Friday, February 27, 2009

WSJ On The Lipa "Event" Concert

The Wall Street Journal has a profile of Lipa Schmeltzer, "Dancing and Shaking With an Exultant Spirit," that was obviously written before the latest ban.

Check this:
"The Event," as the March 1 show has been dubbed, is being heavily promoted in New York's Orthodox neighborhoods. A huge billboard of Lipa smiles upon Avenue J in Brooklyn. "I would doubt very strongly that there would be a ban this year," said Zev Brenner, a popular radio host who says that he has been told that several rabbis acted last year before "they had all the facts in front of them." One of the rabbis, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky, told the Jewish Star newspaper that he now had no problem with Mr. Schmeltzer: "As far as I know he is an ehrliche Yid [a truly devout Jew]."

In some ways, another condemnation might be more harmful to the rabbis than to Mr. Schmeltzer. To an outsider, it is striking how popular he is in the community. Within seconds of hitting the sidewalk on 13th Avenue in Borough Park, Brooklyn, on a recent evening, he was approached by a man holding a small child. The 40-something Hasid, with sidelocks dangling underneath his black hat, gestured toward the singer and spoke to the boy in Yiddish. Later, Mr. Schmeltzer translated the words. "He says, 'You wouldn't believe who this is. Should I tell you who this is? This is Lipa Schmeltzer himself.'"
The Wall Street Journal realizes the damage another ban will cause. So do many of the rabbonim who signed last year's ban. It's time for responsible leadership to end this lunacy.

From the mailbag...

Bo Whitaker writes:
Did you ever come up with anything to organize your music for gigs ? I’ve also been struggling with this and have also thought it would be good if we could have a wireless laptop that could organize your gig music (by artist, song, etc…), sort of like does (and then display it on musicians screens (allowing them to bold it, zoom it, etc… ). Currently, I just have 2 THICK binders organized by band/artists that I flip through. It’s not easy. People call out songs all the time and many times I have the lyrics/chords somewhere, just can’t put my hands on it at the moment. Kind of frustrating. OK, very frustrating. Any ideas would be helpful
I'd be interested in hearing how readers address this issue.

Psachya writes:
In response to Naftali: I understand your reaction, but I wouldn't take this lady too seriously. In my many years of clubdating, I have noticed that people's natural tendencies tend to be augmented at a family simcha. Nice folks become even nicer, and the mean-spirited among us tend to show their true colors loud and clear. Just think of her as wearing a huge sandwich board with the words I AM A JERK emblazoned proudly on both sides, and you'll feel much better. Better yet, do what our gracious blog-host would have undoubtedly done: turn her into a Peep!
On the same topic, Dovid writes:
Slap her on the cheek and see if she turns to give you her other cheek. You can tell her you were testing to see if she was really a closet Christian.
Steve Schwab forwards the info for this Sunday at Puppets, where they've been having a Jewish music series Sunday nighs.
Puppets Jewish Music Sundays welcomes pianist Mirele Rosenberger and singers this Sunday. Showtime is 6:30-8:30 PM. $10 cover  and $5 minimum

Puppets Jazz Bar, 481 5th ave. between 11th and 12th streets, Park Slope,Brooklyn NY
Yossi Zweig writes:
Why haven't you posted the Gershon Veroba's Don't Stop single???????
I must have missed the letter (with check enclosed) where he hired me to be Gershon's PR agent... Seriously, I'm happy to link promo mp3's, but don't send me the files and expect me to upload/host/etc. Send me a link, and I'll be glad to put it up! Obviously within reason. (That's for the folks sending tons of unsolicited mp3's w/o asking first.)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Breaking! Fanatics Attempt End Run Around Gedolim; Publish New Lipa Ban

From the Dm investigative news desk...

Asher Friedman who runs the charity Nechomas Yisroel and Yitzchak Stern from Williamsburg, having failed to convince the rabbonim to ban this year's Lipa Schmeltzer concert, "The Event Live," scheduled for this Sunday, are once again attempting to cause its cancellation at the last minute.

