Thursday, January 29, 2009

In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part VIII

Continuing our review...

We are now up to the final chapter "Ki Defar Hashem Bozoh"

In this chapter, Rabbi Luft presents his solutions to the problem.

He proposes the following (I've added the numbers for identification purposes):
1) "First of all, we are obligated destroy the image of the chareidi pop idols..." He advocates that these singers not be given any respect in public and should not be invited to perform at Simchas Beis Hasoeva, Hachnasas Sefer Torah, Yeshivah camps, etc.

2) "It is also the obligation of everybody to protest at weddings and other simchos when the band plays rock music..."

3) "It is of course more of an obligation on the people making the simcha to ensure that the music being played is kosher, and this should be done by hiring a reliable band, and deciding which songs should be played."

4) "Also, it is advisable to make a contract with the band stating that if they do not play as they have been told, they will not be paid."

5) "If you can't protest, leave the hall immediately."
In addition to his recommendations, Rabbi Luft also summarizes what is wrong, in his view, with the current state of affairs. This summary is also a useful summary of why his position and activism are such a chillul Hashem. Rather than paraphrase it, I'll simply let Rabbi Luft speak for himself.
After all the information that has been brought above, there remains no doubt that rock music and all its related styles are not only completely unsuitable to be used as Jewish music, but also it is absolutely forbidden to use the modern forms of music in songs with words from pesukim, berochos, or divrei Torah, since the music is indecent and obscene in nature, and contains many immoral undertones that come from the evil music that originated in the jungles of Africa. Furthermore, the music itself, even without words contains evil influences, and since the majority of the singers, arrangers and musicians in the frum music business do not care at all about the purity of their songs, it is the obligation of all parents and teachers to try their best to ensure that children should not have their minds filled with this indecent music.

There is no doubt that if the goyim took those same pesukim to use in their immoral songs, there would be an uproar in the entire chareidi community. If so, why do people remain silent when the dregs of the chareidi community are using holy words for the sole purpose of making money, and degrading them? If some lunatic would throw seforim on the floor or start ripping the pages out of a sefer tehillim, would anybody sit there and allow him to continue to desecrate kisvei hakodesh?
Speaks for itself, I think.

I would be remiss at this point if I didn't also review the back cover, as it contains some relevant items too.

First, it has three quotes from "gedolim" about music. One is totally irrelevant. One is wishy-washy hyperbole that expressly says the speaker "doesn't know", and the third is on topic.

The first irrelevant quote is from The Rebbe of Bobov, Rabbi Ben Zion Halberstam HY'D.
Speech is the expression of the mind. Music is the expression of the soul, and by means of this it is possible to determine the level of a person at any time. The prohibitions related to speech apply also to musical expression.
This quote provides no evidence that Rabbi Luft's presentation is correct. One could agree with the Bobover Rebbe's characterization, while still disputing all of Rabbi Luft's contentions.

The second quote is from Rav Elazar M.M. Shach, ZT'L.
I have heard that there is something new that they call "Chassidic music". I don't know whether it is kosher or not, but one thing I am quite sure about -- that it has no connection to Chassidus, and I don't know if it is suitable for Yeshiva boys to listen to.
Since, in this quote, Rav Shach says he is unsure of whether the music is should be rejected, it seems a stretch for Rabbi Luft to assert unequivocally that it is verboten. As in the opening vignette of the book, it seems that Rabbi Luft has no problem making decisions about things that gedolim, in this case Rav Shach and in the earlier case Rav Boruch Ber, are unwilling or unable to determine.

The third quote is from Rabi Moshe Shmuel Shapira ZT"L.
The non-religious street has managed to infiltrate into chareidi society by means of the modern music.
This is the only unambiguous quote on the back cover. Rabbi Luft seems to intend that all the quotes be viewed as support for his book, yet upon closer inspection, two of the three do not support his contentions, and in fact the Rav Shach quote in particular, explicitly rules out the extreme position Rabbi Luft has taken. Incidentally, Rabbi Shapira is also the source for the story of Rav Boruch Ber and Rav Chaim in the opening vignette. Make of that what you will.

