In the cloistered world of ultra-Orthodox Jewry, Hasidic singer Lipa Schmeltzer is a superstar. Mixing Hasidic musical traditions and contemporary pop sounds, the 30-year-old Skverer Hasid has become something of a sensation — though not an uncontroversial one. In March, Schmeltzer was set to headline a charity benefit at Madison Square Garden's WaMu Theater. A little more than two weeks before the concert, some of American ultra-Orthodoxy's leading rabbinic authorities issued an edict banning attendance. They warned that the event would cause "ribaldry and lightheadedness." Out of respect for rabbinic authority, Schmeltzer deferred to the decree and the concert was canceled. But the ban generated a fierce backlash. Some people suggested that fanatics had misled the rabbis about the nature of the concert, which, consistent with communal norms, was to have separate seating for men and women. Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents the Hasidic stronghold of Boro Park, told The New York Times: "In all my 26 years of representing this community, I can't remember anything that has so shaken the people." Schmeltzer, for his part, has continued making music — and drawing appreciative crowds at public appearances. The title of his latest album can be seen as a rejoinder to critics who regard his pop-inflected songs and burgeoning popularity as threats to traditional Jewish values. It is called "A Poshiter Yid" — Yiddish for "A Simple Jew."Note, the "some people" referenced above includes some of the rabbis who signed the ban, who have gone on the record acknowledging this.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Poshut in the Top 50
Lipa Schmeltzer makes the Forward's Top 50 Jews of 2008.