Wednesday, July 30, 2008

7/30/08 Link Dump

Life in Israel posts a video clip of someone singing "Shelo Osani Goy."

Shloime Walfish goes into competition with Avremi G.

The Jewish Standard reports on Shabbos with the Disco Biscuits.

No mention of the Na nachs who attended though. Here's an interesting bit of trivia they discovered on their way up. Apparently, the Color War teams at the Munkatcher camp this year were Na Nach vs. the Neturei Karta.

Teruah posts "Ghost of the Robot&'s 'German Jewish'."

Here's a J-Post article "'Talibanized' Dance Troupe to Sue J'lem."

Dov Bear posts "Yored Dorot" about inflated concert attendance numbers in Central Park. Rumor is the people who used to do the estimates for those shows have been working for JM concert promoters on the side.

Harry Maryles posts "The Official Jewish Songbook?"

Lazer Beams posts a music video of "Sweet Home, Jerusalem."

Now they're using instant replay at weddings.

In the Forward... "A Different Drum: How a Modern Orthodox 23-Year-Old Danced Her Way Into a Unique Spotlight.";

The Three Weeks Party BBQ and Concert

In honor of the traditional mourning period, the Three Weeks, RCCS threw a BBQ Block Party featuring:
*Wine tasting (by Liquors Galore)

*Sushi bar (by Ossie’s)

*Gourmet BB-Q ( by our chef Elly Berman )

*Desserts (by Metro)

*World famous singer & entertainer YEHUDA GREEN featuring Hamzamrim

*Great raffles

*Grand prize win one year free gas or a 2 YEAR LEASE ON ANY CAR (sponsored by Allstate Leasing 718-633-6161)

And much more...
Here's some video of Yehuda Green performing at the event.

Odd timing!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

From the mailbag...

E. forwards a link to an article about a 'new' approach to Kol Isha.

מרת שאקאלאד writes about "Shelo Asani Goy":
I heard this song, or part of it, for the forst time last week. Maybe this is just a reflection of my own prejudices, but my impression was that it was at least partly ironic, aiming less ridicule at goyim than at Jews who wallow excessively in atu-bokhartuni.
Psachya writes:
Re J-post article on Israeli bands singing English lyrics - I liked the quote about English-lyrics Israeli bands "doing for Israel what Bjork did for Iceland". All together now - how many Icelandic rock acts has anyone heard of? Uh - that would be - Bjork? Anyone else?? Didn't think so.

And as regards "Baby I love you" - I personally prefer "Aba nibi obo ebev obo tabach." But that's just me.
A. writes:
I posted a comment making the following point in a Vos Iz Neias comment thread. It went through, but was then was removed within minutes.

“A.M. has young children, a wife, parents, etc. They are also innocent victims of this tragedy and this blog is smart not to print his full name for their protection...

Huh? This was the lead story on 1010 WINS last week and was reported in the local papers. The quoted article itself says that the frum school where he was coach (and where he took advantage of their students) mailed a letter about A.M.’s arrest out to its parent body.

Withholding his identity will not help his family, but will help prevent this from occurring again. It’s time for the frum community to address these issues instead of covering them up.
The notion that Vos Iz Neias is accomplishing anything by using initials instead of a name is silly. It might make the blog owner feel good about themselves for "avoiding Lashon Hara", but it's pointless. Firstly, because it's easy to find the name either by entering the source link into your browser, or by Googling part of the article. Anyone who didn't already know, can easily find it out through VIN's post. As well, the idea that mentioning the alleged perp's name in a situation like this, where it has already been widely publicized, will cause "harm" to innocent family members strains credulity. On the other hand, covering it up only sends a message to the victims that we will do everything in our power as a community to ignore this. So does censoring fair comments like the one A. submitted.

Fortunately, the school and local community appear to be handling these allegations properly. The fact that JM in the AM and Yeshiva Ohr Yerusholayim removed Melzer from their websites immediately is a positive step. It's also the exact opposite of VIN's approach. It is one that puts the victims and potential future victims first. It represents progress compared to the way similar scandals were handled in the past.

