Culture, Global, Religion

We knew this day would come

lipaThere were many times when we worried that one move too far into the mainstream, one step beyond the very traditional bounds of the Orthodox world, could bring a ban on a certain very tall Hasid. We took a lot of questions to the Bet Din at 770 and respected the answers they gave, but always, always, I had this concern. Seems in another part of “the Jewish music jungle” (Thanks frumhouse, i love that term), just such a ban has been decreed. Does anyone care? Will anyone follow it? I just find this too intriguing not to share…
Have you heard of The Big Event? If so, for the love of Hashem, write a comment and chime in. I love how the Ultra-Orthodox world can randomly swing into Madison Square Garden and it flies totally under the radar of the rest of the Jewish world. Apparently, it is/was a concert planned for March 9th featuring frum music favorites headlined by Lipa Shmeltzer. Lipa really is a King. A wedding singer and simcha entertainer, he gained prominence with his lighthearted rewrites of secular tunes as newly Kosherfied hits in both Yiddish and English. He performed at a friend’s wedding and while his “Yo Ya” was good, he really got me with version of Melanie C’s “I turn to you.” Apparently you can make it Jewish simply by adding “Hashem” before the phrase. ANYWAYS…
I’ll let the frum bloggers explain from here:
Frumhouse:Basically, the current king of the Jewish music jungle, Lipa Schmeltzer, has been deemed too wild by certain factions of the orthodox community. Furthermore, these factions believe that current Jewish music has become goyified (my word, not theirs). Songs that stem from non-Jewish melodies, even if the words and taam have been changed to elevate their kiddusha, are deemed inappropriate for kosher Jewish entertainment.
This concert and future Jewish music concerts have been banned by a group of about 35 rabbanim. They also prohibit people from hiring any performer who participates in the Big Event Concert.

Lipa speaks out: I have recently started learning Bichavrusa with a leading Rosh Yeshiva, and I promised him that I will never sing any songs which were composed by non-Jews. Being true to my word, I have sang at more then a dozen Chasuna’s since I made that decision – and I have not sang “Yidden”, “Abi-Mileibt”, or “Numa” (Rabbi Nachman M’uman) or any other song that is questionable as to its origin.
The really ironic thing to me about this is many Hasidic niggunim, and most Jewish music in general, doesn’t come from exclusively Jewish sources. We are a people with a tradition of song as a vital form of expression in our lives. But with the exception of Torah cantillation as a system of musical notation and musical modes of prayer, as a Diaspora people our appropriation of the culture of our various host communities is inevitable. What makes Klezmer more Jewish than pop songs about Hanukkah? What makes pining for Hashem to the tune of a French Revolutionary War March more Kosher than pining to Hashem to the tune of an ex-Spice Girl?

11 thoughts on “We knew this day would come

  1. I hadn’t heard of the Big Event until it turned up on DK’S blog this morning.
    But it looks like the Big Event has been canceled.
    Also, note that it’s not in MSG proper, but in the Theater at MSG, which is a smaller space below the main arena (albeit still one of the largest music venues in NYC).

  2. Even torah trope reflect significant cultural borrowing. Chalabi (Aleppoan) trope sounds like Arabic music, while Yekke (German) trope reflects central European influences and Eastern European trope reflects its own milue.

  3. chorus, i’m with you on trope. my point was that at least its a musical system we can claim as uniquely jewish, even if the melodies applied to it reflect appropriation.
    cee, yes, i know lipa’s not a lubavitcher.

  4. There’s a Chabad teaching that the best way to defeat our enemies is to co-opt their niggunim. To take their songs, and changes the words or just use the tunes in our context. For that reason many chassidic songs are simply adaptations of russian and eastern european folk songs.

  5. I have heard Rebbe Nachman quoted as saying that it is good to adapt simple (non-Jewish) shepherds’ songs for Jewish purposes, because the shepherd is close to the land and is singing the song of that particular piece of earth, and this is a sacred source from which to draw melodies.
    I’m sorry I don’t have a source and will try to get one (not that the Spice Girls are shepherdesses, but I think the precedent is useful). I find it very sad to think that according to some Chasidim, even music can’t be a bridge between Jews and non-Jews.

  6. The Taliban have taken over Jewish culture, what with a blanket ban on concerts a natural pedestal to be toppled following the destruction of one’s right or desire to eat strawberries, broccoli, spinach, tap water, et. al. This followed the ban on wigs sourced from India, and then all long-haired wigs in general, which followed the ban on Eruvin, which followed the ban on Cholov Stam products, and so on and so forth. If only the Black Hat Orthodox Jewish so-called (no pun intended 🙂 community leaders would concern themselves more with breaking pederasts rather than pedestals, the future of Jewish orthodoxy would be much brighter. We have finally fully entered into a period of darkness within the Black Hat Orthodox Jewish community which will alienate as many Chassidic and Litvish teens and twenty-somethings as occurred during the late 19th-early 20th Century. There is NO HOPE FOR CHANGE under the present Black Hat Rabbinic leadership in the US and Israel. It is a rotting tree that will slowly eat itself and wither to survive until it tumbles over under the weight of its own rot. Mark my words, this is not just another stupidity byt t he Rabbinic leadership. This is a watershed moment in the downward spiral of Black Hat so-called Orthodox Judaism. When the gang mentality has superceded individual rational thought, when discussion and dialogue of questions related to religious observance are snuffed out by a stampede of Wilding Gangbangers, it’s time to cut out the gangrene from the body before it destroys what’s left of Orthodox Judaism. The Black Hat Orthodox Rabbinic leadership is like a gangrenous sore. It festers and feeds off of power, ego, arrogance, megalomania, and of course, money. I still belive that had a percentage of the receipts gone to the pet organizations of some of the ban signers, everyone would have looked the other way. So it’s even worse than you thought. The ban was not even done Lishmah. We have to cut ourselves off from Mafia Judaism once and for all. My son came home from school and told me his Rabbi discussed the ban and supported it saying it was due to the music, and the socializing, and the venue, and this and that. It just made me sick to my stomach. Good parenting and good teachers trump all pitfalls in life. Without choice, we’re just a bunch of large amoebas. Human development and achievement is about making good choices. If the so-called “Rabbinic Scholars” can’t trust the youth whose heads they try to brainwash to make good decisions about social and societal behavior, except when to tell them to keep their mouths shut if someone touches them in an inappropriate manner sexually or violently, then it’s just over as a viable form of religion. One of the signers of the ban is the infamous “Lipa Margolies,” of Torah Temimah, world-renowned for his 30-year effort to protect absolutely confirmed child molesters from getting busted and brought to justice. The gig is up. Time to find some new leaders. NOW. Thanks Aaron for your insightful post, and keep doing what your doing, bridging Judiasm with the 21st Century so that there will be something left to be proud of when we have to answer to our children and grandchildren, and of course to G-d at the end of our days.

  7. Thanks for the link! Whenever a situation sparks such an emotional response, you know the issue is bigger than that immediate situation. There are some hard truths that our modern day gadolim need to face about Klal Yisroel and their respect for rabbinic authority. We are currently in a kiruv crisis – not simply for Jewish people completely unconnected with Judaism, but for Jewish people who once had a connection that is fast eroding. Will this ban bring Jews closer to Hashem or will it bring Jews farther away? The answer may be different for each person asked.

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