I would also note that these quotes are nowhere referenced inside the book, and in fact, the book does not contain many alleged Torah sources in total; by my count, there are approximately ten inside and that count includes multiple quotes by the same source. And, as I've demonstrated, those sources are not as Rabbi Luft portrays them either.

One final point. Where are the haskamos from prominent gedolim for his work? Where are the specific, not generic, endorsements of his positions? If all is as Rabbi Luft represents it, why have the gedolim not made themselves heard with specific concrete guidelines for Jewish music? After all, that's how both the yeshivish derech halimud and the halachik process work. Ideas need to be clearly defined, delineated, and articulated. Yet, thus far, aside from the occasional generic screed/speech against contemporary Jewish music, to my knowledge there has been no godol, or even respected Rav/Rosh Yeshiva who has clearly articulated the parameters for what is and isn't kosher Jewish music. For a book ostensibly representing daas Torah, the fact the the only two endorsers are Rabbis no one has ever heard of, rather than the gedolim on whose shoulders this campaign allegedly rests is bizzare. Like the dog that didn't bark in Conan Doyle's "Hound of the Baskervilles", the silence is revealing.

Next, I will briefly review the assertions in my first post in this series, and show how I have documented them.

Here are my previous posts in this series:

In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part I
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part II
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part III"
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part IIIa
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker"; Part IV
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part V
In Review - Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part VI
In Review - R'; Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part VII

UPDATE 2/1/09:
For your convenience, I have updated the posts in this series to include links to all of the posts on this topic.

Here are the links to all of the posts in this series:

In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part I
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part II
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part III
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part IIIa
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part IV
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part V
In Review - Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part VI
In Review - R'; Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part VII
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part VIII
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part IX

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part VII

It's been a while since my last post on this book, links to the previous posts are below. Back to the book...

We are up to Chapter 5 - "The Influence On The Soul".

In this Chapter, Rabbi Luft attempts to make the argument that only "pop stars, disc jockeys, and all the gang of yeshiva dropouts" are the ones denying that the popular contemporary chareidi music is obscene. He asserts that at this point the only people who disagree with his assertions are the aforementioned.

He then "demonstrates" that in the secular world, the rock singers do know what they're doing and are intentionally ruining society.
Even if we can say that some of the frum singers do not intend to corrupt the young people with their corrupt music, the same can not be said about the goyishe pop stars. They know exactly what they are doing, and their power to ruin society is so strong, that an American priest, Reverend David Noebel, wrote extensive articles against the Beatles claiming that they were actually communist agents who were manipulating the behaviour of Western society by means of their music.
Rabbi Luft again demonstrates that he has no knowledge of musical history. This is just absurd. He also demonstrates that he does not vet his sources prior to citing them.

Here's a review of Noebel's book, "The Marxist Minstrels". Note the racial angle. Birds of a feather, it seems. It's quite obvious that Rabbi Luft is willing to quote anybody, no matter how delusional, if their agenda supports his own. What's amazing is how few supporting sources he brings, despite his indiscriminate non-standards.

Again, part of the tremendous chillul Hashem here is when rabbonim endorse Rabbi Luft's efforts, implicitly endorsing his absurd assertions, dishonesty, and racist views.

Rabbi Luft then turns his attention to Jewish musicians. He quotes a popular Chassidic bandleader who expressed himself at a meeting of bandleaders in Bnei Brak in Teves, 5764:
The meeting was made in protest of the Roshei Yeshivos who had demanded that the music at weddings should be respectable, and he said the following: "We will compromise a little. We will talk with the Rabbis. But if the rabbis will not agree with us, I will organize every night parties for the bochurim!"
Essentially, Rabbi Luft takes this bandleader to task for not falling into line with his own views.

