Second Soul was able to fill an unexpected need — having come out in time for shul lockdowns
After having served as chazzan at Chabad of Midtown Manhattan for six years, SHLOMIE RABIN was happy that his recently released album of Friday-night and Shabbos-day davening, Second Soul, was able to fill an unexpected need — having come out in time for shul lockdowns. The freelance chazzan, dedicated to preserving the authentic melodies and nuances of classic niggunim, is currently working on an album of niggunim of the Chabad rebbes. And to meet the needs of the public in a constantly changing industry, he created JPlacing talent agency, which helps clients navigate the abundance of Jewish talent out there for their events, making it easy for clients looking to hire a chazzan, entertainment, or inspirational talent, and facilitates new opportunities for Jewish music artists.
A SONG THAT GIVES ME CHIZUK IN DIFFICULT SITUATIONS
Shwekey’s “I Can Be.” I was really moved by it when I first heard it. I found it nice to be reminded that we can be anything even if we feel or think we can’t. Just gotta take the first step. When I left my salaried employment to start JPlacing, I questioned whether I could be someone whom I hadn’t yet been — and I found I could.
MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE JEWISH ALBUM
Yitzchak Meir Helfgot’s CD Avot. I love the songs and the way he presented them. I listened to that CD until I knew every nuance by heart. As a chazzan, I’ve tried to see if I could hit those notes and use those melodies, and when I tutor new baalei tefillah, I share some of these gems, such as the way Helfgot ends “Magen Avraham” and “Mechayei Hameisim.” I’m currently tutoring someone who never learned how to daven for the amud, but his father’s yahrtzeit falls on Shabbos this year, so that’s giving him a good reason to have to learn.
A SONG THAT REMINDS ME OF MY GRANDPARENTS
“Eilecha” by Carlebach. My grandfather Moshe Polter a”h was a great chazzan, and my grandmother Kayla Polter — may she have many more healthy years — loves music and this song in particular. We’d sing it around the Shabbos table and at family get-togethers.
A SONG THAT TAKES ME BACK TO MY OWN YESHIVAH DAYS
Avraham Fried’s Yankel Yankel album was out at around the time I was learning in yeshivah in Toronto, and I loved the songs and the vibe on the album. The last track is the Bircas Kohanim, which is sung in Chabad on Yom Tov, and he does it so well. (I guess it helps to be a great singer as well as a Kohein.)
A SONG ONCE HEARD, NEVER FORGOTTEN
“G-d Bless America.” A friend of mine once asked a rav if we can say G-d, or whether that would be saying Hashem’s name in vain. The rav said that if we sing it as a prayer and desire that Hashem bless America, it’s fine. I’ve sung this song at both Jewish and non-Jewish events, including a street naming and a Brooklyn judge’s swearing-in ceremony.
A SONG THAT TAKES ME BACK TO MY CHILDHOOD
Growing up in Detroit, I went to Yeshiva Beth Yehudah, where the older grades got to take part in a school choir that performed at the annual fundraising dinner. (That’s a pretty major event, led by board president Gary Torgow, and this year it was made famous with the digital streaming that everyone had access to). One song that stands out is the famous “Ani Maamin” that choir leader Rocky Stewart taught us, the one released by the Pirchei Choir in 1968.
AN INSTRUMENT I WISH I PLAYED
Piano. Like most things that are worthwhile, it takes commitment and lots of practice, so I’m not planning on learning it, but I’d love to just have the gift.
A SONG THAT MADE ME WANT TO GO LOOK UP A PASUK
Shlomo Rechnitz’s beautiful song from the haftarah of Rosh Hashanah, where Chanah says about her son Shmuel, “El hana’ar hazeh hispallalti.”
A MUSICAL ARTIST WITH WHOM I REALLY CONNECT
Shlomo Simcha. I love his voice, which to me is that sweet spot between chazzan and singer. There is so much warmth in his singing, and having met him in person, I know it comes from his heart.
A SONG I ORIGINALLY COULDN’T CONNECT TO, BUT LATER FOUND THAT IT GREW ON ME
“Yizkereim,” sung by Shwekey (on L’sheim Shamayim). At first it was too intense for me, but now I too sing it for those words, which are said after the Yizkor service, and it really lends to the emotions that people are feeling.
WORDS THAT GET ME EVERY TIME, NO MATTER THE TUNE
The “Ribbono shel Olam” from the tefillah before taking out the sefer Torah on the Shalosh Regalim.
MY FAVORITE SONG FOR A LONG FRIDAY NIGHT
I enjoy singing long songs such as “Aderaba,” “Tanya,” or “Shtar Tenoim” by Avraham Fried, or “Kesser” by Shlomo Simcha. These are classics, but there isn’t really a place for them in a regular shul context. I also love going through the different “Mimkomcha” variants, from MBD, then Shlomo Simcha, and of course Carlebach.
MY FAVORITE ENGLISH SONG
Abie Rotenberg’s “There’s a Small Piece of Heaven in Everyone’s Heart,” which was sung by MBD and Avraham Fried at HASC III. It reminds us that as the Jewish People, we are connected not by our external looks or possessions, but by the neshamah that we all have, which is a “piece of Heaven” and is limitless.
A SONG THAT’S TOO COMPLICATED FOR ME TO SING, BUT I LOVE HEARING ANYWAY
Some of the Yishai Ribo songs. I feel like I need an accompanying lyrics book to memorize them and really get the song down. You can’t just bluff those words.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 847)