Word is that ads have appeared in today's Yiddish papers, "Der Blatt" and "Der Yid", announcing a ban on the concert, signed by school principals. This represents an attempt at an end run around the Gedolim who signed last year's ban, but were clearly not going to back one on this year's event.

This is a developing story... More as it comes in...


Here is the text. reports "Litvishe Roshei Yeshiva in America Refuse to Sign Ban Against Concerts."

Here's a Vos Iz Neias report.

Reading the text, it is clear that it is based on falsehood. Once again, the folks behind this have created a Chilul Hashem. This also should be quite embarrassing for the one Litvishe Rosh Yeshiva who signed. In the past, he's already had to publicly back away from a sefer he wrote a haskama for. An observer might reasonably conclude that he does not read or investigate before signing things.

More as time permits...

Monday, February 23, 2009

From the mailbag...

Naftali writes:
I left a recent gig dazed and fuming. I had finished playing the gig, and the client came up and handed me an envelope with the cash enclosed. Upon counting it, I noticed there was $50 extra than the actual price. I went back to her and mentioned it, obviously expecting her to tell me that it was a tip for a job well done. Much to my shock she says, "I was testing you to see if you were honest" and she took back the $50!! The rudeness on so many levels!

1) What gives her the right to test me?! Am I up for the job to be Av Bais Din of the city?
2) Say that it IS her job to test me - Why say it? She should just say thank you for your honesty and know in her head that it was a test - But to SAY IT?

What is your take on this, how would you have reacted, and maybe your readers can submit some good one-liners that I should have retorted with.
Sar S. writes:
do you know where i can find all cd's for nadverna songs
i do have #1 #5 only
E. forwards a link "Chazanim Tune Up For Pesach" and comments on Cantor Goffin's Shwekey arrangement: "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

By Popular Demand...

Since so many of you have forwarded this video clip of Miami Boys Choir choreograpy...

Here you go:

Hat tip: too many to list

Friday, February 20, 2009

Kane Tihye Lanu

Voices of Conservative/Masorti Judaism has an article about Joey Weisenberg's work at the Kane Street Synagogue. He's got some interesting ideas. He's also a really nice guy, and a fantastic musician.

The Nascent Chassidic Klezmer Revival?

Here's a demo sampling of the forthcoming Project X.

I think this *might* be notable. In addition to the klez content (a patsh tants and one other tune I've heard called several titles, including "Zig-Zag"), this record is also interesting because it illustrates the cross-pollenization between the Israeli and NY chassidic scenes, both in its inclusion of the Patsh Tants at one extreme (some Chassidic bands there play it) and Breslover punk (Adi Ran) on the other.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In Review: Klezmer Juice: Jewfro, Moshe Skier Band:Light Up The World, Rebecca Teplow: Kaveh/Hope, Shmuel Laser:Blues for Temima

Off the review stack...

Klezmer Juice: Jewfro

You have to love someone who's recorded a Matisyahu klezmer tribute album. Amazon has Gustavo Bolgach's "Klezmer Tribute to Matisyahu" here:

Jewfro features Bolgach's arrangements of mostly traditional Klezmer and Israeli chestnuts including Bashana Haba'a, Oseh Shalom, and even Hava Nagila. There are also two original tracks. One of these, "Librescu Tango", is an upbeat number dedicated to the late Liviu Librescu. Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, was the professor at Virginia Tech, who gave his life blocking the door to his classroom when a gunman rampaged on campus, so that his students could escape. I like the idea of dedicating an upbeat number in his memory.

Bolgach's clarinet tone/approach sounds like he's been influenced by Giora Feidman. Think Fiedman after a bissel mashke. Oh, and he's playing for dancers. On this album, Bolgach blends traditional tunes with other musical flavors including boleros and tangos.

Amazon has the album here:

Moshe Skier Band:Light Up The World

This release by the Moshe Skier Band is a mix of new material and some redone older songs, including a Shlock Rock cover or two.

Straight-up Jewish rock in a variety of rock styles. Includes a powerful blues-rock arrangement of Tzomo Lekkho Nafshi, a Floyd-esque arrangement of Carlebach's Nachamu, and Skier's original setting of Aniyah Soara, inspired by Hurricane Katrina.

