Thursday, June 29, 2006

From the Mailbag... still more

S. writes:
What about elevatorless La Perville's A"H? For Guests also!

How come in every hotel, the management gives you problems for keeping your equipment cases in between the side of the stage and wall?(in that 4 inch space)

The bathroom guy at Excelsior Grand is a little bored these days. Saw him reading a book on a chair next to the sink a couple of weeks ago.

OK, now here is a really hard question. What the heck do you need a guy sitting in the john giving out napkins for? Is that classy? I think can manage myself.

from the mailbag... more wedding hall anomalies

J writes:
And from the chasidishe point of view,

Must I eat only Potato “Ki-Gel” and Cabbage and Noodles every night?

Ever had an overenthusiastic crowd of people dancing in a formation of moving walls, backwards no less, slam into the poor unfortunate musicians that are sitting in front of the bandstand?

Did you know that for ten bucks the Rent-A-Guard that chain smokes outside of Ateres Chaya all night will sell you the rights to the parking spot right in front of the hall?

Do you really think that a bunch of guys singing in a scale that has yet to be identified  really care that the Chosson and Kalla actually requested special music for the Chupa?, or that their parents dished out a lot of money for Misha & Co. to play it for them?

Of course I had equipment disappear from the band stand,, I actually had a “GUITAR” disappear, turns out, one of the waiters was doing me a favor, he  “put it away” for safekeeping.

I love the song Ya-Ma-Mai, and I don’t care which version or chord progression, or rhythm you use,,, but hey,  enough is enough,,, let’s try something new? (Bag-Bag?)

I can not make a band that is playing acoustically at the K.P.  any lower then they already are, unless there is a mute for a flute that I havn’t seen yet.

Is it me? Or do singers at Weddings, shiny shoes, or boots for that matter, suffer from “Selective Hearing Disorder”? they can never seem to hear themselves no matter how loud the monitor is.
E writes:
Speaking of hall anamolies from a non musician's perspective... How about all those main hall entrance doors at Ateres Avrohom that are really the back wall of the bandstand?

How about that chosson/kalla "entrance" at the Rose Castle that is never timed right between the band and that silly elevator door?

Speaking of foreign bathroom attendants singing Jewish songs, have you met the napkin dude in the mens room at Marina that sings Od Yishama though he is sick of the song?

You can spend 5 hours at Terrace on the Park and never know that some of your closest friends were there due to the fact that the hall is long and narrow and you were on opposite sides.

The long hike to the chuppah when taking place outdoors at Crest Hollow.

The noisy traffic/subway chuppah outdoor on the roof next to the train tracks on New Utrecht at Ateres whatevertheheck its called (actually i think im thinking of the wig store place).

The very poorly constructed makeshift dancefloor in hotels, paticularly the Brooklyn Marriot.

The halls that have very strictly law abiding "no smoking" signs and ushers who enforce said rule, yet there are still tall ashtrays at every entrance and cigarette vending machines in the lobby.
He also writes:
speaking of the Surf Club - those chuppahs are stinkiest - smells like the surf!

Other stinky smelling chuppahs include the outdoor ones at Marina (not to mention helicopters flying by drowning out the music).

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mini Link Dump (Michael Brecker Update edition)

Here's a New York Sun review of Herbie Hancok's Carnegie Hall show. Michael Brecker was a surprise guest.
Introducing "One-Finger Snap," from the 1964 album "Empyrean Isles," Mr. Hancock told the crowd that the tune "really needs a horn player," which proved the cue for the major surprise of the evening. The tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, who has been out of commission while fighting the effects of myelodysplastic syndrome for the last three years, strode onstage triumphantly, as if he had never been away, as the sold-out house leapt to its feet in approval.

Now a quartet, the four men came together in a way I have rarely seen in an all-star jazz concert, and they tore through Mr. Hancock's oft-recorded composition. When Mr. Brecker reached his high note, almost a multi-phonic climax, it felt like the kind of moment many in the hall would someday tell their grandchildren about.
Chaim has been emailing Dschingis Khan.

