The Jewish Star Speaks With Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky About The Concert Ban

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thejewishstar.jpgProducer Sheya Mendlowitz was hoping Tuesday afternoon to get the final go-ahead to resurrect his “Big Event” concert, scheduled for March 9 at Madison Square Garden but, at the last minute, talks fell apart and the concert was canceled. 

The final details of the agreement were being hammered out Tuesday afternoon. Minutes before The Jewish Star went to press Mendlowitz said it was over.

A deal would have capped a week of talks between Mendlowitz and many of the 33 rabbonim who, last week, issued a kol korei – as a rabbinical pronouncement is known in the Charedi world – to prevent popular Chassidic singer Lipa Schmelzer from performing.

Critics apparently disapprove of his humorous on-stage antics and the non-Jewish musical influences incorporated in his act. One Brooklyn man, Asher Friedman, who also heads the tuition assistance organization Nechomas Yisroel, apparently set out to shut Schmelzer down. He convinced nearly three dozen rabbonim, including some of America’s most revered contemporary Charedi leaders, that Schmelzer should be reined in.

In a statement, Schmelzer said he has decided to discontinue performing any music of non-Jewish origin.

In keeping Schmelzer off the stage, Friedman appeared  to have met his primary goal.

On Monday someone with direct knowledge of the situation described Friedman, who is not a rabbi, as “a kanoi [zealot] and a loose cannon” who aligned himself with [others] who have an ax to grind “with Lipa and the Jewish music industry.”

Contacted by The Jewish Star for comment, Friedman said he would first have to consult his Da’as Torah. A short time later he called back to say, “The gedolei yisroel don’t want that issue [to be discussed] on the radio and in newspapers. It doesn’t belong for the public to decide on issues that belong for Da’as Torah.”

He refused to disclose the names of rabbonim he consulted.

“When we went out with the kol korei, every rosh yeshiva was tortured and made crazy — people were threatening them,” Friedman claimed. Pressed for specifics about his claim of threats, he maintained that “it would be a chilul Hashem to write about it.”

“Everything a person does has to be through Da’as Torah. Everything I do, I make sure to have Da’as Torah backing me,” he claimed.

It seemed clear that Friedman risked embarrassment to the rabbonim he claims to revere, as the text of the ban was identical to that of a ban enacted in Israel last year, which succeeded in shutting down a joint performance of Mordechai Ben David and Avrohom Fried. It included references to Israel and called for a complete end to Jewish music concerts. That made it unclear if the document was intended to apply only to the Madison Square Garden event, or if American Charedi rabbonim intended to follow the lead of Israeli colleagues and enact a sweeping prohibition against Jewish music.

In an interview with The Jewish Star, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky, a rosh yeshiva in Philadelphia who signed the ban, said, “It is very general, you’re right, but I don’t think it will refer to all concerts. You have to have an outlet for kids.”

Rabbi Kamenetzky confirmed that he had spoken to Friedman and said that he had understood that the request for the ban originally came “from rabbis in Eretz Yisroel. We didn’t want to differ with them. It was expressed that certain performers…upset some people.”

The Rosh Yeshiva was asked whether anybody had confirmed the origin of the request.

“It seems that it was a request from mouth to ear and everyone went along with them,” he responded. “What they said was that it was a request from Rav Elyashiv and Rav Steinman. I didn’t confirm that.”

Asked if it is unusual for distinguished rabbonim to sign a kol korei on the say-so of one person, Rabbi Kamenetzky was candid: “Usually we meet together. This time, with time pressing, we did not get together. And maybe it was not the right thing.”

The concert was supposed to  have been a benefit for Simchat Tzion, a group that makes weddings for orphaned brides and grooms in Israel.

Rabbi Avi Shafran, a spokesman for Agudath Israel of America, said he couldn’t explain why the text of the ban would have been released without removing references to last year’s concert ban in Israel, or why rabbonim would have risked jeopardizing their reputations by signing a document not carefully vetted for inaccuracies.