Definitely worth checking out if you like Jewish rock!

Amazon has the album here:

Rebecca Teplow: Kaveh/Hope

This disc features vocalist Rebecca Teplow singing her own settings of Tehillim. This is an interesting release. Teplow is a sweet, yet powerful singer, who effectively and effortlessly transitions from soft folksy styles to rock. The melodies are pretty and the jazz-inflected pop arrangements are quite tasteful. David Morgan's piano work is especially nice throughout.

Fave tracks include "Nachon Libi", (which features guest beat-boxing and vocals from her son, Joe Teplow), "Gam Ki Elech", "Min Hametzar", and "VaAni", but the whole disc is worth hearing.

I've asked Rebecca to write a guest post on Kol Isha from her perspective as a Modern-Orthodox woman who has released her music to the public at large, not women only, and I hope she will do so.

CD Baby has the album here. Rebecca's website is here.

Shmuel Laser:Blues for Temima

Ran into our old friend, Shmuel Laser, singing on the street in Jerusalem recently. He gave us a copy of his latest, Blues for Temima. The disc features Laser's soulful singing accompanied by some incredible Israeli musicians including pianist Avi Adrian and Yood guitarist Eliezer Blumen.

Shmuel is a terrific singer, who blends Van Morrison-esque blues, rock, and jazz influences tastefully. The musicianship is first rate as well. A true labor of love, this disc of Jewish-themed English songs is worth a listen.

Amazon has the album here:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Are You A One-Man-Band looking For An Easy Purim Gig?

Trying something new here...

Are you a one-man-band capable of handling an easy gig Purim eve, 3/9? If so, I might have something for you locally (NYC).
Respondents must be familiar with "yeshivish" Purim repertoire.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Strom un Drang

Elizabeth Schwartz writes:
Dear blogger - So, I must admit, I'm curious -- who are you, f my i?

I ask because I'd like to know - know why you linked Mark Rubin's vicious attack on fellow klezmorim to your blog. Yes, I read it and yes, I wrote Rubin, although I doubt I'll hear back from him. Just out of curiosity - have you been to any of our concerts? Have you heard any of our CD's (all of which have gotten major good reviews). I know it's easy to take pot shots at Yale - he's a major figure in our world, he's used to it... and he frankly doesn't care -- his response to Rubin was, "Imagine if all that energy, determination and apparent free time had gone into trying to get a better gov't in place in Texas".

But I'm not a major figure - I'm just an honest musician trying to do some good work and trying to keep our teeny tiny little music afloat. I've been gratified by the overall response to what I've been doing, and to the koved I've gotten from Yiddishists and Yiddish organizations. BUT THAT'S NOT WHY I'M WRITING:

I think these anonymous blogging potshots are super-destructive. When a klezmer calls another klezmer a "clumsy horror show" - them's fighting words. I don't care if Rubin thinks that of my singing - because I know for a fact he's never heard it. I do care when klezmers try to destroy other klezmers. If someone's bad, leave them to their inevitable failure. But I guess if they really were bad... there'd be no need to attack them on blogs.


peace, zay gezint, Elizabeth Schwartz
It's funny. I didn't read Mark's article as a vicious attack against klezmorim. I read it as a snarky response to a wanna-be music critic. Check this:
With "writers" with this sort of agenda supported by the mainstream Jewish press, it seems what I feared for many years really is true: my own community actively rejects me and my work. Why else then is it that to perform Yiddish music, I must travel back to old Europe, sometimes standing on the very spot of my extended family's destruction, to find an appreciative audience? Conversely, I have performed for my local JCC a total of 3 occasions in 15 years. How sad can it be that the children of the murderers find meaning in my culture when the children of the murdered actively despise it. I'll let Mr. Lester (ne' Lowenstein, maybe?) work that out on the couch years from now when the vacuousness of the Goldyne lands shallow consumer culture finally leaves him flat. By then, there may not be anybody left to say a kaddish. ("It doesn't really reflect the true Jewish sentiment of today" one imagines they might be heard to say.)
I fully agree with the overall sentiment of the article. It's true that Mark dissed a few klezmer performers in the essay, but that was not the point of the article at all.