From the mailbag...

David Linn sends a link to a musical post he put up on Beyond Teshuva this morning, "Live on the Radio: The Seeds of Teshuva of a Nascent Rock Star".

Another clubdater comments on "Wedding Hall Anomalies":
Two things about Marina come to mind.
There was an old bathroom attendant at the Marina who used to sit next to the sinks and eat a main course while talking to guys sitting on toilets doing whatever it is they do, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. He always had the Yankee game on his radio, and he must have been a retired well connected mobster, because he used to get the game in the middle of January.

I have had similar experiences with Tommy, the manager at Marina about keeping the Bandstand clean. The truth is, that hall may be very popular, but it's management has been overtly anti Semitic at times, and its a shame most people don't know it.
A frequent wedding goer writes:
How about how in every hall, no matter where or when or how many avaialable electrical outlets there are or aren't, the music is just too darn loud always? Sorry - it has been a busy June season, and every bandstand was unique and different, except for the same unreasonable, abnormal, deadly deafaning volume of the music.
Obviously, he hasn't been attending the right affairs.

From the mailbag... Wedding Hall Anomalies

A clubdater writes:
Wondered if we could start a string talking about wedding hall anomalies….weird stuff that no one can explain…but that we all deal with as club dating musicians….

For example:

Eden Palace- cloth bibs hanging in the urinals, stalls that are so small u cant fit in them, and a wall that (of course) has to go right through where the band has to set up

The mysterious urinal in the middle of nowhere in the corner of the bathroom in the Concorde plaza….and everything else about the Concorde Plaza

Orion Palace- No electricity ANYWHERE near where the band has to set up (yet a MASSIVE top of the line - full back line and sound- set up on the stage at the end of the room for the Russian night club).

The famous Sephardic Temple ice (which apparently makes the urinals not smell according to a high level informant at the hall).

The beverage blender that plays an F# at the Sands….and that they always seem to use it at the most inopportune time…

The residual Bb overtone at El Caribe.

Grand Prospect Hall….need I say more….

Why we can’t park in the Marina parking lot….yeah, yeah….we know someone once broke a panel in the door…..I was actually and- I say this firsthand- physically threatened there…. “You see how nice the floor looks now? It better look that way when you leave….” Told to me while my hand was squished by a rather large gentleman….

Terrace on the park- have u ever tried to leave after a gig, only to be stuck behind mountains of garbage, bar carts, caterer boxes and the Puerto Rican waitress singing Veyaidu?

Surf Club- ever played a chuppa with the entire swim club standing around and watching in their bathing suits?

The outlet in the floor of the Rose Castle stage….that invariably gets knocked out at some point….

I am sure there are plenty more….but that is all that comes to mind at this moment…..

And in closing….

Ateres Avrohom- every club daters DREAM….best food, the band does not move, and you can walk into the kitchen and ask the chef (during service for a 800 person wedding) for a main and he willl usually say “SURE” and give you one…(I once got a tray of steaks for the whole 10 pc band-….where else could you even think of doing something like that?). The staff always tells you what they want ahead of time, there is CONSTANT communication… …BEST HALL IN THE BUSINESS HANDS DOWN form a clubdaters point of view. (I knew I was in trouble when at a recent gig, I was able to look at the shmorg table and immediately pick out which of the 100 items on the table was new to the menu – it was the carrot muffins btw….)
Oh, Man! I could go on for hours.

Here are a few...

Ever played a chupa on Ocean Parkway... during rush hour?

Ever played a shul with NO exposed available outlets?

How about a hotel with no outlets on the band's side of the room?

What about a venue where the caterer insists on a one hour dance set for an older couple's wedding, because the food is nowhere near ready?

How about those dives in Brooklyn or Belle Harbour who give the band more attitude than the ritziest upper-crust private clubs in Manhattan?

Have you had staff at a venue steal equipment from the stage while you were playing the chupa?

Why was there a female bathroom attendant in the men's room at one popular Five Towns venue on Memorial Day?

I'll stop here for now so others can chime in.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

From the mailbag...

