T he elegant Manhattan restaurant doesn’t offer rolls or bread on the table but Yossi Rubin asks for them just the same. After he returns from washing he apologizes.
It’s been several years since he produced the Amen V’amen album using a collection of songs to celebrate Bircas Hamazon. “But working on that connecting with the words and hearing how the various singers interpreted them gave me a new appreciation for bentshing. I try to wash whenever I can.”
Like so many others Yossi’s musical journey began during bein hasedorim in yeshivah. Growing up in Bnei Brak he learned in the Bobover yeshivah which happened to be located next door to the studio of Reb Chaim Banet the famed Seret-Vizhnitzer composer. “I was fascinated by the comings and goings and during lunch break I would hang out by the door trying to get a glimpse inside.”
A resourceful fellow Rubin eventually talked his way in and learned the first rule of belonging: Make yourself indispensable. “I helped out offering to do anything until they let me come in whenever I wanted. I was just a kid but I got to learn a lot about the industry from watching from listening to the conversations.”
Soon enough the bochurim in yeshivah were getting engaged and Yossi Rubin became the know-it-all they turned do for advice about which band or singer to use. Realizing that he was becoming an informal agent Rubin saw opportunity.
“The yeshivah had a keren chassanim a fund to help out needy talmidim for their weddings so I struck a deal with the singers and musicians I thought were good. ‘Look I’ll get you the job but you need to give a donation to the fund.’ They were happy to agree.”
The talented young Israeli married a girl from America — but he found himself at home there as well. “We are eineklach of the Ropshitzer Rebbe but when I got married I was exposed to many new dynasties.” Yossi’s father-in-law Rabbi Dr. Benzion Twerski isn’t just a prominent psychologist but also a prolific composer scion of a family of composers.
In kollel Yossi met a gifted young man named Yumi Lowy. The singer had a dream of releasing his own album but he didn’t know how. “Leave it to me” Rubin said throwing himself into this new project. “I had great connections in the Israeli music arena so we did it that way. Now everyone does it. It’s gratifying to think that I introduced someone like Yoeli Dickman to America.”
The album was a success. A new producer had arrived on the scene.
Yossi produced an album for Shloimy Daskal and after he produced a mammoth musical event for a Dirshu siyum private clients lined up asking him to arrange the music for their weddings.
“I didn’t enjoy that too much. It was very stressful — I much prefer albums. One of the things I learned — and I always tell this to new singers — is not to rush. You have a guy doing his first album he’s excited and he wants it out already and people are stopping him and saying ‘Nu when’s it coming?’ He wants to get it out before Purim or Succos or whatever — it’s just a trap. Don’t rush. Take your time and make it perfect.”
When Rubin left kollel to launch his formal career in real estate music came along. “It’s more than a hobby. It’s like an open valve that you can’t just shut off.”
Through Yumi Lowy Rubin met with the members of the Shira choir and together they collaborated on the production of Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz’s maiden release “El Hanaar Hazeh Hispallalti.”
When it came time to produce Rechnitz’s full album Rubin faced an exciting challenge. “He had these great songs and the best singers but we had to figure out which voice would go best with which beat which tune. We had to find the right arrangers and arrangements. I remember when Naftali Schnitzler wrote the opening for ‘Eitz Chaim Hee ’ you know ‘Bum bum bum ’” — people at the nearby tables are looking at us now — “so not everyone agreed right away. It took convincing. Now it’s part of the song.”
Rubin introduced Motty Steinmetz around as well. “We took him to Chof Alef Kislev in Satmar to weddings. The duet he did with Mordechai ben David on Shlomo Yehuda’s “V’seioreiv” is hauntingly beautiful like their voices are made for each other for that song.”
He reveals an industry secret. “How do you find perfect sound? You can’t ask arrangers or singers because professionals always have an opinion which is itself kind of a negiyus.
They’re never really impartial. The most effective gauge I’ve ever found was to call some random person into my car and say ‘Listen do you like? Why not? Why yes?”
There’s another reason that Yossi Rubin who works long hard hours won’t let go of this side job. As a child he would occasionally accompany his father to Nahariya to Rav David Abuchatzeira. “My older brother has a beautiful voice and Baba David would often ask him to sing. Once maybe I was eight or nine years old I wrote a kvittel of my own. I also wanted to sing. Rav David smiled and said “For sure you’ll be very successful in music.”
And so Yossi Rubin can’t really run away. Real estate might be his occupation but music is his destiny.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 620)
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