Melzer is of course entitled to a presumption of innocence and his day in court. However, the shame and damage to Adam and his family is done already. That is not at all repairable unless he is acquitted. Now is the time for the community and its leaders to send a powerful message to all would-be abusers that they will not allow these things to pass any longer. Enough is enough.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Letter Know

The New Jersey Jewish Standard is reporting about Yeshivah of North Jersey's response to Adam Melzer's arrest. The school sent a letter to parents about the former coach's arrest earlier this week.

The article includes comments by Dr. Wallace Greene, the director of Jewish Educational Services at the local UJA.
Dr. Wallace Greene, director of Jewish Educational Services at UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, called the affair "sad and unfortunate. This goes back to the Baruch Lanner case," he said. "At the time there were calls for stricter background checks, but I don’t know if any formal policies were adopted. This is precisely why they’re needed."

Lanner, former of Hillel Yeshiva High School in Ocean, and director of regions for the Orthodox Union‘s National Conference of Synagogue Youth, was found guilty in 2002 of sexually abusing teenagers.

Greene noted that while he cannot cite similar cases of sexual abuse in this area, he does not know if individual religious schools do more than "review résumés and check references."
I agree that background checks are important, and I can not comprehend why Agudath Israel is opposed to the state mandating them. However, there is no evidence of Melzer having any sort of criminal record in this regard. At least going by what is known so far, a criminal background check would not have raised suspicions.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When a JM Personality Is Arrested...

Over the past week, the blog has been getting thousand of hits on similar searches. Here's a SiteMeter screengrab that shows why.

In addition to his day job, and his coaching position, Adam Melzer worked as a Neginah Orchestra representative, concert promoter, and JM in the AM radio show guest host.

Here's the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office Press Release on the arrest. (Scroll down) Here's a news report with some more details.

JM in the AM has removed his bio and name from their website. Melzer hosted the program as recently as July 16th. There's a group photo he's in at the above link, and they've removed his name from the listing of who's in the photo. (He's the third from the left in the back row.)

Yeshivah Ohr Yerusholayim, which honored him at their dinner has purged their website and Google's cache of any mention of the honor.

He still turns up in a search on

I've been receiving emails about this as well.

Here's one...
It boggles my mind a little -
Melzer was a major Jewish community personality of sorts; a major producer of the biggest entertainment events which double as major fundraisers for educational, philanthropic, humanitarian and non-profit social service institutions. He is a prominent player in the frum entertainment world, a presence on the radio and involved in people's simchas. He bounced around for years to many different yeshivas, working with many young kids, coaching many teams...

and not a single peep from any of the Jewish sites, blogs or abuse vigilantes...
There's no public evidence that any of the people promoting Melzer knew about this. If it turns out that they did, there should be appropriate consequences. It does raise the question of judgement, though. Hopefully they'll learn the appropriate lessons.

I feel sorry for his family.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

7/17/08 Link Dump

Teruah is calling out Heeb again.

Orthonomics posts about a disturbing trend developing in the Yeshivish community.

The J-Post has an article about a new trend for Israeli bands to write songs in English. this part was cute:
"When you say 'baby I love you' in Hebrew it sounds too plain. When you sing it in English, it has a sexy, cool sound to it."
Oh, dear!

Here are photos of some Na Nachs blowing shofar onstage at a concert featuring Israeli Heavy metal band "Almanah Shechora" (Black Widow) in concert in Israel. Bet this went over well:
באמצע ההופעה שאור השם הזריח על אליהו, צעק חזק "יהודי אמיתי לא פוגם בברית"
Of all the Breslov teachings to emphasize...

Jewish Music News posts "Mi-al har horev from the manuscripts of Obadiah the Proselyte."

In the Jewish Week "Modal Jazz, Malian Beat," an article about Israeli saxophonist Oran Etkin's project with Malian musicians.


Thought I'd share some recent conversations...

So, there's this Chareidi institution that owes us money since March. Seeing that invoices and conversations with the administrator weren't being productive, we approached one of the rabbis who runs the institution. He was surprised to hear we hadn't been paid and said he'd look into it.