Nextbook's Alissa Neil writes:
We thought you would be interested in the following audio feature on Galeet Dardashti, the lead singer of the Austin-based band Divahn, the only all-female ensemble performing Mizrakhi-influenced music (Jewish music from the Middle East and North Africa) in the US, just posted to Nextbook:

"Galeet Dardashti, granddaughter of acclaimed singer Yona Dardashti, talks with Sara Ivry about the Arab-Jewish music craze currently taking-off in Israel and shares samples of her own songs along with some of her Grandfather’s."

Here's the link.
Ozer writes:
Can you recommend any CDs or downloads for Yiddishe niggunim played on harmonica (any key)?

zei g'bencht & kol tuv.
I'm not aware of any specifically yiddishe music projects featuring harmonica, but I'd reccomend checking out Shtreiml, a klezmer band featuring great harmonica playing. Also, harmonica wiz Howard Levy has recorded some jewish music too. Finally, the Diaspora yeshiva Band features harmonica on some of their recordings as well.

Michael Chusid forwards a letter he apparently sent to the jewish Press.
Drear Jewish Press,

I am no longer a supporter of the Yisheva Boys Choir. This change of heart has absolutely nothing to do with the boys themselves. Those fine young men sing with their hearts and souls and with the sincerity of a child. Their support staff on the other hand is a whole another issue. I forwarded an e-mail to them regarding a particular track on one of their cds. I have been searching for the lyrics for weeks now. I tend to lose thngs more easily then I would like to. I have lost the lyrics to that particular track and asked if the staff at YBC would be kind enough to e-mail me a copy of it. Simple enough request one would think. Not in their way of thinking it seems. I received a response e-mail glowing with how happy they were that I
enjoy their music and all. It came replete with a gazillion links to sites at which even more products might be purchased by them. On the subject of the lyrics, An individual by the name of Avi indicated to me that he had sent me an attachment of the lyrics in question. I have that e-mail and it contains 0 attachments. My point is simply this. I am old school. I believe that if you treat those that purchase your products/services it will sustain continued support from those supporters. If you however only attempt to gouge people by giving them more and more links to products without adding a little common business sense then that support sours. And the support by me has soured to the point that it would make a lemon blush. Is the cheapness of refusing to email the lyrics to KOL HASHEM by the Yisheva Boys Choir that dear to their hearts, that of the support staff, that they would chance allienating former supporters ? It seems so. The boys are great. G-d forbid they should pick up any of the business practices of their support staff, especially Mr. Avi. It,s really a shame that we treat one another in such a vein. We have so many that hate us. Do we need to treat one another with such rank cheapness ?
Seems more than a tad over the top. I'd bet the attachment was accidentally omitted and that a follow up email would have quickly resolved the issue.

Update: Sruly from Sameach music (YBC's distributor) sends in the lyric Mr. Chusid requested.

6/25/06 Link Dump

Heichal HaNegina reports the passing of the Modzitzer Rebbe ZT"L.

The Forward has an article on the Klez revival in Russia, "Klezmer in the East Looks to the West for Guidance".

Psycho Toddler posts about playing during avelus.

Emes Ve-Emunah has a pair of posts on Wedding Takanos and Lavish Bar Mitzvahs.

Trumpeter Ken Watters has written a JAZZ MUSICIANS' PROTOCOL.

Shira Salome went to Girls' Night On again.

CIRCUS TENT discovers "The Hasidic Nigun As Sung By The Hasidim". I mentioned that release here. It's an excellent resource. Actually, if any of our readers has this and wants to help, our disc 2 got damaged and will only play the first 8 tracks.

Dag posts: "Great save by Uncle Moishy's Mitzvah man..."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

NY Times Remembers German

The NY Times has published an obituary for German Goldenshteyn Z"L.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Are Jewish Bands Price Gouging? (part 3)

Steven I. Weiss comments on "Are Jewish Bands Price Gouging?" and canonizes "Band in Dm." Thanks much!

Voting Right(s)

Sameach Music is asking fans to vote for their favorite song on a recent release. As an incentive, all who vote will be entered into a raffle for a free CD.

