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Lipa Schmeltzer

Lipa Schmeltzer
Birth name Elazar Chananya Yom Tov Lipa Schmeltzer[1]
Born (1978-03-17) March 17, 1978
Genres Contemporary Jewish religious music
Occupation(s) Vocalist, composer, singer, performer
Years active 1998 – present
Website .com.golipawww

Elazar Lipa Schmeltzer is an American Hasidic singer and composer. He is a headliner within Hasidic and Haredi communities worldwide and has been called "the Jewish Elvis"[2] and "the Lady Gaga of Hasidic music".[3] Schmeltzer has released 13 solo albums as of 2014.[4]

Contents

  • Family background 1
  • Musical career 2
  • Benefit performances 3
  • "The Big Event" controversy 4
  • Other activities 5
  • Discography 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Family background

Schmeltzer grew up in the Hasidic enclave of New Square, New York [5] a village in Rockland County, New York. His grandfather, a Jewish farmer in pre-war Hungary, was murdered during World War II, leaving his father, Reuven, an orphan at the age of 13. Reuven Schmeltzer was one of the 1684 Jews who escaped Nazi-controlled Hungary on the Kastner train and spent time in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp before being released in Switzerland.[6] He and his wife had 12 children of which Lipa is the second-youngest.[7]

Lipa married his wife Miriam also a native of New Square,[8] on August 27, 1998. They have four children.[6]

Musical career

After his wedding, Schmeltzer tried to find work as a badchen (entertainer) for weddings.[8] Though he had no formal musical training,[9] he began performing at weddings and bar mitzvahs in the Haredi Jewish communities of upstate New York and Brooklyn. He earned a reputation as a natural performer, and began releasing recordings and videos.[5] The first, Nor B'Simcha (Only Be Happy), was released shortly after his wedding.[6] With his thick, round eyeglasses and sidelocks,[10] "outlandish" outfits, and comical YouTube videos,[11] he has rocketed to stardom in the Hasidic music world.

Schmeltzer's music has both gained popularity and generated controversy within the American Hasidic community due to the fusion of traditional Hasidic music and lyrics with contemporary music styles. His performance range includes "hard-driving rock tunes, jazzy shuffles, pseudo-rap numbers, solemn prayers, klezmer dances and jokey skits, accompanied by a nine-piece band and a troupe of actors".[5] He writes lyrics in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish.[6] As is the norm in Hasidic circles, Schmeltzer's concerts are gender-segregated.[5]

He has been criticized for introducing "too modern" musical styles to the Hasidic community.[12] Opponents contend that Schmeltzer's identity as a bona-fide Hasid makes him more appealing to a wider Hasidic audience and therefore more likely to introduce contemporary music to their community, which tends to be insular and more reserved.[13]

Benefit performances

Schmeltzer frequently contributes his talents for Jewish benefit performances.[14][15][16][17][18] He has also written songs and performed in response to tragedies within the Hasidic community. After Chabad shluchim Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg were murdered in a 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai and their two-year-old son Moishe was saved, he wrote the song A Letter to Moishe'le.[19] He was part of an all-star group of Jewish musicians who produced a musical tribute to Sholom Rubashkin after the latter's conviction in federal court in 2010.[20] Following the 2011 murder of Leiby Kletzky in Brooklyn, he released a ballad called "Leiby Forever" and a seven-minute music video depicting home movies of Kletzky growing up.[21]

"The Big Event" controversy

In February 2008, a large amount of publicity was generated for a concert at Madison Square Garden's WaMu Theater in New York City featuring Schmeltzer and Shloime Gertner, under the playbill "The Big Event". On 20 February, a full-page notice was printed in the Hamodia newspaper. The notice stated that it was "a serious prohibition to attend or perform" at the concert which would lead to "ribaldry and lightheadedness" and added that it was "forbidden to hire these singers to sing at any party, celebration or charity event".[22][23]

Following speculation over whether Schmeltzer would cancel the concert due to the ban, on 26 February it was confirmed that he was canceling his performance. He was quoted by The New York Times as saying, "I have a career, I have a wife and kids to support, I have a mortgage to pay, I have to get out of the fire".[22] At the same time, Schmeltzer pulled out of a concert scheduled for later that month in London with other singers.[24]

In the aftermath of the cancellation, questions were raised regarding the ban. Specifically, why the ban was issued so close to the concert date, causing the Israeli charity financing the concert to lose $700,000, and why the wording of the ban seemed at odds with views that had been expressed elsewhere by the rabbis who signed it. In an interview in June 2008, Schmeltzer stated: “If I knew the truth, 'The Big Event' would not have been cancelled ... Many Rabbis have told me that people came to them with false information regarding my concert".[25]

In 2009, one of the signatory rabbis, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, told the The Jewish Star newspaper that he had no problem with Lipa: "As far as I know he is an ehrliche Yid [a truly devout Jew]."[5]

Three months after the controversy, Schmeltzer released his next album, titled A Poshiter Yid (A Simple Jew), with a cover image and songs that portrayed him as a tradition-minded, Torah-observant Jew instead of the rock idol portrayed by the ban. Since that release, Schmeltzer's concert and recording schedules have increased.[26]

Shortly after the cancellation of "The Big Event", promoters began planning another concert with the scaled-down name "The Event", which went off without controversy before a sell-out crowd[26] at Madison Square Garden's WaMu Theater on March 1, 2009.[11][27] Later the same year, Aderet Records released a double CD and DVD of "The Event".[28]

Other activities

In 2010, Schmeltzer built a synagogue in the village of Airmont, New York.[26][29] Called the Airmont Shul, it maintains a nonjudgmental and open-door policy toward its congregants.[8]