For the record, as I've noted many times in the past, I will often link to thoughts/articles/etc. I don't agree with, if I find them to be thought-provoking, interesting, or noteworthy.

I'm really not sure what the issue is here, to be honest. Yale wasn't attacked on this, or any, anonymous blog so far as I can tell. He was criticized on Mark Rubin's blog.(BTW, this isn't an anonymous blog. I use a pen name, but my ID isn't exactly a closely held secret.) So I'm not sure why I'm being challenged on this at all. Anyone with an issue here should be commenting at Mark's blog.

Incidentally, for my take on one of the bands Rubin mentioned, here's my review of Yiddish Cup's last album, "Klezmer With A Slice Of Wry."

Friday, February 13, 2009

2/13/09 Link Dump

Chasing the Fat Man posts Jewish Self Loathing, music edition.... Sing it, brother!

Parsha Blog responds. Seems like we're basically on the same page here.

The Forward profiles video game composer Inon Zur.

Zackary Sholem Berger writes about Benjy Fox-Rosen's Minutn Fun Bitokhn.

Surprise, another pro wins.

Finally, here's an awesome commercial.

From the mailbag...

Anon from the new Jewish Music Report website writes:
I hope you'll check out our new website

The Jewish Music Report

I saw you had something about Kol Isha, you might find this post interesting. It's written by one of writers who is a lady. Her Blog name is, Kol Isha :-)

My Lips Are Sealed
Psachya forwards a link to the best version of Racheim ever! He also forwards a link to Miri Ben-Ari on Sesame Street!

Josh forwards a link to Not Just Typical: Avrohom Schorr, Lipa Schmeltzer, & Avodah Zarah.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Strange Calls

I've been getting some strange calls lately...

Like the bandleader who calls or texts five minutes before Shabbos about a gig thats months off. Because the slot has to be filled NOW!

Another would be the secretive bandleader who won't say where the gig is. Really.

A slight variant is the office who won't say what time/where the gig is. In that case it's usually a guarantee that's it's either a night gig two hours away or a twilight that'll kill the whole day and naturally, it's for a busy day.

Sometimes they'll say something like "we're not sure which job we'll put you on. There's one gig in Philly and one around the corner from you. (They'll always put you on the one in Philly. And then they'll pay a few $$$ extra for travel. Not enough to make it worthwhile.)

The last one is one who doesn't want to say what the job pays.


NB: Word to the wise. Excepting the first case, it's usually in your best interest to turn down the gig.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Responding To The Lipa Diss

Rabbi Josh Waxman posts his thoughts on "The Incident with Lipa at the Wedding." His approach is to urge people to consider Rabbi Schorr's possible perspective.

To comment on some of his points...
2) Even so, this is Rabbi Schorr. He does not lose his semicha just because he does something you (commenters, bloggers) disagree with. Even if it is something I disagree with. ;) Don't go stripping people of their semicha when they take an unpopular position. This is the attitude of the closed-minded. And I have been on the receiving end of this tactic on more than one occasion, when putting forth an established halachic position that others felt was not machmir enough.
I agree with this one. I think some people have cognitive dissonance with regard to the notion that a Rabbi can do something wrong. This is an unfortunate outgrowth of the relatively recent notion of 'Da'as Torah" as rabbinic infallibility. I try to always refer to Rabbis by their title in my posts, even when I strongly disagree with them.
3) Chazal often derive things from the fact that someone acted in a certain way ולא מיחו בידן חכמים. Here, Rabbi Schorr felt that certain actions were not appropriate, and he publicly acted to show his disapproval and that he opposed. There is an assumption that rabbis will do so. And where they do not, shetika kehodaah. Here, there is an element of kanaaut, but there is something to this anyway.
This is irrelevant, unless one can identify a legitimate complaint. In this case, as I'll show, Rabbi Waxman has not identified one.
4) If, as the commenter at Life of Rubin notes, the father of the bride, who is close with Rabbi Schorr, asked Lipa to stop singing, that absolutely is relevant.
As I understand it, the kallah's father asked Lipa to switch songs, which he did, from "Hentelach" to the chassidic "Amar Rabbi Akiva." So this point is not relevant, with regard to Rabbi Schorr's outburst.
5) By Avodah Zara, I would guess that Rabbi Schorr meant the idolizing of musical personalities. Lipa was there as a guest. But he was apparently mobbed by admirers and asked to perform his popular tunes. This idolization over e.g. rabbinic leaders and over the focus on the chassan and kallah may be problematic.
I don't think this is what Rabbi Schorr meant. I think he was referring to the music. Readers of my recent review series of Rabbi Ephraim Luft's "The Torah Is Not Hefker" will know that one of the bases for Rabbi Luft's criticism of charedi pop music is his assertion that it's all rooted in idol-worshipping voodoo music. (Readers of my review series will also know that Rabbi Luft's characterization is factually wrong, racist, and based on ziyuf haTorah, but I digress...)