Unfortunately, the poll is skewed by the inexplicable omission of Eitan Katz's release, "L'maancha" whose title track definitely deserves consideration for the honor, IMO.


Sruly Meyer writes:
You are right, Eitan's Lmaancha was a personal favorite of mine as soon as I heard it. Eitan's CD came out a while back and didn't really fit into the category of recently released. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to vote for it. Please tell people they can vote for Lmaancha or any other Sameach CD that came out in the last 6 months as well.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

6/13/06 Link Dump

Here's Emes Ve-Emunah on Carlebach

Uncle Moishy, look out! Here comes "Uncle Muhammad and the Mujahaden Men!"

Sameach Music has posted a Shlomo Katz sampler.

From Aish, here's "Shavuot and the Grateful Dead."

Coming soon: Ushpizin -- the musical.

Have A History Lesson

Daniel Septimus, editor-in-chief of writes:
Just wanted to let you know about a great article about the history of Hava Nagila written by historian/musicologist Jim Loeffler that's featured on MyJewishLearning's homepage this week. It's got fun audio clips too: - Culture: Hava Nagila's Long Strange Trip
Personally, we prefer the "Yidcore" punk version to "Me First and the Gimee Gimees'" version, but "Me First..." has the better band name.

Are Jewish Bands Price Gouging? cont...

A different "Anon" responds to Are Jewish Bands Price Gouging?:
I am appalled at the suggestion that there is price gouging in the JM business. By and large, Jewish wedding musicians make money in spite of their musical employment, not because of it. While those who own the bands make decent money, not one, including Shelley Lang, owner of the busiest band in the business, makes as much money in profit as the caterer of the simcha where the bands perform. I am one of the busiest musicians in the field, and my income from the music business breaks $50,000 only because I also book a number of bands. Without my wife's income and my part time teaching gig, I would not be able to support my family. Even a six figure income would hardly be an indication of price gouging, considering the expense of living in the NYC area.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Girls' Night On Tonight at Makor

Tonight is the Girl's Night On event at Makor!
7:30pm - another open mike night for women, by women: act, sing,dance, play, read, joke, filibuster or come watch.
At Makor, 35 W67St. Celebrate the release of their first CD and see what happens when Jewish women rock Makor! Admission: $10. Info: call 212-865-0085 or see Girls' Night On!
This event is also a CD release party for their album "Live at Makor" which captures some of the performances at the last Girls' Night On event. Each track features a different performer.

Here's the track list:

Chalom (Capture The Dream) - Sarah Cohen
Spread Your Love - Naomi Less
Refaenu - Rebecca Fishman
Aidel at Heart - Leslie Ginsparg
Figure It Out - Suffy
Whirling - Jane Babits
Niggun Neshama/Yerushalayim - Dahlia Topolosky & Jenny Sasoon
Suddenly Single - Rachel Kohl
Jewish Mother Blues - Chava
Darbuka Drumbeats - Adena Furstenberg & Rachel Lea Weinberger

Go, buy one (or many) and show your support for for creative Jewish music.

In a similar vein, I'd like to note Nishmat Hatzafon, a Jewish women's performing arts company, is performing for women only on Thursday evening. Here are the details:
8pm - Nishmat Hatzafon, a Jewish women's performing arts company, performing for women only "Bat Kol: The Search for the Inner Voice," interweaving dance, poetry, song, and music. At JCC of Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. Cost: $15. More info: 917-679-1890
Nishmat Hatzafon's last performance, this past Thursday night in Washington Heights, was a collaboration with Neshama Carlebach.

There is a growing "scene" of creative frum women performing for women in the city. What's unique about this, to my mind, is that these are not commercial attempts, but artistic ones, as opposed to much of the music for women (not that there's that much) being sold. It's neat to see that there's so much talent out there and that its being used rather than stifled. It's worth supporting.

So, go, buy CD's and help support creative Jewish women's musical efforts.

Are Jewish Bands Price Gouging?

