Tuned up to Tishrei


he first album I did with Mordechai ben David was V’chol Ma’aminim — Songs of Yamim Nora’im, back in 1978. The new releases back then weren’t theme-oriented, so what made us decide to do an album with an Aseres Yemei Teshuvah refrain?
Growing up on Manhattan’s West Side, I had the privilege to daven in Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim, where the baalei tefillah were two brothers named Reb Moshe and Reb Shimon Schreiber. They were able to infuse a special spirit in their tefillos, and had the ability to inspire the entire community. They told me that they learned their nusach from Rabbi Manis Mandel ztz”l, the master menachech who put so many of the Yom Tov tefillos to heartfelt niggunim — songs like “B’Rosh Hashanah,” “Hayom Haras Olam,” “Ein Kitzvah,” and others, and I always imagined how beautiful it would be to have MBD sing these songs on an album.
And so that’s what we did. We then added a few of the more mainstream songs — such as “V’chol Ma’aminim,” originally composed by Reb Shlomo Carlebach to “Tov Lehodos,” and “Adir Adireinu,” composed by Reb Shlomo Pretter — which became the number one song in Israel for 37 weeks straight. After that, we searched for an English and a Yiddish song, as was the style on the new releases. We lucked out with Dina Storch’s song, “The Bird of Hope.” Over the years, many musicians have told me that Suki’s arrangement for that song was in a class of its own. My brother’s father-in-law, Rabbi Yosel Friedenson a”h, suggested the classic “Habeit Mishamayim” for the Yiddish song (Habeit mishamayim ure’ei/Kuk arop fun Himmel un zei/Ki hayinu lelaag vakeles bagoyim/Mir zenen doch vi a gelechter bai zei…). The song had been written as a Yiddish ballad during the war by a Bobover chassid named Yechezkel Shraga Rottenberg Hy”d, and Rabbi Friedenson told us that many neshamos sang that song on the way to the gas chambers.
I’ll never forget the night Mordechai was recording “Habeit” in the studio and his father, Chazzan Dovid Werdyger, came to hear him sing. The studio had a couch, and during a break, Reb Dovid dozed off. A few moments later, one of the speakers in the studio made a loud noise, which roused him from his short slumber. He immediately dived onto the ground and started to shout in Yiddish, “They’re shooting! They’re shooting!” Seconds later, he realized where he was, and got up and acted as though nothing had happened. None of us in the studio said a word. But we all knew that the song had awakened some terrible memories from his past.
On a much lighter note, we wanted to have a boys’ choir sing on the album. Suki and I flew to Montreal on Chol Hamoed Pesach and we arranged to go to the studio with a group of boys whom we knew from Camp Agudah of Toronto. With no rehearsal, we knocked off the choir part of the album in less than three hours. Standing outside that Montreal studio, Suki said, “How about we call them the Montreal Yeshivah Boys?” I said, “Great idea!” And so, the Montreal Yeshivah Boys choir was formed on Chol Hamoed Pesach, 1978, and promptly dismantled three hours later.
I remember when I heard MBD sing that first song in the studio — “V’chol Ma’aminim” — I said to myself that I had the greatest job in the world. In my books, this was the furthest thing from actual work.
Best wishes to everyone for a sweet year filled with brachah and shalom, a year in which we’re always hearing the music.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 726)

V'chol Ma'aminim

Return of The Rabbis’ Sons

StanDING! Ovation

Veteran producer Dovid Nachman Golding hosts a walk down musical memory lane

I’ve been involved with many concerts over the years but one in particular stands out. It was a reunion of nostalgia and talent — one of those events everyone wants to be part of.

Growing up The Rabbis’ Sons was a household name. They were famous not only for their great songs and albums but also for their concerts — especially memorable was their performance in New York City’s Central Park for the Salute to Israel festival a few weeks after the 1967 Six-Day War. Over 50 000 people were in attendance to hear the group made up of “rabbis’ sons” Rabbi Baruch (Burry) Chait Rabbi Label Sharfman Itzy Weinberger and Michael Zheutlin z”l.

One day in 1991 I was approached by Shorashim an organization providing Jewish education for Russian children living in America. Could we organize a Rabbis’ Sons reunion? Well this was quite a dilemma. The four members of The Rabbis’ Sons lived at opposite ends of the world each one of them led very busy lives and their professional musical years were pretty much behind them. How could I convince them to come together after not having performed as a group for two decades? (Baruch Chait later formed Kol Salonika and Label Sharfman together with Abie Rotenberg formed D’veykus but The Rabbi’s Sons — with their classic “Rabos Machshavos ” “Tov Lehodos ” and “Mi Ha’ish” — was a long-ago memory.) This was not going to be a simple feat — so I called each one individually each agreed to join if they all would perform together. Baruch Hashem we were on our way!

