Monday, March 03, 2008

A Clash Between Popular Culture and Orthodox Piety 

For thousands of Orthodox Jews, the “Big Event” — a concert featuring the popular Hasidic entertainer Lipa Schmeltzer — was supposed to happen next Sunday at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden. But fans and organizers were shocked to learn late last month that a group of rabbis had issued an edict against the show, effectively canceling it.

The decree, published in Hebrew in the Orthodox newspaper Hamodia and signed by 33 rabbis, warned that the sight of dancing and singing performers would cause “ribaldry and lightheadedness” that would lure young people away from spiritual purity. It prohibited Orthodox Jews from attending the concert and called on Mr. Schmeltzer to back out.

The ban has inflamed tensions among ultra-Orthodox Jews over how to address the influences of popular culture, and it has thrust what has largely been an internal debate into public view.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose Brooklyn district includes many Hasidic neighborhoods, said the ban had triggered unprecedented dissent and outrage among Hasidim. “In all my 26 years of representing this community, I can’t remember anything that has so shaken the people,” Mr. Hikind said on Sunday.

The growing fame of Mr. Schmeltzer, who weaves pop melodies with traditional Hasidic songs, has troubled some Hasidim, who have chided him for introducing Jewish youth to secular musical styles. Others fear his popularity could rival that of the rabbis, who wield spiritual authority over Hasidic daily life.

In an effort to assuage those fears and uphold the religious practice of modesty, the concert organizers had promised separate entrances and seating for the more than 5,000 men and women who had been expected to attend, and Mr. Schmeltzer had agreed to perform only traditional Hasidic songs.

But that was not enough to prevent two community leaders in Brooklyn from mobilizing opposition to the show, which was raising money for an Israeli charity that finances weddings for orphans. In late February, the two men, Asher Friedman and Rabbi Avraham Shor, demanded that the concert be canceled. Using the text of an edict that had been used to ban a concert in Israel, they warned that the concert would “strip the youth of every shred of fear of heaven.” They said they were acting on behalf of a group of Israeli rabbis, and ultimately, 33 American rabbis signed the edict.

Sheya Mendlowitz, the concert’s producer, said Mr. Friedman and Mr. Shor had known about the concert for months but had acted without warning, just two weeks before the show, causing $700,000 in losses.

“These two activists stirred up all the trouble,” said Mr. Mendlowitz, who has worked in the Hasidic music business for 27 years. “They just wanted to sabotage us.”


they got the quotes wrong. it was the jewish star, not hamodia that interviewed the philly rosh yeshiva.


whats next? no more bris mila because we all know its not snius to expose onesself. perhaps shabbos should be banned too? wait no more learning torah either it may cause chavrusas to argue a point in learning. lets get rid of kosher also cause the cows are not killed humanely. what is next?


Fairly balanced article but what's this about a 'deeply secretive Hasidic world'?



I truly hope that these two thugs , NOT Rabbis are Fried by the secular courts and fined to the Kazzoo. These thugs know one language only and that is violence. If we show them that we wont stant for thier Rubbish and wont stand for the Railroading other Legitamate Rabbis into siging flase documents then hopefully this wont repeat itself.


what many don't know there was another letter authored by R' Belsky allowing the concert to go on if there would be no leitzanus, afew gedolim had actually signed it. Whe R' Avraham Shorr found ot he went nuts calling up Roshei Yeshivah untill they backed out from signing this letter


where is isaac abraham thru all of this?


Causing a $700,000 loss to another Jew? now that's what I call a "novol bemitzvas hatorah".


Who is Rabbi Avrohom Schorr, does he run a shul on east 14th street?


Great Concert planned for SHUSHAN PURIM in the Armory in the Bronx featuring the great Yakov Schwekey and Shalashess a fundraiser for terror victims and tefillohs for Yerushayalim United. C U THERE


what i woul like to know is y shiye menlowitz was so BZ ( zev brener ) saying that when the rabunim would of know that the concert would of be to do tshuve& showe the world what raal jewish music is y was all this adds video clips so goyish & the songs to it ??!! so looks like it would of be some hip hop there ???????????




A great injustice was done to LIpa Shmeltzer by 2 right-wing fanatics (KANOIM) of Brooklyn.
Lipa agreed to some changes
with regards to "goyish tunes" goyish culture" etc.
He agreed to "tone it down".
However,this wasn't enough
JOBS.They caused CHESROIN KIS,a loss of a significant amount of money that was going to Tzedoko.It seems these "so-
called Rabbonim" have no issue with the above.
The bottom line, is that these 2 AGITATORS have a vendetta against Lipa Shmeltzer so they resorted
to Taliban-like tactics to
try to destroy Lipa.
Well, intimidation,thugery,and
Taliban behavior won't work in the long run;it will be defeated because the mainstream Frum Oilem
won't support this narrow-minded sickening attitude.
Lipa will survive and play
another day!
The problem with the Rabonim today is that they
are totally out of touch with their communities.
They have this "Issur of the Week" or Chumra of The Week" mentality.
This is not what is needed,
what is needed is TRUE leadership.


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