Sunday, April 07, 2019

This U.S. Hasidic Pop Star’s To-do List: Make Jewish Music a Thing, Find Love 

The stage was never supposed to be where Yoni Zigelboum felt at home. The Brooklyn-born Hasidic Jew still vividly remembers the terror he felt at 12-year-old when being asked to sing at his cousin’s wedding. “I bolted out of the place,” he recounts, sitting at a Starbucks in Manhattan’s Theater District. “I was terrified, shaking.”

And when, three years later, the head of his Crown Heights yeshiva told him his “personality is too big for the room” and that he should go out and “find himself,” Zigelboum definitely didn’t consider venturing near a stage. Sure, he liked music and had a nice voice. But being what he calls “the front man” was never seen as a possibility.

He tried different things: Some video editing; working at a museum; and, eventually, studying psychology at New York’s Touro College.

“I knew I wanted to do something to make people feel better,” the 27-year-old tells Haaretz. “And then I got an offer to sing at a wedding in Toronto.”

Despite initially turning it down, citing his crippling stage fright, Zigelboum eventually decided to take the leap — and it turned out to be a life-changing move.


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