Schmeltzer attended Rockland Community College, a two-year school which is part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. He pursued a dual associate’s degree in performing arts and liberal arts. On May 18, 2014 he graduated with a GPA of 3.902.[30] Among the courses Schmeltzer completed in college were acting, dance, musical theater, English, psychology and pluralism and diversity.[31]

On April 8, 2014 Schmeltzer received a Chancellor's Award of Excellence, which is considered to be "the highest honor bestowed upon the student body."[32] Schmeltzer was one of three from the over 7,000 students in Rockland Community College to be nominated for the award in 2014.[33]

Schmeltzer is currently a student at Columbia University's School of General studies.[34]

Discography

  • Nor B'simcha (1999)
  • Shema (2000)
  • Letova (2001)
  • Bederech (2003)
  • Le'eilu Uleeilu (2004)
  • The New Project X (2005)
  • Keneina Hora (2005)
  • Hallel (2006)
  • The Next Project X (2007)
  • A Poshiter Yid (2008)
  • Non Stop Lipa (2009)
  • Me'imka D'Lipa: From the Depth of My Heart (2010)
  • 24/6 Lipa (2011)
  • Leiby Forever (2011)
  • Leap of Faith (2012)
  • Dus Pintele - The Hidden Spark (2013)
  • B Positive (2015)

References

  1. ^ "Video: Elazar Lipa Schmeltzer at Wedding of Son of Rav Yekutiel Abuchatzeirah". matzav.com. 19 June 2009. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Weichselbaum, Simone; Levin, Sam; Alpert, Lukas I. (16 July 2011). "Famed Hasidic singer Lipa Schmeltzer writing song to honor slain Brooklyn boy Leiby Kletzky".  
  3. ^ Weiner, Stuart (17 August 2012). "Hasidic pop star dons IDF togs".  
  4. ^ "The 2008 Forward 50 Picks "Rahmbo," Obama's New Chief, Edgy".  
  5. ^ a b c d e Duffy, Peter (February 27, 2009). "Dancing and Shaking With an Exultant Spirit". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c d Kliger, David. Bringing on the Simcha: An interview with Lipa Schmeltzer at Castel Wineries. The English Update, 17 March 2011, pp. 26–34.
  7. ^ "A Poshiter Yid". lipaschmeltzer.com. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c Rosengarten, Gittel Chany (17 July 2013). "Living With the Star".  
  9. ^ Lando, Michal (Jul 3, 2008). "The first haredi pop star". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  10. ^ Lando, Michal (28 January 2007). "In the Wee Hours, Worship and More".  
  11. ^ a b Gersten, Lana (16 January 2009). "If at First You Don't Succeed... Hasidic Singer, Subject of Rabbinic Ban, Tries Again". All Business. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  12. ^ Winston, Hella (2006). Edgework: Boundary crossing among the Hasidim (dissertation). The City University of New York. p. 68. 
  13. ^ Gersten, Lana (1 July 2008). "Despite Controversy, Hasidic Singer’s Popularity Soars".  
  14. ^ "Lipa Schmeltzer Singing Ani Maamin At Circus For Chai Lifeline". Jewish Music Plus. 24 May 2009. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  15. ^ Zweig, Yossi (2009). "OHEL 5770 "Musical Inspirations" – Review". The Jewish Insights. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  16. ^ "This Year's Soul II Soul Starring Lipa Schmeltzer". The Jewish Music Review. 15 November 2008. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  17. ^ "Lipa Schmeltzer, Chaim Fogelman and Agent Emes". CrownHeights.info. 20 June 2006. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  18. ^ "Lipa, Disney, and Lulav and Etrog".  
  19. ^ Ferber, Elisha (18 November 2009). """Video: "A Letter to Moishe'le. matzav.com. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  20. ^ "MBD, Avraham Fried and Large Cast of Singers Unite for Reb Sholom Mordechai". matzav.com. 11 August 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  21. ^ Weichselbaum, Simone (15 August 2011). Leiby Forever' song helped me cope with son's death, Nachman Kletzky says"'". New York Daily News. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  22. ^ a b Levin, Dan (3 March 2008). "A Clash Between Popular Culture and Orthodox Piety".  
  23. ^ "Original ban notice" (in Hebrew). 
  24. ^ "Lipa Shmeltzer Backs Out Of London Concert".  
  25. ^ """New York - A Kiddush Hashem? A Chilul Hashem! Lipa In Flammatory Interview: "My Mistake To Cancel BIGEVENT Concert. Vos Iz Nieas. 6 June 2008. Retrieved 19 January 2010. 
  26. ^ a b c Ginzberg, Binyomin (21 March 2011). "Monday Music: A Simple Jew With a Touch of Gaga". The Forward. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  27. ^ Aron, Suri (4 March 2009). "Lipa Schmeltzer's Big Event a Big Success".  
  28. ^ Ferber, Elisha (31 July 2009). The Event" to be Released on CD and DVD""". matzav.com. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  29. ^ "Rockland County, NY - Village Of Airmont Gives Lipa's Shul Stamp of Approval". Voz Iz Neias. 26 March 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  30. ^ "golipa.com". Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  31. ^ "Stardom 101: Lipa Goes To College". Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  32. ^ Insider - Buffalo State College - SUNY’s Highest Student Honor Awarded
  33. ^ "Twitter.com Lipa Schmeltzer". Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  34. ^ """Bwog.com: "Lipa Schmeltzer, a GS student and father of four. Retrieved 22 January 2015. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Harav R' Reuven Schmeltzer (father of R' Lipa), talking in Satmar Chuf-alef Kislev
  • Monday Music: A Simple Jew With a Touch of Gaga
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