A couple of days later, he comes over and says "I spoke to X and he says that it's $1000 and that there's issur of Lo Talin on an institution." He seemed ok with that. My response: "Actually, it's $1300." He replies: "So he's a modeh b'miktzas." My response: "In that case he'll have to take a sh'vua, and I'm sure a choshuve yungerman from such a choshuve mossad would want to avoid having to do that."

P.S. The next day, I had my check. It helps to know the lingo. (Everything was documented anyway, but this greased the skids, as it were.)

Here's an email sent to the blog:
hey, just wondering what you think about kol isha, i hate when women sing at a simcha, it's a new trend and it makes me sick to see people so shamelessly avoiding an important part of the halacha.
interested in your opinion. emilia greenberg
Our response:
I'm happy to answer your question. But first, I have a question for you...

As a female singer who performs for mixed audiences, why do you get "sick to see people so shamelessly avoiding an important part of the halacha"? How do you view your own performances?
Ah, the advantages of knowing the our correspondent's true identity. (It wasn't Emilia Greenberg.)

Her response:
i haven't seen a female sing at a simcha, i believe that i was trying to trick you into saying something.. but you're smart, and/or you know me?


so anyways, you caught me, but i was really wondering what you think about kol isha, i have your page bookmarked and was just wondering..
A cute vignette...

We were hired to play at a Sheva Brachot locally. We're unloading in the parking lot and a woman says, oh, you must be the band. My son Matt is inside setting up his drums. No one had said anything about a drummer for this gig.

So we get inside and there’s a 14 year old setting up a kit. We were thinking it’d be a train wreck, but he actually played pretty well.

The kicker. At the end of the gig, he hands us his card —yes, he had one— and says: “I don’t drive yet, but if you ever have a local gig and you want to add a drummer for $30-$40, I’d love to do it.” Kids!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

From the mailbag...

E. forwards a link to a Messianic Christian congregation playing Mordechai Ben David's Moshiach during a service. The deceptive missionizing inherent to Hebrew Christianity is offensive. They may sing in Hebrew, but they're still practicing Christianity, not Judaism.

E. also emails a link about a new wedding trend in Israel. Tres' classy!

Joe Flix writes:
#1 Why don't you have comments enabled? that sucks

Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, on my Photoblog JoeFlix Daily I would allow shameless self promotion - as long as it comes with a good picture. I have people sending me - a recent example - pics of a new restaurant where you see the owner smiling etc. etc. with Zero photographic value and bad lighting- come on! But if any singer (for example) wants to send me a really interesting shot of him singing (lets say) by some funky Chuppa in Brazil - Welcome aboard!

I'm even in the works of arranging a deal with two professional Photogs where they would send me pictures (for free) and I will put their phone number / link on the blog

Anyway, Great post and again, please add some comments.
I don't allow comments because of the abuse of the commenting system that is unfortunately too common on many J-blogs.

Just two examples of recent issues on some other J-blogs.

1) A JM blogger posted about an upcoming album. One of the commentors posted an offensive parody of said album cover that in itself was indecent, although this could be missed at first glance, and that made unfounded implications about the singer's behavior. I take responsibility for what I write, and I have not been afraid to address very serious issues. But, they have to be addressed on point and on the record. Not through anonymous innuendo.

2) Identity theft. Exhibit A: The 5WPR fiasco currently unfolding. A while back, there was an idiot pretending to be Lipa Schmeltzer posting on various Jewish forums.

I do post emails, especially critical ones, so feel free to send those in.

Jill forwards some information about a writing seminar for next year:
*Writers' Seminar on the Jewish People*

Young writers between the ages of 22-35 interested in developing their skills in writing about the Jewish people in the United States and abroad are invited to apply to a year-long seminar, commencing in this fall under the direction of Samuel G. Freedman, an award-winning journalist, author and professor. The seminar will offer the opportunity to engage with a small group of peers and with outstanding scholars who will deepen your knowledge of Jewish life in the U.S., Israel, and other lands. Participants will work directly on their writing skills with an outstanding journalist who has written extensively on Jewish and other religious themes.