Now let's see. The facts and timing on this are clear. The Roshei Yeshiva didn't just get together and decide to address the issue of chareidi simcha music. Lets take a look and see what Rabbi Luft was up to at that time in 5764. That's right, using his false representations, he was manipulating rabbonim into appointing him the head of "The Committee for Jewish Music." He wrote:
Several months ago, I presented the above information to HaRav Nissim Karelitz and asked what should be done to improve the situation. He told me that a committee should be made to supervise the playing of music at simchas, and after taking advice from several other important rabbis, the Committee for Jewish Music was formed, consisting of a group of bnei Torah from Bnei Brak and Yerushalayim who all have experience in the field of music and understand the subject fully.

A special committee of rabbis who have an understanding of music was also made to advise the new Committee for Jewish Music, and a meeting was held in Bnei Brak on the 27th of Tammuz to make a list of guidelines regarding the music to be played at weddings. The members of the committee of rabbis are: HaRav Mordechai Gross, HaRav Shmuel Eliezer Stern, HaRav Sariel Rosenberg, HaRav Eliezer Dunner, HaRav Mass'oud Ben Shimon, and HaRav Aharon Mittelman.
The "above information" he references includes many of his assertions we've already disproved.

Rabbi Luft and his ilk had been running around "organizing Da'as Torah." The meeting and this bandleaders' comments were a response to published threats from Rabbi Luft in which he threatened that any bandleaders who don't follow his rules will be boycotted by the rabbonim. The context is quite relevant. Since Rabbi Luft had managed to manipulate rabbonim into signing on to his campaign, this was viewed as a serious threat.

This bandleader deserves a Yasher Koach for insisting on speaking to the rabbis, something, Rabbi Luft has thus far shown no interest in allowing to happen, let alone facilitating. Why not let the rabbonim hear another perspective? The fact that Rabbi Luft cites this bandleader's lack of willingness to "roll over" for him as evidence that the bandleader is attempting to corrupt the youth is just absurd.

Further, Rabbi Luft was attempting to institute new regulations including the banning of certain instruments, something that if succesful would put some musicians out of business immediately. (See the section titled "The Following Statement and Rules Were Made.") It is perfectly legitimate for people to respond in a less then accommodating manner to such threats. It seems that what really outrages Rabbi Luft is the fact that at least some bandleaders aren't willing to let him have his way unopposed.

Rabbi Luft then moves on to citing riots at rock concerts as evidence. For example, he mentions the infamous Hell's Angel's riot at the Rolling Stones Altamont concert in 1969 at which someone was killed.

(Incidentally, he misrepresents the details here too. You can trust nothing he asserts. He writes:
When, during the 1969 Altamont festival, they performed the song Sympathy for the Devil, the Hell's Angels 'bodyguards' went on a rampage, attacking the audience with such violence that people were severely injured and even killed.
Actually, only one person, Meredith Hunter was killed, although a few people died in an auto accident and one drowned in a drainage ditch. Also, the band was actually playing "Under My Thumb" at the time Hunter was murdered. You can read all about that concert here. But I digress...)

At any rate, he then quotes Mick Jagger as having said: "Something like that happens every time I play that song." Aside from being contradicted by the Stones' half-century of touring, at which riots and murders have not erupted at their shows, it also sets up an absurd idea. That is, that rioting crowds indicate that the famous people at whose event they are rioting bear direct responsibility. I wonder what that says about Rav Steinman, given the violent Chassidic protests against him here in the States when he came a few years back. I wonder about the riots that have occasionally occurred in various Chassidishe kreisen. Somehow, I don't expect Rabbi Luft would fault those rabbonim and rebbes.

Rabbi Luft then explains why we don't see riots at frum concerts. He offers three reasons.
1) The young people in the chareidi audiences, even the lowest of them are better educated than the goyim who attend these types of shows, and have more self-control to stop themselves from misbehaving in public.

