"We had everything we needed to make a lot of holy noise on Har Tzion and all over Israel"
Sometimes it’s the unsung, uncelebrated deeds that boost a singer into the limelight. Who helped advance these popular entertainers with an unforgettable yet enduring gesture?
Diaspora Yeshiva Band
I’m forever indebted to Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Goldstein ztz"l, founder and rosh yeshivah of the Diaspora Yeshiva. We were a very eclectic group of students in the early 1970s. The Rav knew that our music was genuine and that our neshamos had a tachlis for playing it. He encouraged and facilitated the band’s formation and growth — from our earliest days of jamming together, through our greatest successes. We had rehearsal space, a sound system, and Rabbi Goldstein even put up half the cost of the band van I bought. We had everything we needed to make a lot of holy noise on Har Tzion and all over Israel.
It’s hard to point out just one kindness, since every kind word or action contributes so much, whether it is advice and guidance from other industry professionals, or a nice word or email from a stranger. The slightest thing can make a difference at certain points. I once had a difficult question and I called up MBD. He gave me all the time and advice I needed.
When I was 17 and had just started to sing in public, I went into a simchah just to pick something up from someone. They were in the middle of the second dance, and some musicians who recognized me there suggested that I go up to sing. I said I didn’t feel comfortable because I didn’t know the people, and I didn’t want to impose, but somehow a crowd surrounded me and encouraged me, and so I started to sing Lipa’s song “Shtei Off” — until the baal simchah approached and stopped me by taking away the mic. “Who invited you to get on the mic?!” he demanded.
I started to apologize. People were staring, the room went quiet, and I wanted the ground to swallow me. Suddenly, there was a voice from the back of the room. “Do you know who that boy is? He’s going to be a big star one day!” I looked over, and Lipa Schmeltzer had just walked in and sized up the situation. Lipa came over to me and spent half an hour walking around the room with me, talking to me and telling anyone who came up to him that he was busy at the moment, really making me seem important and calming me down. It was incredible how he turned that nightmare around, and I’m forever grateful to him for that.
When you start out in any field, the people who take a chance on you, the people who hire you before it’s in fashion to hire you, those people are so kind (and smart). The Rambam says to look at the world as a perfectly-balanced scale, which your single action could tip. I like to tell people to view others as a balanced scale, or as being on the edge of a fence. Your kind word could be the last straw needed to get them going in the right direction. Many famous singers contemplated giving up at some point in their life, but I’m sure a kind word from a friend made all the difference.
A friend of mine from yeshivah got married in Milwaukee, and he pushed me to come and sing at his wedding. I was very nervous, as it was my first wedding gig, but apparently it was a success. I’d spent my summers as a counselor in Tzehlim, and my friends from there were next, inviting me to sing at their weddings. I owe them big time, because they believed in me before I believed in myself.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 874)
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