The seminar will meet in Manhattan on four days between October 2008 and April 2009. (The prospective dates are Oct. 12, either Dec. 7 or 14, either Feb. 16 or 22, and either April 5 or 19.) At each meeting, participants will be exposed to a different scholar and to learning about the craft of journalism, including by critiquing each other's work. Participants in this free seminar will be expected to produce *three* pieces of publishable work in different genres:

* Reportage * Cultural Criticism * An Opinion Column

Previous journalistic experience is preferred, but not required. What is necessary is demonstrable skill at writing and a proven intellectual curiosity. The seminar will offer a modest travel stipend for participants in the Northeast. Those who live outside the region will have to pay their own transportation to and from New York City.
If you're interested in applying, send me an email and I'll forward the details.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

7/10/08 Link Dump

Alexander Gelfand writes about pianist Misha Alperin for the Forward in "Piano Man."

YK's Jewish Music Forum writes about Ushpizin star Shuli Rand's album, "Nekuda Tova."

MO Chassid is kvetching about the music volume at weddings he's attended recently. Hey, MO, if your friends would've hired "Band in Dm", you wouldn't have this problem.

Dov Bear follows up on the wig store ban.

Tzvee's Patriotic Blog posts "Star Spangled Banner in 1943 in Yiddish."

Chaptzem Blog! posts some more Lipa swag.

Life in Israel posts "The next ban: Vaseline and Hellman's Mayonnaise." Seems Unilever had a private party for Axe deodorant, featuring a well-known International topless female DJ, Nikki Belucci. here's the interesting part:
The interesting thing is the next part of the story. After Unilever issued its apology yesterday, Peppenheim from the Eidah Haredis has responded again. This time, he says, the apology is not enough. According to TheMarker, Peppenheim said to them, "Originally the apology would have been enough. But now [RG: I have no idea what changed], the Badatz has decided to demand that Unilever issue an apology in the secular media as well, because they have hurt the secular people no less than they have hurt us." .

So from this story it comes out that, aside from banning Hellman's Mayonnaise, the Badatz is concerned about, and looks after the welfare, of secular Israelis, and not just the identity of Haredi Judaism, as they generally claim. I just thought that was an interesting twist I would share with you.
In thisvideo, Ella Fitzgerald sings Keitzad Merakdin.

Lion of Zion posts"Israeli Musicians Sing and Rap for the MIAs."

Finally, sometimes you just need a Sad Trombone

Goy Bashing?

There are a few brachot traditionally recited in the morning whose language seems politically incorrect. One of those is "Shelo asani isha" (who has not made me a woman). Women recite a different bracha, "Sheasani kirtzono" (who has made me according to His will) instead. Another such bracha is "Shelo asani goy". Note, although the term is sometimes viewed as a pejorative, the word "goy" literally means nation and is used in the Torah to describe the Jewish nation as well, as in "goy kadosh" (a holy nation.)

The question is raised as to why the language of the blessing is set in the negative, i.e. who has not made me a woman or goy, instead of the positive "who has made me a man" or "who has made me a Jew."

Much has been written about these brachot, with many different explanations/approaches offered. In some Modern Orthodox communities "shelo asani isha", for example, is recited in an undertone. In some Conservative communities, it's simply omitted.
The general trend among traditional commentators is to view these blessings as a positive statement about being a Jew or man --depending which bracha is being referred to -- who has the opportunity to fulfill more mitzvot (since men have more commandments then women, being obligated in time-bound mitzvot) and almost as if the text had actually been written that way.

At any rate, the reason I bring this up is because on the new Lipa CD, there's a Yiddish song called "Shelo Asani Goy."

You can read a translation of the (mostly) Yiddish lyrics at the Lipa fan blog, Its unbeLIPAble!!!!!!!!!!

The chorus "Shelo asani goy" is a reference to this bracha. Lipa's additional lyrics seem to emphasize the positive about being a Jew, but the chorus, which quote the bracha, can similarly be interpreted by some in condescending or disrespectful way towards non-Jews.