Regardless, if Rabbi Waxman's suggestion is correct, it still would not justify Rabbi Schorr's response. Appropriate kannaus is in response to actual sin. Here, even if someone has an issue with people's response to a singer, the singer has not committed a sin, and there is no halachik justification for publicly shaming him.
6) We have a tradition of much more forceful opposition to public displays we feel are not correct. Think of the Jews pelting the Sadduccee with esrogim.
True, but this is in response to sin. Not random drive-by kannaus, as it were.
7) At the same time, there is an issue of making a public confrontation, thus embarrassing the other person. See Sanhedrin 101b about how Yeravam merited the kingdom for rebuking Shlomo haMelech in public, but was punished because he rebuked him in public.
That's precisely the problem here.
8) However, the nature of the "offense" (and I use air quotes deliberately here) is one in public. If the only time to stand up to someone is when they insist on performing in public, as they are acting, then it has to be in public.
There is no reason why this issue can't be addressed privately first. Especially since there is no crime.
9) Forgiving Rabbi Schorr for this disgrace does not (necessarily) make him the better man. It is also an ingenious tactic. Because Lipa comes off as one who is not taking offense, even as he insists on his conduct. This is a way of winning. Also, he casts the conduct of the other as something which needs forgiving, rather than just an opposing viewpoint. And the crowd eats it up. Perhaps because of the conduct of the previous ban, which undermined the role of rabbinic authority, particularly for those who would ban music, the public sides with the singers and does not grant any fleeting thought to the possible legitimacy of those who would ban Jewish pop-music.
Perhaps Rabbi Waxman is unaware that Rabbi Schorr is one of the people behind last year's ban. In other words, the public siding with Lipa here is a direct result of their knowledge of Rabbi Schorr's anti-halachik behavior in that episode too.

10) Baruch Hashem, I am not in Lipa's position. I do not have thousands of adoring fans, nor his musical talent. And at the same time I am not the focus of any controversy. And if I were being attacked in this way, knowing myself, I probably would not respond with such poise and respect. My intent here is not to attack Lipa. Rather, to question some of the assumptions of the other people taking sides.
Sometimes, people need to take sides. The argument to be dan lekaf zechus has often been used to perpetuate avlos. In this case, the burden is on Rabbi Schorr to provide an explanation or an apology. Personally, I think he owes Lipa an apology. But, if he feels his actions were halachikly justified, he has an obligation to explain them. At the moment, the outcome of his actions has been a tremendous chillul Hashem.

Meanwhile, the Life-Of-Rubin Blog posts THIS IS AN OPEN LETTER TO RABBI AVROHOM SCHORR. This approach won't work either. Lecturing kannaim about Loshon Hora???

Chaptzem Blog's approach might work, but is a tad disrespectful. Sometimes, though, disrespect of this sort does help because the kannai being mocked gets embarrassed.

The reality is that I think the solution to this issue needs to come from the responsible rabbinic leadership, who through public words and actions, make clear that such behavior is anti-halachik. Sadly, these leaders have been MIA, not just on this topic, but on many public controversies.

