Five top international badchanim share their experiences and perspectives from the very heart of the Jewish wedding
Reb Motti Illowitz
Based in Williamsburg
Badchan for 10 years
MY BIGGEST CHALLENGE ON THE JOB
The challenge is to avoid making even the slightest mistake. You have to be all there, extremely focused on getting it right. If you call someone Yidi instead of Yitzi, that’s already a mistake.
MY MOST UNUSUAL REQUEST
Someone hired me and paid me more than my regular price to do an entire mitzvah tantz in 20 minutes. The crowd didn’t believe it would actually happen, but I did as he asked — the two mechutanim and chassan and kallah danced within 20 minutes. Other times, we have had an entire mitzvah tantz completed in 45 minutes or an hour.
Once, someone called to hire me for a mitzvah tantz, but I was already booked. The date was on a Sunday, and the mechutan eventually decided to push the entire wedding forward by two hours, so that the mitzvah tantz would start at around 9:45. I told him that I would have to leave by 11:45 in order to get to the other hall at 12:00, and that was exactly what happened. Two in one night!
MY MOST EMOTIONAL MITZVAH TANTZ
I would say my sister’s wedding, when I sang about my own parents.
MY ADVICE TO NEW BADCHANIM
You have to enjoy the work, and you have to enjoy being around people — if you don’t, you’re not made for this job.
Second, take everything seriously. If the family tells you that the grandmother bakes her challos super-fresh for Shabbos, it may sound trivial to you, but it’s meaningful to them, it’s in their blood. You need to take it seriously, and you need to mention it. I remember one mechutan asked for the musician to play a certain slow song while he danced with the kallah. It sounded a little interesting, but of course we did. Later he told me that the kallah had loved to sing this song as a little girl. It brought back special memories for the two of them.
MY ADVICE TO MECHUTANIM
I don’t give them advice. I just listen to their advice.
ANOTHER BADCHAN I ENJOY LISTENING TO
I love grammen, so I can listen to any badchan.
One night I arrived in the Palace Hall, and I received a call from the mechutan asking where I am, because they’re all waiting. I said that I was in the hall, but he claimed that he couldn’t see me. Basically, when he booked me he said Palace, but he didn’t say Eden Palace.
Another time, I had booked a flight to a wedding in Canada. The flight was scheduled for the morning, but it got delayed ten times, until it was already 6 p.m., and we had no idea when the flight would actually take off. That was the last chance to drive there and arrive on time, so the mechutan sent a driver to drive me out to Canada, and they waited until we arrived, at 1 a.m.
HOW I BADCHENED FOR THE REBBE
I’ve badchened for the Rebbes of Skulen, Spinka, Bobov, and Satmar. It is beautiful but more challenging. It’s an enormous crowd, which means more pressure on the badchan, and the grammen is usually longer, replete with details of the many great zeides and references to their divrei Torah. In addition, the gabbaim and chassidim usually get in touch with lists of topics and references which should be included. If a rebbe is present at a mitzvah tantz, he usually dances first, because all the chassidim are there waiting.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 806)
Oops! We could not locate your form.