This is an important issue to raise for several reasons. Firstly, because I wonder if teaching kids to sing/scream "Shelo asani goy" without addressing the issues of language, intent, and interpretation, might lead to them learning to look down on non-Jews, even if that's not the intent.

Second, because I wonder about the ethics of asking a non-Jew, who might have sensitivities about this matter, to play the song at a simcha. Many of us play with non-Jewish musicians at simchos. Is it right or fair to call this song without at least discussing the issues raised by it first?

To illustrate my point, here's a video clip of some kids from a Lubavitch day camp at a baseball game in Miami. In context, going out to a ball game where most of the spectators are not Jewish, it seems that the counselors, at least, do mean it in a somewhat pejorative way. In my opinion, this a huge chillul Hashem. (In general, the lack of consideration for the people around them is a chillul Hashem, IMO, but the choice of song makes this more offensive, I think.)

To be clear, I don't think Lipa's song is racist. It's reflective of a traditional text. The question is how to address the text in light of contemporary sensitivities and the Jewish role in contemporary society. And, there's a question of context too.

One final point.

In the past, I've received a critical email from a regular reader, albeit irregular commentor -- in fact, that might have been his only comment -- about raising sensitive issues because non-Jewish musicians might well be reading. I know that the blog has non-Jewish readers, and to the contrary, I believe that it is important for them to be aware of these kinds of issues, and that they are unsettled within the community. I think seeing that people address these issues, uncomfortable though they might be, is important, as is knowing that many commentators have raised the question too. I think it's important to have this happen publicly and I'd love to hear their perspective on this. What do you say, folks?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

From the mailbag...

Watsky writes:
Have you listened to the free download on Jdub's web site? A compilation of disco and funk
from the 70's and 80's. Your connection for kosher disco. perfect. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You can find the download here.Here's some info about the mix.
We are proud to present Soulico's new FREE mixtape titled Archeology: A Deep Dig Into Israeli Grooves

It's an hour full of Hasidic Disco, Spirutal Soul, Yamanite Funk, Turkish Acid Rock, Arabic Jazz & much more, all recorded & released in Israel by local musicians & artists in the 70's and early 80's. 95% of the tunes were never reissued on CD and were fairly obscure even when they originally came out. This is the result of a decade of digging in Tel-Aviv's record shops & Flea markets.
E. forwards a link to a bizarre discussion on Yeshiva World about the 'obligation' of a groom to pay his friend's transportation to his wedding. Unreal!

He also forwards a link to an article, "Controversy Surrounding Musical Career Daughter of Haredi Tycoon Joseph Gutnick."

J. forwards a copy of a poster advertising a concert an event and writes:
An evening of Chizuk indeed! Definitely not a concert Chas V'shalom!

PT emails a link to "some videos of a few of the blues tunes we did at Summerfest."

Evolution of a Dance Style - On The Trail of the Na Nachs

I'm not talkin 'bout this Evolution of Dance.

Over the past several years, I've noticed a shift in the dance stylings used by a significant minority of yeshiva guys back from a year in Israel. This is especially noticeable when the band plays Breslov music. This is not a surprise, because the dance style emulates the stylings of a fringe branch of Breslover chassidim who call themselves "Na Nachs."

The Na Nachs are interesting from a sociological standpoint, because you can see the evolution of the group and its beliefs/activities. Recently, Haaretz published an article, "Rolling with the Na Nachs, the most high-spirited and newest Hasidic sect,"about the movement.

Here's a reasonably comprehensive Wikipeda article about the group.

There's lots of info, and a look into the group's mindset, at their "official" English website. Here's the Hebrew Na Nach website.

Let's take a look at their dancing, which they do as part of "Hafatza" (spreading the teachings of Rabbi Nachman). You may have seen these or similar videos of the Na Nachers driving in "Na Nach vans" and dancing in the streets.

Here's a video clip of Na Nachs in action in israel. Here's another video. And another. Here's a Na Nach dancing with his kid on the roof of a Na Nach van.

Those videos are from Israel. Now, the group has become active in New York as well. (In part, because one was expelled from Israel for visa violations, I understand.)