We are taught that shtika is like hoda'a. The fact that it doesn't say shtika is hoda'a demonstrates that even in cases where the silent person does not agree, it's as if he does, because his silence results in the inevitable outcome of that which he disagrees with. In this case, by being silent, these leaders both enable Rabbi Schorr and other kannaim, and ensure that their agenda is carried out.

It's past time for the rabbinic leadership to step up to the plate.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Lipa Diss: The Fallout Continues

The story of Rabbi Averemel Schorr's public shaming of Lipa is being fleshed out and a lot of people are talking about it.

You can find more details at and commentary at Life-Of-Rubin and VosIzNeias among others.

This incident is important because it confirms what many have asserted about the people behind last years' concert ban, namely that the people behind it are not rational.

Put simply, there is no halachik justification for the way this rabbi acted. None. The leadership, such as it is, needs to take a public stand on this. Unfortunately, as I've amply documented, they did not follow up responsibly to last year's ban fiasco, and I'm not optimistic that they will this time either. The end result? Still more chillul Hashem.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Lipa Diss!

Here's a YouTube clip descriptively titled "Schorr Pulling microphone from Lipa and distrupting the wedding." That new-fangled citizen journalism; it'll getcha every time!

Via Chaptzem Blog!

Gruntig has more in the comments.

The Life-Of-Rubin Blog has some thoughts and an active comments section.

It's time for the Agudah leadership to reconsider their relationship with Rabbi Schorr.

Another UPDATE:
Emes Ve-Emunah posts"Turning Jews Off."

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

This Is Not A Link Dump

I was planning to include this in my earlier link dump, but thought it important enough to warrant a separate post.

Chasing the Fat Man posts a personal appeal for support of Yiddish Culture by Veretski Pass' Cookie Segelstein. I'm reproducing it here because I think it's important for people to read it.
From world reknown klezmer fiddler, and single mother of 2, Marlene Segelstein:

To all of our friends, students and fans;

As you know, musicians and other self employed folks are getting socked in today's trying economic times. We've been hit really hard with tours cancelling, gigs drying up, and performance series being cut short. Those of us who make our living playing and teaching our instruments (including voice and dance!) travel the globe to play concerts and teach at workshops, and to pass along our knowledge of this music and dance that was almost wiped out in the last century. We form collaborations, sometimes with those from other cultures, to keep this art alive, and find new ways to keep it vibrant. When you see us at Klezkamp, Klezkanada, Klezfest London, Weimar,we are always happy to give as much as of our time, energy and knowledge. When possible, we are giving extra (free) lessons to folks; under the staircase, in a lobby, even in our own rooms, often when we are in a state beyond exhaustion. And of course it doesn't stop there.

At least once a day and often much more, I am answering a query to help someone with a dissertation by answering a questionnaire, providing chords for a tune, sending a copy of a sound file, or sheet music to students, friends of students, people who have found my name on the internet. Often the queries are very polite and filled with thanks, but just as often, they are two liners with no greeting, for example (a real email!):

I got your name from your website. I need the music for Hora Midor.
Please send asap.

And of course I have the music. We recorded it, and I transcribed it. And I sell it in a book that I self published. These little things are how I make my living. Now of course, I love what I do. I must. I struggle to pay my health insurance, live at a below the lower middle class level, and have sacrificed a MUCH more comfortable lifestyle to do what I love the most, play music with and for friends.

Think back. Has anyone in this small Jewish music community helped you by giving you a little extra lesson, even 15 minutes (the going rate for private lessons in the east coast are $75-100 an hour)? Has anyone helped you with your research? Filled out a questionnaire for your dissertation? Provided you with a chart? Spent extra time with you showing you a dance step? Sent you a rare soundfile? Helped you fix your instrument? Generally enriched your musical life?

No, I'm not asking you to send money. I'm asking you to support us by buying our products. If you already have bought CD's and books, many thanks! Now think about buying more as gifts.

We appreciate all of the wonderful support we have received over the years from many of our friends, students and fans, and I never want to think twice about helping someone who emails or calls me with a query. I am just asking that you give back by supporting those of us who are your teachers, your favorite bands, and your friends.

