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Jewish rockers to jam in Clearwater

A quest for Yom Hadash compact discs leads to an appearance by the group tonight at Countryside High.

Jon Nelson sounded excited about his trip here.

"That's where the Bee Gees' fan club is," he said. "Do you know where it is?"

Well, Miami. But that's not important.

What is important is Nelson's band, Yom Hadash, a Jewish rock band that draws its influence from Phish, the Beatles, the Beach Boys and, of course, the Bee Gees, will play Countryside High School's 900-seat auditorium tonight right after the Havdalah ceremony.

The idea to bring Yom Hadash (which means New Day) to Clearwater started with Ilana Snapstailer, 16, a Palm Harbor University High School student. She asked Beth Ratner, who runs the gift shop at Young Israel-Chabad synagogue, if the shop could order some Yom Hadash compact discs and offer them for sale.

Yom Hadash?

Snapstailer explained she had seen the band perform in concert last summer while attending a program at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

"Down here in Tampa, we see Christian rock bands advertised," she said. "It was really cool to see a Jewish band of that caliber."

Ratner was intrigued enough to check out the band's Web site and call its leader, Nelson.

Nelson told her a family was flying the entire band down to Sarasota to play at their daughter's bat mitzvah, but the group was free tonight to do a gig in Clearwater, if she'd like.

"I gave it 20 seconds of thought and said, "I'm going to make this happen,"' Ratner said.

And she did. She set the price at $10 a head and called every synagogue and temple in the phone book.

Rabbi Shalom Adler of Young Israel-Chabad synagogue will be watching the group, which plays both English and Hebrew rock 'n' roll.

"It's not preachy. It's spiritual without being nerdy," said Ratner. "In a very contemporary fashion, they make a connection with our past in a musical way."

Nelson is the lyricist who wrote: Take me back to long ago when people formed the history we now know,

I wish that I was there to see traditions that were passed along to me.

They are lines to the tune Take Me Back, a catchy song off the CD, When We Were Young.

Nelson and his band mates _ brother Josh, the keyboard player, and childhood friends David Lefkowitz, the drummer, and Adam Dehner, the guitarist _ make up the group, which plays at bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, weddings and concerts all over the country.

"We are a Jewish contemporary band that is on line with Christian contemporary rock," Nelson said. "We try to take Beatles music and (give it) a Jewish twist."