For Jason Feddy, if you bring passion to music, you'll bring soul.
The local musician, who grew up in Leeds, England, has played for 14 years at the Sawdust Art Festival and Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach. He is known for his solo performances throughout Orange County.
The singer and guitarist, who once opened for artists like Neil Young, David Gray and Ben Folds Five, can be heard each week on his Laguna Beach-based radio show "Full English Breakfast" on KX 93.5 FM. His Beatles tribute band, the Beatroots, is booked for events. And right now, he's in the studio writing and recording a new album.
But Friday nights are reserved for a special kind of music. Feddy is the new cantor at Temple Isaiah in Newport Beach.
"People in England think I'm nuts," he said. "But it's the greatest thing for me."
Every Friday at 8 p.m., Feddy puts down his guitar and sings a cappella, leading the congregation in prayer along with Rabbi Marc Rubenstein.
"Music is an incredibly spiritual process," he said. "Whether you believe in metaphysics or not, music has always been spiritual."
It was such an awakening that brought Feddy to become the temple's cantor.
Feddy grew up in a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish community. He attended Leeds' Morris Silman Jewish Day School, where he earned bar mitzvah training. He was a member of the school and synagogue choirs, where he was awarded first place in music.
In 1982, he moved to Israel for three years, becoming fluent in modern Hebrew. He has many family members still living in Israel and goes back often.
But it was 10 years ago when Feddy rediscovered his religion.
His father asked him to accompany him to temple the night before Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. It's a time of reflection for Jews as they atone for their sins of the past year, demonstrate repentance and make amends. At evening services, the cantor chants sacred prayers for the liturgy of Yom Kippur.
Feddy remembers the moment vividly.
"My dad and I stood in the back because we couldn't find a seat, and I just had this moment — an epiphany," he said. "Something clicked in me. It was like this priority."
When Rubenstein and Feddy were both booked to officate at the bar mitzvah of the grandson of the mayor of Las Vegas in November 2012, the rabbi learned of Feddy's gift for singing and his Jewish background.
In October 2013, Temple Isaiah's cantor for 13 years, Svetlana Portnyansky, left. Rubenstein called Feddy to suggest he audition for the job of cantor at Temple Isaiah. Three other applicants auditioned, while Feddy auditioned three times and interviewed with the board.
In April, he got the position.
"I think he's an incredible guy," Rubenstein said. "This is a very unique congregation surrounded by unique individuals."
Feddy is busy sharing Judaism's musical heritage. He has performed as cantor at bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings with San Diego Rabbi Ian Adler. He regularly performs Jewish and modern Israeli songs at events at his local shul, Chabad of Laguna Beach. He's currently working on a series of new compositions based on the Selichot prayers of repentance, which are recited during the month preceding Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
"It's amazing and daunting," Feddy said of being the temple's cantor. "You have to get it right."
He added: "The congregation has been great. But I'm scared they're going to throw matzo balls at me."
If You Go
Who: Jason Feddy
Where: Temple Isaiah, 2401 Irvine Ave., Newport Beach
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Information: (949) 548-6900 or jasonfeddy.com
[For the record, 2:30 p.m. July 10, An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to San Diego Rabbi Ian Alper. His name is Ian Adler.]