2. The words of the songs do not promote violence and disruptive behaviour.

3. The frum musicians are not interested in promoting violence, because they don't want the Rabbis to ban them completely.
Let's take a look at these. Reason #1 is goy-bashing and is offensive for that reason alone. It is also foolish on its face. To illustrate, compare the typical audience at shows for the following artists: Garth Brooks, Steely Dan, Brad Mehldau, Children of Bodom, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Christina Aguilera, the Metropolitan Opera. These each have a different demographic at their shows. I could have listed many other examples, but my point is clearly illustrated here.The notion that all non-Jewish artists and audiences are wild and uneducated is simply not true. Different artists attract different demographics. Even if some attract a more boorish crowd, so do some Rabbonim, vehameyvin yovin.

Reason #2 is correct, but also applies to many secular performances as well.

Reason #3 implies that Frum artists would encourage violence at their shows, but for the fear that they'll be completely banned by the Rabbonim. This is silly. It does illustrate Rabbi Luft's persception of Jewish performers, though. The idea that someone with this kind of agenda and bias is the one attempting to make rules about Jewish music should give pause to anyone considering his notions.

Rabbi Luft then claims that there have been occasions when boys have thrown their shirts at the singer and alleges that "at a concert in Tel Aviv the night after Purim 5764, it was reported that the girls did the same thing." Frankly, I don't believe him. And I think he knows it didn't happen. The locution "it was reported" sans source is telling. Someone, probably one of Rabbi Luft's associates, made this one up.

Rabbi Luft closes the chapter with a section on "The Disco Wedding." He writes that the bands turn the wedding into a discotheque, and although the bandleaders say they are forced to do so by the bochurim, it is not so.
"...we can see from the words of the Chareidi band leader quoted above that it is not the boys who are dictating what and how to play, but rather a few corrupt individuals who set the style for all the Yeshiva weddings, and they are willing to fight for the right to continue doing this.
In truth, the band leader quoted above said no such thing. But why let facts get in the way of some good demonization.

On a roll, Rabbi Luft then tells another scandalous tale of debauchery.
Everybody heard about another infamous band leader in Shvat, 5764 at a Bnei Brak wedding, when he saw that the boys took down part of the mechitza to let the girls come through to dance on the men's side, he started to encourage them by playing in a way that aroused the yetzer hora. And we shouldn't think that he is the only one who knows how to do this. They all know how to play in that way, but they are still waiting to see if that one degenerate can succeed to get more orders, then they will follow his example because their parnossah is more important than Yiddishkeit.
Reading this chapter, one would get the impression of a chareidi society in decline, with chareidi girls going topless in public, throwing their shirts at MBD and the like, and mixed dancing at simchas. I've been to a number of Bnei Brak weddings, have relatives there, and feel quite comfortable saying that Rabbi Luft is clearly exaggerating here. The image he's trying to present is based on falsehood. So are his rules and so is his presentation.

Note that, as in the rest of his book, the language Rabbi Luft uses in this chapter to describe musicians and their motivations is simply inappropriate for a ben Torah.

Next up, the final chapter. After that, I intend to post a short follow-up to my original post, demonstrating that I have proved all of my initial assertions about Rabbi Luft and his work.

Here are my previous posts in this series:

In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part I
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part II
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part III"
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part IIIa
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker"; Part IV
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part V
In Review - Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part VI

UPDATE 2/1/09:
For your convenience, I have updated the posts in this series to include links to all of the posts on this topic.

Here are the links to all of the posts in this series:

In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part I
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part II
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part III
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part IIIa
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part IV
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part V
In Review - Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part VI
In Review - R'; Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part VII
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part VIII
In Review - R' Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" Part IX

Lipa vs. Luft - He's Not Backing Down

Vos Iz Neias posts a story on Lipa's upcoming concert. Poor Rabbi Luft! Can't get no respect!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Its Time For Even More Peeps

"The Gaggle"
"The Gaggle" are a group of women jointly hosting a Sheva Brachos. They show up about five minutes before the invite time, look at the perfectly set room, and proceed to make minor, mostly irrelevant adjustments, all the while discussing said adjustments loudly among themselves. "Do you think the flowers look good like this? Or, should I move this lily one millimeter to the left." From an aesthetic standpoint, these efforts are pointless. Nevertheless, they always feel compelled to make some changes.

