Jews only, non-Orthodox cemeteries are increasingly making arrangements to include interfaith couples and families.

Given that 47 percent of all newlywed Jews and one-third of all married Jews are intermarried, according to the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey, Jewish cemeteries like Mount Sinai are marketing to interfaith couples who would otherwise turn to secular or non-Jewish burial sites.

“In my travels around this community, there were tremendous misconceptions as to what most Jewish cemeteries in Southern California, and especially Mount Sinai, would or would not do. And I felt very strongly, as does my board, that we need to set the record straight,” said Len Lawrence, Mount Sinai’s general manager. “This was an opportunity that we took to tell the community that the rules are different for Mount Sinai.”

According to Rabbi Paul J. Citrin, an L.A. native and pulpit rabbi at Reform Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego, it is acceptable to bury a non-Jewish spouse in a Jewish cemetery. When Jewish cemeteries disallow burial of non-Jews, they are citing custom, not Jewish law.

The Talmud states that for the sake of peaceful relations, non-Jews can be buried in Jewish cemeteries (Gittin 61a). However, non-Jewish clergy are not allowed to officiate in a Jewish cemetery.

The Mount Sinai advertising campaign was developed six months ago by GSS Communiqations, and the revealed billboards will remain up until mid-December.
Mount Sinai’s Lawrence is satisfied with the buzz generated by the campaign, and he expects to see a bump in traffic on the cemetery’s Web site in the next month.

Before the reveal last week, Lawrence said he heard speculation from colleagues and his own college-age sons that the billboards likely had something to do with interfaith couples.

“We think it did what it needed to do,” he said.


The New ‘King’ of KROQ


Could you name the No. 1 requested song for the past three weeks at L.A. rock station KROQ (106.7 FM)? If you’re thinking about current hits like “Dance Dance” by Fall Out Boy or “Hypnotize” by System of a Down, guess again.

The most requested song features these lyrics:

“Sing to my God all these songs of love and healing

Want Moshiach now so it’s time we start revealing.”

And, no, Rabbi Shlomo Cunin did not hijack the station.

The lyrics are from “King Without a Crown” by Matisyahu, the sensational Chasidic reggae artist whose CD, “Live at Stubbs,” is already No. 3 on the Billboard reggae charts. (“King Without A Crown” stands at No. 24 on Billboard’s modern rock chart.) The song tells of a man connecting with his God, and speaks about Hashem, the Torah, Moshiach, and various Chasidic concepts like nullifying oneself. Since it started getting airplay, local sales have topped 2,000 a week. Total CD sales have surpassed 100,000.

“I think it is a little crazy that we have a song that has lines about the Moshiach playing on KROQ,” said Aaron Bisman, Matisyahu’s manager. (Matisyahu was playing a concert in London and could not be reached for comment.)

“I don’t know if I think it is strange, more than I think it is cool,” said Lisa Worden, KROQ’s music director. “Anyone who listens to the words can find some meaning to it, whether Jewish or not. To me if you have spirituality you will relate to the song. I am not Jewish, and I think the song is awesome.”

Matisyahu never tries to sermonize his listeners, Bisman said. “Christian Rock is about missionizing people….Matisyahu is never about ‘You need to be like me.’ It’s more about where [he is] at.”

So how did KROQ discover the song in the first place? Well Matisyahu has three record labels collaborating for him — the nonprofit JDUB, Or Music and Epic Records, which is owned by Sony.

“Getting him onto KROQ was a combination of years of work and a strong fan base,” Bisman said. “The buzz around Matisyahu has been going for a long time.”