The journey of singer-songwriter Zacharia is filled with twists and turns and stunning surprises.
Born in Toronto, Zach was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as “Burkitts Lymphoma” at the age of 11. While enduring six months of intense chemotherapy, Zach was visited by the Starlight Foundation, which offered him one wish for anything he desired. To the surprise of everyone, Zach asked for a guitar, amp and lessons. “My sister was probably hoping I’d ask for a Disney cruise,” says Zach.
|Eli and Zack
Flash forward 15 years to 2009. Zach had been on a spiritual journey which led him to Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem. One day he was attending a presentation by New York musician/producer Eli Schwebel. “I was talking and playing some songs, and one of the students – Zach – asked if he could use my guitar for a minute,” Schwebel recalls. “He started to play the most incredible song, with a beautiful voice and an amazing soulful style. I was blown away and I asked him, ‘Whose song is that?’ He looked up and I said, ‘It’s my song. It’s called Beautiful Mystery’.”
Schwebel sprung into action and booked a recording studio for the next day. In the course of the next two years, criss-crossing two continents and three countries, Zach wrote and recorded the 12 tracks encompassing his debut album, aptly titled “Beautiful Mystery.”
Zach’s style is intimate, reminiscent of James Taylor, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. Though his inspiration often comes from classical Jewish sources, the themes are universal.
“The typical partying themes are really boring for me,” says Zach. “With everything I’ve been through in life, and with the deeper thinking that Torah study has provided, my songs are more introspective.”
Like poetry, Zach’s lyrics are open to interpretation and can apply the message to your own situation in life. “I enjoy word plays, and using subtle devices to describe a mood,” he says. “My music is for people who want to grow.”
Coming full circle, Zach is now releasing the album under the sponsorship of the same organizations that set him on this course: the Starlight Foundation and Aish HaTorah.
“Aish took me beyond the surface of Jewish ritual and gave me the opportunity to taste the full beauty and power of Judaism. And even more, they gave me the support and space I needed to set my own pace and make my own choice.”
This year marks another milestone in Zach’s young life: Now 16 years cancer free, he will be getting married in June to a young woman he met at Aish Toronto.