Anon writes:
I know that you are in the business, so it might be a hard thing to do, but its time someone really opened up transparency into the price gouging of the big bands. It just doesn't seem reasonable that fun decent entertainment at a wedding needs to cost the price of an Oldsmobile! It makes no sense!

Why are some people in the entertainment business the wealthiest in their communities (and some far from it)?
It's not hard to address at all. There is no price gouging in the Jewish music market, period. You can price gouge on milk, gas, oil, and other staples that people need and can't get elsewhere. That's why monopolies and price gouging go together. There is no longer a monopoly in the Jewish simcha band scene here in NY. There's no oligopoly either.

In the local JM wedding field, there are many options and if the band you'd like to hire is quoting too high a price, there is always another band available at a lower rate. Obviously, within reason. You can always go elsewhere.

I'd like to turn the question around. How much do you think a band should cost?

Whoops, Wrong Venue!

So we walk into last night's gig, and there's a Russian band set up on the stage. They're insisting that they have a contract for the gig and are supposed to be playing from 5 to 10 PM. Interesting, because it's after 5 PM, no guests are there and we're booked for a 6 PM start. After a few minutes of them insisting that they have this gig, their office calls. Apparently, the office sent them to the wrong venue, an error that was only discovered when the irate clients called after 5 PM to find out where the band was. Whoops!

German Goldenshteyn, a"h

We sadly note the passing of German Goldenshteyn, a"h. The Klezmer Shack has posted an obit by Michael Alpert.The funeral is today at 11 AM in Brooklyn. Details at the above link.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

From the mailbag... Tzedaka edition

J. writes:
In regards to the Oorah fundraising methods, I should say that I have received the CD in the mail, but never actually heard it. OK so they are spending a lot of money on a CD, and in the process promoting some singers, who cares! Oorah already spends tons of money on marketing and advertising, they are on billboards on the highway, they are on the radio, it seems that when it comes to marketing they have no budget constraints. Now you have to admit that there is a reason that they use these singers, it is probably because of their name recognition So it really goes two ways, the singer may or may not get paid to sing, then Oorah markets the CD, and in the process attaches their brand to the singers public appeal, as well as advertising the singer. Everybody is happy. You're right they got a sweetheart of a deal, but Oorah got what it wanted as well.
Everyone is happy. Except, the donors whose money is spent in this manner. As a charity, I think Oorah has to be cautious with how it spends tzedaka dollars, and also with public perception of how it is spending that money. It's always hard to quantify "brand awareness" promotions since there is no direct link between the campaign and income. That being said, I'm wary of those in general when conducted by charities, and especially when they cost as much as Oorah's appears to have done.

Tzedakah organizations are not private business ventures and have no right risking large sums of money on speculative branding promotions. And make no mistake, this is another in a long string of Oorah's branding promotions with, I suspect, diminishing returns.

When J. writes "it seems that when it comes to marketing they have no budget constraints," he nails the point of the issue. This is exactly what makes this promotion look inappropriate. It is one thing to send out CD's as a promo item akin to other givaways like a calendar, fridge magnet of candle lighting times, or chanukah candles like many other organizations do. When this is sent to a targeted list, with some discrimation as to whom it is sent to, this is often a fair approach for a fundraising organization to take. What is different here is the following:

The scale of distribution. The sheer number of CD's produced is well beyond the numbers any reasonable outside person would find acceptable given the size of the community, the potential appeal of the CD's etc.

The method of distribution. In addition to a mailing campaign, many of these were just left in public areas for people to help themselves to. I've seen that there are still many left in pizza shops and other stores.

The expenses of production. I know enough about music production costs, and have enough inside information, to know that Oorah spent an awful lot of money producing this project. This premium cost them way more than other organizations premiums typically do.

The hype. The CD artwork (and Oorah's explanation about the purpose of the CD) seem unduly focused on the artists. That's good for the artists, but it's simply wrong for Oorah to spend that kind of money essentially promoting artists, in the hope that Oorah will be considered cool (and therefore worthy of support) by association.