Here's a video clip of a Na Nach dancing in Monsey. Check out the "vogueing" moves! Note: the fellow who appears in a Na Nach kipa near the end is Dov Shurin's son. Here's another Monsey video.

Blending a mixture of dance stylings perhaps best described as a cross between a rave, a mosh pit, and devotional style Chassidic dancing, the cardinal rule of Na Nach dancing appears to be that "Na Nachs dance alone!" There is occasional contact with other dancers, especially when physically dragging them into the "dance area", a loosely defined space around the van.

Typical dance movements include jumping, bouncing, and hopping and hitting the ground with the heel of the raised foot when landing. Arms are often raised, but can also be extended or moved in jogging-type gestures. To me, it looks as though there's a distinct dance style unique to this group.

The vans are interesting for the decor, which usually consists of many stickers with the Na Nach mantra, plastered all over. Although each van looks different, there's an overall design aesthetic that they all seem to have. Also of note is the "dancing platform" installed on the roof of the Na Nach vans. And, the thumping sound system blasting trance music.

The music typically consists of dance music with short repeated phrases like the Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman mantra and Rebbe Nachman quotes like Ein Yiush Baolam Klal. It can be original or adaptations of popular Hebrew and secular songs. (Perhaps, I'll have more on the music at a future date.)

In addition to evolving a dance style and design aesthetic, the group has also evolved other gestures, customs, and dress styles. Here's a tutorial on a hand signal I've seen many of them use. They dress similarly, with Na Nach kipot, necklaces containing the "Petek",a copy of the letter R' Oddesser "miraculously received" from Rabbi Nachman 90 years ago, and tekheiles (a blue fringe on theur tzitzit).

Curios to see more firsthand, AW and I attended a Na Nach wedding. Hey, we were invited.

The wedding was interesting. Although the chosson appears to be into Na Nach (you can see him in a few videos on the Na Nach site), he has not yet adopted the dress and the wedding appeared for the most part to be your typical Monsey/Brooklyn black hat affair.

Except for the Na Nachs who attended. They stood out visibly both by their dress and by their dancing. Essentially, they did their Na Nach-style dancing in the midst of the dance floor, while not engaging directly with the other dancers. On a few occasions, I witnessed other dancers attempting to dance with them, and they were rebuffed each time. It seemed as though this was a natural reaction on the part of the Na Nachs.

In a conversation with one of the group, I asked why they seem to dance alone, and he asserted that it was deliberate, reflecting their "anarchistic" bent. Na Nachs don't really recognize rabbinic leadership, aside from the deceased Rabbi Nachman, his disciple, Rabbi Nosson, and Rabbi Yisroel Odesser aka "Saba". This is unlike other contemporary Breslovers, who although they don't have a Rebbe --Rabbi Nachman was never replaced -- do have rabbinic leaders within the community that they look up to.

The band at the wedding played great, but did not play much "Na Nach music." They did play some Breslov music, and the Rabbi Nachman version of Numa Numa. Not all Breslov music is Na Nach music, though. It'd been more interesting to observe the dancing had the music been "Na Nach", but this was interesting too.

Note: in general, although the Na Nachs don't particularly seem to get into the 'standard' Breslov music many of the simcha bands play, the yeshiva guys who've adopted these dance moves do tend to start doing them to the standard Breslov rep too.

Incidentally, when we pulled into the parking lot at the venue shortly before nightfall, there was a Na Nach davening Shmoneh Esrei in talis and tefillin. These guys obviously follow a different playbook.

So, what to make of this group?

On the one hand, it's interesting to observe. Their emphasis on spreading joy is positive, albeit their methodology is unrthodox. On the other hand, they are evolving a belief system that is not rooted in traditional Breslov, or any Orthodox Judaism, and that includes some very 'unusual' ideas. Fringe groups are important, but can also, as they impact the community, affect the "mainstream" beliefs and practices. These guys are definitely having some influence. So, is the Na Nach approach good or bad for the Jews? We report, you decide!

How Not To Do Blog PR!

Since we've been at this awhile, here's some advice to those who are interested in pitching their product/album/band to this or really any blog.