Cookie Segelstein
I'm considering writing a variation on this about booking musicians for simchas in tough economic times.

2/4/09 Link Dump

Matthue Roth wirtes "Jewish Music: How the Other Side Lives."

Jewcy posts "Jazz Is the New Klezmer: An Interview with Yoshie Fruchter."

The Life-Of-Rubin Blog posts a couple of YouTube clips of the late Megama Duo.

Here are a bunch of YouTube clips of the recent Pioneers for a Cure concert. I like the idea of concept events like this.

This rubs me wrong on so many levels.

Here's an audio clip of Lipa Schmeltzer's latest.

Here's a post titled "Lipa Is Not A Loser, So Therefore He Won't Back Out Of This Show!"

The Jewish Music Report posts an Exclusive Audio Interview with Lipa Schmeltzer.

Mo Kiss writes "Songwriter’s Woes in Jewish Music." It's a guest post over at the new Jewish Music Report.

It's a machlokes! Ron Rosenbaum writes "The Awfulness of Billy Joel, Explained." Joe Malchow writes "I Rise to Defend Billy Joel."

Rav Shlomo Aviner: Rock Songwriter.

I'm way late on this one, but it's still worth posting. I love Chilik Frank's clarinet playing and Teruah posted a video of Frank playing a Breslov melody for Maoz Tzur this past Chanukah. Check it out!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Oorah: The Song Remains The Same

Unfortunately, we told you so...

Here's a press release: from the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office:
HARRISBURG - Attorney General Tom Corbett today announced that the Attorney General's Charitable Trusts and Organizations Section has reached a $65,000 settlement agreement with two New Jersey-based non-profit groups that were accused of misleading Pennsylvania donors about the use of their contributions.

Corbett said the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) was reached with JOY For Our Youth Inc., doing business as Kars-4-Kids, and Oorah Inc., all from Lakewood, New Jersey.

According to the settlement agreement, these groups solicited for contributions in Pennsylvania through a vehicle donation program in order to benefit disadvantaged children, but failed to properly inform donors that their contributions would only benefit services for children of certain religious affiliations. Additionally, JOY allegedly solicited for charitable contributions without being properly registered with the Pennsylvania Department of State and failed to include state-required disclosures in radio, print and Internet solicitations.

The AVC requires JOY to pay $45,000 in restitution, which will be distributed by the Attorney General's Office to various children's charities in Pennsylvania, along with $10,000 in civil penalties and $10,000 in investigative costs.
I take no pleasure in being proven correct.

Factor in that the same issue likely applies in all fifty states. That's a potential liability of $3,250,00 assuming the penalties are identical! That's a lot of money! And, even if they didn't actually wind up disgorging all of the profits... think of the chilul Hashem. This has been ongoing for years. Where's the accountability?

Via Vos Iz Neias.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

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

I'd now like to take a look at the assertions I made in my initial post in this review. Readers will recall that I made a number of assertions about Rabbi Luft and his arguments.

Here's what I wrote:
I intend to demonstrate the following about Rabbi Luft.

1) He is musically ignorant.
2) He is intellectually dishonest.
3) He is a manipulator.
4) He uses "junk science."
5) He is a racist. (This is relevant because he builds his music criticism on racial theories.)
6) His approach is, in the main, not based on Torah sources.
Lets look at these again.

1) He is musically ignorant. I have clearly demonstrated that Rabbi Luft is musically ignorant. I have demonstrated that he doesn't know his musical history or musical terminology, making basic errors that no musically-knowledgeable person would do. Examples include his obvious ignorance as to what 2/4 means, and his misrepresentation about the evolution of the modern drum set. It also extends to his ignorance of music history and the role Rock and Roll has historically played in spreading democracy.

2) He is intellectually dishonest. His abundant misquotes/misrepresentations of Torah sources, as well as other sources, which in reality do not support his position upon review, proves that he is either intellectually dishonest or a flat out liar. Or both.