"Super Nice Lady"
We've run into this peep quite often recently. She always makes a point of coming over and saying really nice things about the music.

"Heil Hitler Guy"
A friend of the 'rents, this peep always acknowledges our presence with a drive-by Nazi salute of sorts as he walks past. He never says hi or stop to chat.

The "Mavin Dovor"
Walks into a Sheva Berachos hosted by several kollel families and immediately understands, based on the amenities, that they must be really stretching to pay for the affair. So, as a fellow who also "learns in the kollel," he discreetly tells one of the hostesses that he too ought to have been included in contributing towards the event. He proceeds to pick up a nice part of the tab. He doesn't know that he's been "caught doing good!"

The "$5000 Rabbi"
This Rabbi is an hour late to the wedding he's officiating at. This despite the fact that the family had sent a car to pick him up on time. He'd simply kept the driver waiting. The father of the bride is later heard estimating his cost for the additional hour at $5000 in overtime fees. We met a similar peep earlier, but he'd cost his baalei simcha thousands more. The difference between a heimishe venue and the Waldorf.

The "Bathroom Smoker"
This peep smokes in a stall in the men's room at Ateres Chynka, a basement wedding hall. Apparently multiple times throughout the night. The lack of ventilation in the bathroom means that all of the guests have to experience the unpleasant heavy smoke. At least he doesn't have to chill himself outdoors, and that's what's most important, right?

The "Grooveless Badchan"

This peep takes an hour to warm up. Seriously, the first hour of this two hour mitzvah tants is simply excruciating. But, after hitting the bar for a drink or two after each tants, he finds his groove, and he brings his "A game" for the rest of the tants.
Should've started hitting the bar an hour or so earlier.

Best Translation Eva!

From the Naomi Shemer songbook "Simanim Baderech""... Shirat Ha'asavim translated as "Weeds Are Singing".

Some Worthwhile Websites

There are a number of websites that I think it's worth calling attention to. Most of these are pretty recent and will be quite useful and informative. Mazal tov to the publishers!

Save The Jewish Songs: Yiddish

Der Yidisher Gramofon

Finally, George Robinson, who many will know as the music critic for the NY Jewish Week, has started a Jewish Music blog, Shirim Khadashim -- New Jewish Songs. He will be posting reviews and other music-related writings, since the JW no longer has the space for his review column.

From the mailbag...

Yale Strom writes again:
BiDm - not to belabor the point, but once again, you've misquoted me -- I never "laid credit for Chabad Houses across the world on the klezmer revival"; so let me clarify by example: In 1981, in Miskolc, where there was a small Jewish community (secular and frum and everything in between) there were a couple of local amateur Jewish musicians who began playing Jewish music privately. I know, because I was there. Point of fact: Chabad was not. The frum Jews were not Lubavitsher - in fact, the elderly frum Jews who grew up before World War II were followers or sympathetic to the Satmar or Munkacser khasidim (who by the way have had strong religious philosophical disagreements over the years - continuing today - with Lubavitsh).

During the Communist era, throughout Eastern Europe, Jewish life and practice went underground, particularly for the youth. The older Jews were already pensioners, they were not as afraid of retribution, of career assassination or expulsion from attending specific colleges - risks posed to the young Jews. As one old orthodox Jew told me in 1981, "I was in prison before the war, I was in various concentration camps, the Soviets sent me to a camp, and I'm here now. What can they do to me?"