In no particular order...

1) It should go without saying, but don't be rude or demanding. No one has to review your album or plug your project.
Writing "post this video up and give some commentary" generally won't get you what you want.

2) Don't send an email dissing the blogger's current posts and stating that "enough about X, it's time to talk about [insert your project name.]"

2a) This is especially egregious if the blogger has recently mentioned your project.

3) If you send an unsolicited email, be prepared to have your email quoted. You have no expectation of privacy. Especially if the email link on the blog (as on this one) has a disclaimer stating "I will assume your permission to publish your comments unless you indicate otherwise."

4) If you have any requests, especially if upon reflection you prefer that an email you sent which was posted be removed, it's OK to ask politely. Once. Sending multiple emails is rude in general. Bloggers do other things besides sit at their computers waiting for your email so that they can answer it within 10 seconds.

5) Do not comment spam. And, don't have your fans do it either.

6) Respond to questions. If you send an email plugging your project, be prepared for the possibility of a response. Not following up on your email, or worse, ignoring interested questions is foolish and counterproductive. It leaves a negative impression of you and by extension your project.

7) Include your name in your email. Unsigned PR/review requests are pointless.

8) Don't send your entire album, or even a few mp3's if they are unsolicited. Filling up a blogger's mailbox is inconsiderate. Sending an email with a download link is fine.

9) If you're trying to do promotion for a friend, the same rules apply. Here's a bit of an email we received a while back:
Hi, i just wanted to apologize for my last email about my friend [redacted's]
album. It was pointed out to me as to how unprofessional and impolite my first email was. Aside from the mispelled subject line and the typical cliches used, the email was indirect and impolite. Im new at this, so please excuse the last email.
We'd ignored the initial email which was kind of rude, full of misspellings, and unsigned. The displeasure with the email was registered by someone else, presumably the artist. Spare your friend and yourself the embarrassment.

10) Be honest. Don't pretend you don't have a connection to the project you're plugging when you do have one.

11) Use spellcheck, punctuation, capitalization and break your email into paragraphs as appropriate.

I'm sure the other bloggers have tips they'd suggest too...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Poshiter News

The Jeruslaem Post has an article about Lipa Schmeltzer's new album.

Some 'cerpts:
Months later, producer Sheya Mendlowitz is still waiting to be reimbursed for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he claims he is owed. He and the rabbis are in negotiations over who should cover the costs.
Considering that the banners assumed responsibility for damages -- this was one of the reasons preventing a revised concert from taking place -- this is outrageous.
Released a few months after the ban, this album is the singer's subtle retort to critics who have tried to undermine him by calling his music "treif" and a threat to Yiddishkeit.

"Whatever you are, you can be a simple Jew," Schmeltzer explained in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.

"The world is changing, but you still want me to be the same," Schmeltzer sings in the title song. In another, he challenges people to resist social pressures and think for themselves. These and other lines on the album offer subtle critiques of the closed haredi world that has made Schmeltzer's musical career far from simple.

"I say the truth because we have to be honest with God," Schmeltzer said.
Here's another point about these bans that needs to be addressed publicly; the emotional toll on the families.
But Schmeltzer is not new to controversy. These attacks have been trying the singer and his family for years. "Sometimes people don't realize I have a whole family who are affected by it," said Schmeltzer.

After one such ban, he remembers returning home to hear his father crying on his answering machine.

"When I was young, I felt I had done something bad and I fought with myself," said Schmeltzer, who grew up without any formal music education (his father was afraid it would interfere with his studies).

But since then, Schmeltzer has come to realize that singing is not a choice.

"Music is my life," he said. "I saw that I couldn't stop myself despite all the pressure. It doesn't matter what it takes, this is what I do."
It's clear that the banners have a lot to answer for.

The Forward has an article on the subject as well. Agudah's Rabbi Avi Shafran makes an appearance here as well.
“In American culture, unfortunately, role models are not just intellects and people of good deeds, but entertainers,” explained Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for the ultra-Orthodox organization Agudath Israel of America. “From an Orthodox Jewish perspective, an entertainer is not a role model.”
That's odd. I thought that, from an Orthodox perspective, everyone is a potential role model. Rabbi Shafran has come across throughout this affair as condescending and disingenuous.