Interestingly, here's Oorah's press release about the CD. Here's a quote:
“If five of the most sought-after musicians in the Jewish world felt Oorah’s work was worthy of their support, we’re hoping that everyone who sees this CD will feel the same way,” said an Oorah spokesman. “When you see the joy that Jewish tradition brings to fellow Jews, you want to become a part of it.”
Unfortunately, there appear to be some errors in the press release, but Blog in Dm's diligent investigative team has obtained the corrected honest version. Here it is:
“If five of the most sought-after (by Oorah) musicians in the Jewish world felt that tens of thousands of dollars of Oorah’s money was worth taking in exchange for having hundreds of thousands of CD's featuring them distributed to the Jewish community at no charge, we’re hoping that everyone who sees this CD will feel the same way,” said an Oorah spokesman. “When you see the joy that donations in support of Jewish tradition bring to select Jewish entertainers, you want to become a part of it.”
Just to be clear. I don't fault artists for asking for remuneration for their time and effort. This is what they do for a living. The fault here lies with producers, in this case Oorah --although the same criticism could be leveled at some of the organizations producing charity concerts-- who spend more than would seem viable from a commercial standpoint.

The issue isn't even whether the organization nets money. It's whether the expense to income ratio is justifiable. So, for example, if Charity X produces an annual concert that raises one million dollars, but only nets $200,000 after expenses (musicians, featured entertainers, hall rental, sound companies, advertising, staffing, etc.), then to my mind the event is unjustifiable. Especially if most of the money raised is Tzedaka dollars, meaning it eats up money that people would otherwise have given to tzedaka.

If a donor is willing to give $100 to a charity and ups their donation to $200 to buy tickets to the charity's concert, then, if the charity nets anywhere less than $100 from that donation, the event was a waste of tzedaka money. Furthermore, even if they just break even or make an inconsequential additional amount, there is a strong argument to be made that the event was not worth holding.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Shirei Nefesh Yehuda

In the mail... Shirei Nefesh Yehuda, a disc featuring the music of Harav Yehudah Henkin, who is known as the author of Responsa Bnei Banim.

The CD features arrangements of Harav Henkin's melodies sung by Yaron Bar (excepting track 12 sung by Harav Henkin). The music is performed by Daniel Bensimien on keys and synths, with Leonid Raskin on accordion, Arik Shachar and Aryeh Naftali on guitars. Aryeh Naftali takes a turn on mandolin as well.

I've been listening to this one for a few weeks and I like it.

A project like this is all about the melodies, with the mostly electronic music playing a supporting role, and this disc delivers.

Harav Henkin has a strong sense of melody and the words and tunes fit well together. Listening to this CD, one gets a sense that the composer understands and feels the meaning of the words. Many of the melodies are set to texts that are less commonly sung like "Lama Hashem Ta'amod B'rachok... "(Tehilim 10), "Im Tashiv" (Shabbat Kiddush), as well as verses from Iyov and Esther. To me, the songs evoke Yosef Karduner by way of Uzi Hitman.

Vocalist Yaron Bar sings these melodies in a warm folksy manner without much embellishment, which is a good thing, since the tunes carry themselves. This is an enjoyable first outing, although I'd have loved to hear the songs with actual acoustic instruments.

At the moment, this CD does not yet have a distributor. If you are interested in distributing this CD, or if you'd like to obtain one, send me an email and I'll pass your information on to Harav Henkin.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Tzedakah Tatzil M'Advertising Expenses

Krum is blogging again on sketchy fundraising tactics. I receive the Kupat Hair mailings as well and find them offensive on so many levels. A while back, we got one proudly sharing this story:
"At the conclusion of the meeting, the gedolim were presented with the name of a contributor from the United States who had, only two days earlier, donated $18,000 to Kupat Ha'ir. The man, who was facing a trial for tax evasion to the tune of millions of dollars, had requested that the rabbanim, shlit"a, pray for him.
The gedolim took the sheet of paper and began praying for his success.
Two days before Rosh Chodesh Ellul ..... the United States government decided to drop the charges against him. ..... "It is clearly yad Hashem" the man cried out. He contributed an additional $3,600 in gratitude to Hashem for his rescue. In this case, it was clearly evident that a tzaddik's prayer makes an impression in Shamayim."
Some more comments on Kupat Ha'ir's brochures can be found here, here, and here.