The concert sold out Carnegie Hall in just two weeks; but meanwhile Burry (Rabbi Chait) asked me for one favor — could I find him an amazing acoustic guitar player who also happens to play banjo and dobro an electric steel guitar that you play on your lap the instrument used in the famous introduction for their song “Horachaman”? The Rabbis’ Sons always played with four guitars and a bass: In the original group Burry and Michael each played acoustic guitar and Label Sharfman and Itzy Weinberger did vocals and then they had another steel guitar and bass backup. So now I needed another two guitars. I called up my good friend Steve Bill an awesome guitar player and asked him if he was available to perform at the concert. He said “For sure!” and then I asked him if he knew of a great guitarist who also played the dobro. He told me that there was a guy Eric Weisberg who was the king of all these instruments but he lived near Albany and charged $10 000 a show — which was $9 600 over my budget. But you never know…

“Hi Mr. Weisberg my name is Ding and I’m a friend of Steve Bill and I’m producing a concert in Carnegie Hall next month. I was told that you’re the king — would you be available?”

“What’s the name of the group performing?” I told him it was The Rabbis’ Sons. He asked if they were really rabbis’ sons. I said “Every single one of them. Not only that but two of them are rabbis themselves.”

“Well I could really use some Judaism under my belt so count me in ” he replied. He asked if the money went to charity and I answered yes.

“In that case Ding just pay me my travel expenses.”

And so the reunion finally happened. The strong emotions and anticipation in the audience were palpable. Instead of the normal screaming that usually takes place prior to the opening of a concert that night you could actually hear the proverbial pin drop.

The group sang related stories told jokes and bonded with the audience. Michael did his amazing harmonies and guitar playing. Reb Label enthralled everyone with his sweet voice and tambourine Itzy’s rich baritone vocals and his sense of humor kept them begging for more. And Reb Baruch’s compositions along with his guitar harmonica and his knack for speaking right to the heart made this night one that I for one will never ever forget.

As I walked out to the street an hour after the show there were over two hundred people standing beneath the Carnegie Hall marquis singing the old Rabbis’ Sons classics. Some things get better with age. (Originally featured in Mishpacha Issue 684)


Rabos Machashavos
The Rabbis Sons

Someday We’ll Change the Words Again

Sometimes a hit song or a great concert idea just falls into your lap. Sometimes it takes months to get a song right. The song “Someday We Will All Be Together” was one of those songs that took a while but as we all know it became one of the favorite classic songs in Jewish music. The song was written by Dina Storch (Kaluszyner at that time). She submitted it to JEP as they were in the midst of recording their fourth album. My brother Rabbi Yosef Chaim Golding along with Moshe Hauben who were the JEP record producers fell in love with the song immediately. They recorded the song using arrangements by Yisroel Lamm with the intention that it be sung by the JEP choir with a child soloist.

At that time Suki and I were recording the V’chol Ma’aminim album with Mordechai Ben David. My brother asked me if I thought MBD would agree to sing the song for JEP. I told him he never sings on other people’s albums but in this case it being such a great song and the profits going to tzedakah it was worth a try to ask him. So my brother approached MBD and played him the song. Mordechai was blown away. There was one problem though. The music had originally been recorded in a child’s key. I told my brother not to worry — we would begin recording in two days and we’d redo the song in MBD’s key.

When Yisroel Lamm rearranged the song he added the intro that is now probably the most famous intro today. Suki played it on his synthesizer. It sounded awesome. Two days later I was in the studio when MBD came to sing “Someday.” Now you must understand that the original words to the second high part are: “Avraham Avinu will be there to greet us Yitzchak will stand by and smile Moshe Rabbeinu will lead us once again…”

When MBD came to those words he stopped and said “What about Yaakov?” Someone in the studio said no big deal it’s okay. But MBD said “It is a big deal. Give me two minutes.”

He sat down at the piano with a pen and paper and jotted something down. About three minutes later he smiled and said “I got it.”

“What is it?” my brother asked him.

MBD replied “Push the record button and listen.” And so the lyrics became Avraham and Yitzchak will be there to greet us Yaakov and his sons will stand by and smile…” And so that’s how the song we all know and love became the song we all know and love.

The song is over 30 years old and yet it’s still a standard. People often ask me “What is it about the song that makes it so great and we never get tired of it? There are so many songs about Mashiach — why does this specific one seem to resonate with so many people?” I think the answer is that everyone we know goes through hardships at one time or another. We’ve all lost friends and relatives we loved… and the promise that someday we will all be together comforts us on a daily basis.

About ten years later MBD bumped into my brother and remarked how “Someday” is the number one requested song of his entire career. My brother responded “I guess that’s the zechus you get for doing that song without pay and with your whole heart.”

MBD answered “Believe me Hashem paid me back many times over….” We pray for a time with the coming of Mashiach when we’ll have to change the lyrics again.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Issue 681)


Mordechai Ben David