What these young musicians did was get people interested in singing Jewish music and for some, to even looking at Hebrew and Yiddish text (and Miskolc was not a haven for Yiddishists). There was a young man I interviewed in 1988 for my book "A Tree Still Stands: Jewish Youth in Eastern Europe Today" who eventually went on to study at the Budapest rabbinical seminary. Part of the kindling of his interest in Jewish life and religion (of which he learned nothing from his parents) came from listening to Jewish music, particularly Ashkenazic Jewish music from Eastern Europe, aka - klezmer. This happened before Rabbi Oberlander, the Lubavitsher rabbi in Budapest since 1989, formed a Chabad minyan in Miskolc.

I never stated that in every case, in every Chabad minyan throughout Central and Eastern Europe, the way was paved only because of the klezmer revival. But to not acknowledge the power of the klezmer revival (music, text, Yiddish, the cultural cohesion and community building for Jewish communities and the social history of klezmer as functional music) is simply wrong. All of these factors made communities more receptive to new Jewish expressions - including Chabad. And Chabad has done a great job in re-igniting the embers of Judaism in these communities where there are shlikhim.

My assertions are based on fact, on interviews with actual informants since 1981. Those things may not support one's thesis, but they are indisputable.
It seems to me that we are talking about two separate assertions.

1) There are individuals whose interest in learning more about Judaism was kindled by Jewish music.
2) The success of Chabad Houses can be attributed, at least in part, to the klezmer revival.

Point #1 is clearly true. I don't believe anyone contests that. I've met many people who came to some form of Jewish observance through becoming involved in Jewish music, whether as a performer or listener.

Point #2 is inaccurate though. This is easy to test. Look at Chabad's history even before the klezmer revival, when they were perhaps the most effective outreach group under three generations of Communism in the U.S.S.R. Compare also, the success of Chabad Houses worldwide. Not to belabor the point, but Chabad and Chabad houses have been successful throughout the world, including many areas where the klezmer revival has not reached. Might some people who became interested in Jewish culture via klezmer then been more open to Chabad? I know people who came to some form of observant Judaism through Jewish music. But I'd also say that Chabad has proven itself globally, reviving Jewish interest, in areas untouched by the klezmer revival. In other words, I'd point at Chabad as the source of Chabad's success, not the klezmer revival. In short, I'm confident that the Chabad House in Miskolc, to use Yale's example, would have been quite successful in reaching out to unaffiliated Jews in the area, even if there hadn't been a klezmer revival.

Joel Rubin made a simliar point, about the renewal of interest in Judaism in various forms taking place at the same time, like the klezmer revival and the Havurah movement. He did not credit the klezmer revival with the success of the Havurah movement though. I'm sure there are people who came to Havuah that way too, on an individual level, (and Orthodoxy and various Chassidic groups too) but, I don't see it as cause and effect.

In short, what I take issue with is the assertion that the Chabad House's success is based on the klezmer revival. Sure, some individuals may have decided to start attending because of that, but there is enough empirical evidence for the success of Chabad houses in places outside the influence of the klezmer revival. Perhaps, judging by his clarifying emails, this is what Yale meant to say at the conference, i.e. point #1 not point #2, but that's not what I heard him say.

Yosef Sukenik writes:
Here is a link to a new song composed for the Puah Institute's annual dinner on January 13th. The dinner was the same week as the annual conference in Jerusalem which had over 1500 people but unfortunately no music. Composed by Cecelia Margules and Rami Yadid. Performed by Shloime Dachs. Song of the Cradle.
Joe Flix forwards a link to his LinkBag #3. He's been enjoying my Luft review series. I'll be getting back to that shortly.

Roger Bong writes:
I did a Google search of the Stanley Miller Band and, like several others, have found your blog.

I wanted to find more information about the Band, but it seems there is very little info on the internet. I own the album "Live!" by the band, originally released on Azoi Records and recorded April 16, 1976 in New York at the Lincoln Square Synagogue.