On the subject of fundraising...

In a recent post, I responded to a question from a reader as to my thoughts on the Oorah CD. (You can see the album cover and listen to the songs (with video) here.) I wrote:
I've been meaning to write about the broader issue of using artists to promote tzedakah, or should I say, using tzedakah to promote artists. I'll try to get to it soon. In short, there is a tension between using one's talents for mitzvos, which is clearly a good thing, and taking advantage of a mitzvah to promote a personal agenda. The dividing line isn't always clear. This CD can serve as a good illustration of the positive and negative sides of this issue.
People should use their strengths for the good, so a singer using music to help raise funds is definitely a positive. Or is it? In this case, Oorah featured five singers' tracks on a CD that was enclosed in a shrinkwrapped packet together with the brochure for their Chinese auction fundraiser. The cover of the CD sleeve (and the CD itself) feature pictures of four of the five singers; Yisroel Williger, Yaakov Shwekey, Shloime Daskal, and Mordechai Ben David. Curiously, Shloime Dachs was omitted. The idea seems to have been to attract interest in the auction booklet by using the CD as an incentive.

On the plus side of the equation, the singers volunteered their time (I assume it was volunteered) to raise awareness of a fundraiser for this Tzedakah. Whether it was a justified expense by Oorah, whether it worked at all, or whether it was a worthwhile project are separate questions, but from this perspective, this was an admirable move by the singers. Any entertainer who donates services to a charity for no remuneration is admirable, in my view.

To my mind, an important question is whether Oorah should be involved in promoting any entertainers at all. In this case, Oorah is clearly trading on the singers' name recognition, and in exchange has invested greatly in promoting them, even going so far as to find material for some of them and to pay for having the music arranged and performed. In fact, I'd wager that more copies of this CD were pressed than of some of these artists' recent albums. So, at this point, IMO these singers have been remunerated quite handsomely by Oorah's heavily marketing them to the community. This is far more exposure than they'd have gotten simply by donating their services as a prize to a Chinese auction or the like. (Something that Oorah and others have offered in the past.) Oorah is delivering their business card, one that would cost them at least $1 apiece to produce on their own (not counting studio and music production costs), to many potential clients. That's thousands of dollars worth of benefits. Now, there might not be anything wrong with a straight up business arrangement, but this kind of quid pro quo doesn't feel right.

Please don't take my word for this. Take a look at the cover art and at the credits on the videos. It's quite clear. Factoring in the widespread distribution of these CD's and videos, these artists got quite a sweetheart deal for a few hours' work.

Now, this episode by itself might not be enough of an issue, but there have been other clear-cut cases of exploitation whereby singers used a tzedakah for personal gain. A few that come to mind are a past HASC concert at which one "name" singer was paid $50,000 for his appearance, and a CD (Gideon Levine's "The Best of the Best vol.2") that was ostensibly released to benefit the "Child Life Society", but according to CY magazine only donated $1 from the sale of each CD to the organization.

It's clear that there's a line, but where is it? In my opinion, if it's a case where the singer isn't directly rewarded, or if it's a case of zeh neheneh, v'zeh lo chaser, where both sides clearly benefit and neither one is being used, then I think participation by artists is appropriate. For example, many artists volunteer their services to organizations, to sing at fundraisers or as an auction prize to be auctioned off to benefit the charity. In those cases, I think it's fair for the Tzedakah to acknowledge their participation by mentioning it (in an appropriate manner) in their ad for the event, a dinner journal, or the like.

If it's a case where the benefits to the artist far outweigh the benefit to the charity, though, then I think the promotion really needs to be rethought because it makes the artists and the organization look bad. In this case, I'd think that Oorah's board should take a close look at this method of promotion. It doesn't make the organization look good and it may make the singers look like they're exploiting the situation. Even when they're not.