3) He is a manipulator. In addition to the above mentioned distortions of Torah sources, his entire non fact-based presentation to gedolim and rabbonim consists of manipulation. It is easy to see how a rabbi without any knowledge of this subject, when presented with Rabbi Luft's assertions as fact, would agree that such music is inappropriate. Of course, if a rabbi is asked if idol-worshipping music is kosher, he'd prohibit it. Hence, Rabbi Luft representing his theories as fact, when they are clearly not, ranks as manipulation. And, as I mentioned, there is his manipulation of Torah sources, none of which actually prohibit what he says or implies they do.

4) He uses "junk science." Looking at his "scientific evidence," especially his bringing the work of both Mrs. Dorothy Retallack and rock guitarist Bob Larson, proves he relies on "junk science" to make his case. As I noted, Bob Larson publicly recanted his medical assertions thirty years ago

5) He is a racist. (This is relevant because he builds his music criticism on racial theories.) From quoting the KKK publication The Southerner, to making race-based arguments against rock music, to making common cause with, and quoting favorably, such apparent racists as the reverend David Noebel, to citing "white citizens councils" approvingly, it is clear that Rabbi Luft is comfortable advocating racist views.

6) His approach is, in the main, not based on Torah sources. As I've noted, there aren't a whole lot of Jewish sources quoted in this book. I'd estimate ten or so, and that includes multiple citations various comments by Malbim, none of which --as I demonstrated-- prohibit what Rabbi Luft claims they do. In short, Rabbi Luft's book which claims to represent the Torah viewpoint on this music contains no quotes --not even one -- from a Halachik source, or even from a source claiming to make a halachik ruling. Now that's not exactly compelling, I'd think!

To sum up, I have clearly demonstrated my claims about Rabbi Luft and his book. My assertions are, in the main, supported by the book itself. I did bring a few other quotes from Rabbi Luft's earlier writing for the Yated and from his "Rules for Jewish Music" recently published by the BBC that help support my claims. These are all a matter of public record.

If I were creating that list of assertions again, I'd add one to the list. That'd be "3a) He consistently misquotes/misrepresents Torah sources." I'd included it in the breakdown above, as part of his manipulations, but upon reflection, I believe it deserves it's own bullet point. Distorting Torah to achieve one's own social goals constitutes a huge chilul Hashem. Simply put, it's ziyuf hatorah. And, misleading rabbonim into endorsing those "interpretations" constitutes a true "devar Hashem bozoh."

One additional hagaha, as it were. In Part III, I addressed Rabbi Luft's misrepresentation of the Gemara in Chagiga 15B and Acher's singing of Zemer Yevani. The interpretation I suggested is the Maharsha's explanation of the daf. Rashi's explanation represents an even stronger disproof of Rabbi Luft's contention. According to Rashi, Acher's sin was that he was constantly singing after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh, and that's why he turned out the way he did. It was because he was not sensitive to the churban. In other words, it had nothing to do with the fact that it was secular. That's what he happened to have sung, but the same would have happened, even if he'd only been singing medleys of Rabbi Luft's approved nigunim all the time. So, according to Rashi's explanation, Rabbi Luft has no evidence whatsoever on the bad effects of secular music on Acher. And according to Maharsha, as I explained in that post, it's because of the inappropriate lyrics, not the melodic or rhythmic content.

To reiterate why I took the time to do this...

I don't believe that Rabbi Luft is open to considering any challenges. I do believe though that there are those in the community to whom Emes (truth) is important. I believe that those people feel, as I do, that distorting Torah is wrong, full stop. This is true regardless of supposed holy intentions. I know that there are many chareidim, including rabbonim and members of the Agudah leadership, who have read my blog, and specifically my posts on this subject. It is my hope that they will do the right thing and use their influence to head off these askanim. Thus far, the askanim have managed to create several world-wide chilul Hashem spectacles. The fact that they appear to have rabbinic sanction amplifies the chilul. It is past time that responsible members of the chareidi leadership reject these bullies and this approach, both to end the chilul Hashem and to stop the inevitable exodus in response by thinking and artistic Jews who are being made to feel they have no place in the community.

For ease of use, I will be updating all my earlier posts in this series to include links to all the posts on this topic.

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