I know nothing about Jewish music, but bought the Band's "Live!" album (an LP) because it was unopened. I found it in a thrift store in Eugene, Oregon. Have you heard the album before? I thought you or visitors to your blog might like to know about it, since there is no discography of the band online.

It's good to know that the Band wants to reissue one of their albums to CD.
Chris writes:
I've written before, you may not remember. I'm studying for conversion and am an semi-pro/amateur reggae musician/producer. Do you know of any message boards or IRC channels where I can talk to Jewish musicians? Here in Tokyo I know precisely zero people in my shul who make music. I'd like to be able to talk to some people who make torah centric music or even musicians living a torah life.

BTW, it just tears me up that I cant play during shabbat! Yesterday I was almost counting the minutes till I could fire up my gear. I know thats probably not in the spirit of shabbat at all, but I wonder if other musicians feel the same?
Got this email about "But, Kol Isha!!!":
Regarding the J-music post with the "kol isha warnings" - My impression is that these types of disclaimers are similar to the Surgeon General's warnings on a pack of cigarettes. Whoever's buying pays it no mind; and those who take it seriously weren't buying anyway. But you still have to put it on the cigarette box.
I just found the idea of putting a Kol Isha warning on a Gay/Lesbian/Transgender event a bit odd. I guess he missed that bit. It’s kind of like hosting an affair at a treif restaurant and warning that there might be shaatnez in the dinner napkins.

Gil Student comments on "For Everything Else, There's Mastercard."
Yeshua is an Aramaicized version of Yehoshua. See Ezra 2:2 for one of many places where Yehoshua Kohen Gadol (of Zechariah 3 fame) is called Yeshua.
That's true, but to the secular Jews who see this, Yeshua means Jesus.

On the same subject, Leor writes:
I noticed that right away in the music video as well and questioned it. Then I though about it and realized it was possible that they meant Yeshua simply as "salvation" ???
It'd be spelled differently in that case.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Say It Ain't So, Yo!

So Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman were faking it at the inauguration ceremony, the NY Times reports. They should have asked Adrianne Greenbaum to play instead. She even wrote a piece, "Yidishe Marsh far der Inoryguratsie" in honor of the event.

Ehr Vilt Zayn A Rebbe!

Hey, it's a promo video for Yoely Lebovitz's (d.b.a. Pester Rebbe) Kigel un Pickel Concert.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

More Comments on Beyond Boundaries: Klezmer Music in the 21st Century

One of the things I find interesting about blogging is seeing which posts people respond to. Naturally, if I post just before heading out-of-town, that post will invariably turn out to be one attracting a lot of interest.

Case in point, my recent post, " Some Comments on Beyond Boundaries: Klezmer Music in the 21st Century." The klezmer Shack linked the post and a number of people emailed as well.

One of those people was Yale Strom, whose presentation I'd criticized in my post. Yale apparently misread my post and wrote in to correct me, thereby clarifying that he had claimed exactly what I'd said he'd claimed. He wrote:
Thank you for coming to the conference and writing about it. I would like to correct you on my topic, because I think you may have misunderstood my point. I do not credit Chabad houses with the revival of klezmer. It's just the opposite: In many of the cities, towns and villages where the revival of klezmer helped spark re-interest in Jewish life among disenfranchised Jews and curious non-Jews, these interested parties were present before the Chabad Shliakh. Thus, when Chabad came to these communities, they found a spark of interest. For many of the Jews in these communities who felt spiritually empty (largely due to the 40 years of fascistic governments), klezmer sparked a longing for connection. So in certain instances, the groundwork was laid by klezmer, which thus enabled Chabad to take root. I'm sorry if you misunderstood my thesis during my talk, but I hope that now it's clearer to you. And as I was personally there in many of these communities in the early 80's, I witnessed this myself.
Fishel wrote:
Thanks for your brief review of the Beyond Boundaries event for those of us who couldn't be there.