This bit was interesting.
Though Schmeltzer denies that he changed his style of music since the ban was issued, his promoter, Gershy Moskowitz, admits that his new album is more “kosher” than the previous one. In total, Schmeltzer has released eight other CDs.
Being familiar with Schmeltzer's ouvre, I agree with Schmeltzer, not Moskowitz. In fact, it's so clear, that I wonder how Moskowitz could make that claim seriously.

J-Post article via Life of Rubin.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

7/2/08 Link Dump

Ari Davidow pledges to weigh in on the Lipa ban controversy.

Pravda Ne'eman posts a critical comment rejected by Cross-Currents moderators that takes Agudah's Rabbi Avi Shafran to task for a double-standard.

What happens when Jewish and Gypsy peasants and musicians collide. Jack blogs about Train De Vie.

Jewschool asks "Can you marry Yossele Rosenblatt and Debbie Friedman?" The answer natch, is yes, but the Chareidim won't recognize their children as Jewish.

Dixie Yid writes about singing zemiros.

For those looking for an entry into music notation software...

Sibelius recently released Sibelius First.

You can find a feature comparison with Sibelius 5here.

Amazon has it here:

Upping The Anti!

Vos Iz Neias reports on more anti-media bans and heimishe vandalism in "Orthodox Court: MP4’s are Banned, Its the Devil’s Device."

Speaking of media bans...

We recently referenced a Hamodia ad against cell phones in "Speaking of Hamodia..." Today's issue has another in what appears to be a series. This one features a photo of Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky. The top half of the ad is orange, and so doesn't come out clearly in the scan. So, no pic today.

Here's the text and the rest of the ad:

"A cell phone can put a person in a Makom Sakana with the push of a button. Getting a 'kosher phone' is Hatzalas Nefashos."

Two points:

1) Text messaging is not a threat to children's safety in either a physical or spiritual sense. A child being in contact with inappropriate people/influences, whether in person, on the phone, or via the net is. Parents need to be responsible for supervising their kids.

2) This is a business that is capitalizing on the fact that their model of phone is "approved" by the rabbonim because it doesn't allow text or internet. I've heard that this can be circumvented.

Not having seen the phones, I can't confirm this. But whether or not it's true, these ads raise some questions like: Is it appropriate for rabbonim to require one seller's product as obligatory?

Shouldn't they require competition to keep prices down as much as possible?

If there is in fact competition, why are they allowing these ads, with their endorsement of one company?

If it is in fact obligatory, shouldn't they set limits on the seller's allowable markup, just as halacha does in other cases?

Who are the people behind this and were they involved in organizing these ads, paying for them, etc.?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

From the mailbag...

E. forwards a link to Pioneers For A Cure. Sounds like a great cause. The musicians involved are wonderful! This is a great concept! I'd love to see and participate in more of these kinds of recordings. You can follow the links from their site to see more about the creation of this project.

Psachya writes:
On last night's gig, I was spending one of my breaks shmoozing with a friend of mine who was a guest at the affair. We both noticed a young child going up to the bandstand and picking up the drumsticks. My friend walked over and said, "Don't play with the drum set. Put the sticks down."

The kid looked at my friend indignantly. "These are not your drums!" he said.

As I've said before - you really can't make these things up.
For those interested in chassidus... Michal writes:
Here's free stuff from Targum Press:

Following the amazing success of MiPeninei Noam Elimelech, the newly released, groundbreaking book on selections from the Noam Elimelech by chassid and teacher Rabbi Tal Moshe Zwecker, TP is offering a free MP3 lecture download on the Noam Elimelech and his holy teachings at Targum Press Online PLUS 20% OFF sale on all Jewish books until July 6th at
Shmuel Klaver writes:
I need to get in touch with Alan Freishtat of Har Nof. Please have him Email me at DEARSHMOO (at) HOTMAIL.COM Very important! Many thanks, Regards to all- SHMOO