Your point about looking sideways is particularly well-taken. They are more interested in looking sideways at "edgy" artistic endeavors for context, than at frummies. No big surprise - though unfortunate - that folks in the thick of the klezmer revival would dismiss simcha music and the entire hassidic scene out of hand.

As a frum musician who plays both frum weddings and "klezmer" (though for the past several years my "klezmer" repertoire has become largely hassidic nigunim), I can understand their viewpoint:

On the one hand, there is the secularist desire to negate anything too firmly rooted in observance.
On the other hand, there is the perception (which I must confess that I share) that most of the simcha music scene - at least in the US - is pop pabulum. I call it ortho-pop, and while I do enjoy playing some of it, most of my enjoyment comes from participating in the holy and joyous event which is the wedding. Most of the ortho-pop itself is not very deeply rooted in the gut-wrenching work of avodas HaShem. One has only to play some real hassidic nigunim, and some newer pop tunes, to know the difference.

Nonetheless, your comments about Meron, etc. should most certainly have been part of the discussion. But then, fifteen minutes for each presentation sounds pretty ridiculous!

I found Yale Strom's hypothesis on the source of Chabad's success to be...fascinating.
As I noted, I think the lack of interest by Klezmer musicians in looking at elements of Chassidic music is surprising.

Here are some specific examples of areas where I think looking sideways would be very useful to klezmer musicians.

1) The evolution of the Meron repertoire and similar music in the Chassidic communities in Israel. For example, I just picked up a great disc, "Menagen Meron" by Israeli-Chassidic clarinetist Chilik Frank. In general, here's an artist I think the klezmer world should be aware of, both as a clarinet stylist and even more importantly, because of his performance repertoire. Shmuel Nieman is another I think worth checking out. The backing band is uninspiring to me, but his clarinet playing is worth hearing.

In a similar vein, I also think it would be worthwhile to look at the old Yerushalmi Chassidic groups, like Toldos Ahron, and the music they play today, which is deeply rooted in the older styles.

2) There is an ongoing Modzhitzer musical tradition that it would be "vikhtig" to check out.Here's an example of the current Modzitzer Rebbe's original music. This song is one of the first compositions he composed a little over a year ago, his first year as Rebbe.

3) Some other Chassidic groups have either ongoing traditions of composition or else are experiencing a new-wave of inspirational musical compositions. To my knowledge, Frank London and friends are basically the only people looking at these songs. I'd think dance songs like Belz's Tehei Hasho'oh Hazoys", Vishnitz's "Yodee Lashem Chasdoy", the revived "Lag Ba'Omer Nigun" etc. would be of general interest to klezmorim. Yet, it seems like too many won't even consider looking at this material.

To be clear, I'm not talking about the Euro-pop/Disco that passes for Hassidic music in much of Brooklyn. I'm talking about the art of the nigun, as it were, and the associated musical traditions that have evolved directly from older folk styles, both Eastern-European and Middle-Eastern. There's a wealth of material there.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

It's Gonna be A Big Event!

In this week's Jewish Star... "Lipa plans another ‘Event’" Check out the quotes from Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky. He's been the only ban-signer to handle the situation honorably, when it became obvious that they'd been manipulated.

The Life-Of-Rubin Blog posts a link to a Five Towns Jewish Times article on the upcoming "Event."

Meanwhile, here's a bizarre report. This part is outrageous.
With all this in mind, and desiring to prevent last year's hullabaloo from recurring this year, rabbonim met with Sheya and Lipa privately and gave them their consent and divrei bracha. The event organizers were instructed that if any person has a legitimate concern or objection, the organizers should privately direct him to the roshei yeshiva and rabbonim involved, without broadcasting any dialogue. They feel that to prevent damage that has been brought about in the past, the most effective way to deal with the matter is in private.
The community suffers from "leaders" with a lack of courage. This makes Rav Kamenetzky's public statements to the Jewish Star all the more important.

Here's a Vos Iz Neias thread on the J-Star article.