A second performer, Shloime Gertner, was said to have dropped out immediately, according to Hamodia, a Charedi paper that announced the ban. News of his withdrawal proved premature. As of Monday he was still in, although his name was removed from the concert web  site on Monday night.

“There’s definitely a mystery here”, said Shafran. “It wouldn’t make sense for the rabbonim to say that somebody had pulled out if they are just setting themselves up to be disproved.”

Late Tuesday afternoon Yeshiva World News (www.theyeshivaworld.com) reported that Schmelzer has also canceled a concert scheduled for London in April.

Schmelzer, who lives in the Monsey, N.Y., area, was well received as the featured performer at a benefit performance in Hewlett Bay Park last year.


51 COMMENTS

  1. It’s important to note that R’ Shmuel does not say that maybe it wasn’t right to sign the ban, he says maybe it wasn’t right that they didn’t meet beforehand.

  2. I hope people are beginning to realize that this “Ban” is not as clean as it has been made out to be. We are now hearing about the “agendas” and “axes to grind” that we knew would be exposed in due time. How can one person or even a group of people with personal agendas cause embarrasment to people, major financial losses and the likes of which are a bizayon to any thinking person? Whether Lipa had to be reined in is one issue. Now we possibly have an even more vital issue. How does a G-d fearing jew go about something like this. Somehow I don’t think railroading Rabbanim, doctoring Kol Korehs & embarrasing people sounds like the way to go. We as yidden with YASHRUS should be quite down about the WAY this was handled. What a royal mess. Gevald..

  3. The rabbis shouldn’t be banning Jewish music at concerts where people have the choice of attending or not. They should be banning Jewish music at weddings where a captive audience gets their eardrums blasted out by musical sadists!

  4. Frankly, to my memory all this narishkayt has started since Rav Shlomo Zalmon was nifter.

    It’s clear from what Rav Shmuel is saying is that it’s political, they did very little research on their own and they are being yes men to Israel.

    Is this what it’s coming to?

  5. It is also noteworthy to note what Rav Kaminetsky shlita stated “but I don’t think it will refer to all concerts. You have to have an outlet for kids.”

  6. Im sure as more details come out there will be more backtracking and more “your probably rights”. They should ban bans unless all parties are notified and can present there side of the story.

  7. I heard that R’ Shmuel NEVER signed on anything!! It was a telephone converstion and the R”Y never consented to have his name posted on a poster. I imagine the same is for [at least the majority of] the other Rabbonim. As the R”Y complained to a bachur “people are making mud out of my name”. Stop with this nonsense!

  8. They are too quick to bann things. Then they come out looking weak when they cannot stick to it. We saw this about the wedding enactments as well.

  9. We have now entered the generation of KOL KORIAH, the excitement is mounting waiting for the next one. They will lose their value very soon, and the important actions and issues that we as klal yisroel need to attend to, will fall to the wayside.

  10. You can’t rely on this as a definitive source for what Reb Shmuel did or didn’t say.

    Oh, but some poster that anyone could have put out, that’s authoritative.

  11. I agree with #8 and #12 above that you gotta take an article in The Jewish Star with a grain of salt and not assume they are quoting the Rosh Yeshiva Shlita correctly and not misquoting him or taking his words out of context.

    Its funny how some people assume that the words of our gedolim are not to be taken seriously and that someone just had an axe to grind but then they go on to believe a newspaper as if it were Torah miSinai.

    What axe would The Jewish Star have to grind? Well I looked at their current issue which is posted on their website and firstly, right next to the article quoted above about the ban, there is a glowing article about the Blue frings, a “Jewish” rock band. So non-jewish music seems to be completely kosher to them.

    Then I looked at page 9 and found an article which is anti the concept of da’as torah – and here is a quote:

    “Relying on others to dictate how we should live our Jewish lives is an insult to G-d’s gift to us, the capacity of our own intellect. Reading should be done, conversations should be had, but ultimately every decision, whether it be made in consultation with a friend or a rabbi, should be an informed one rather than a ‘blindly following what I was told’ decision”.

    Yeah, so blindly following a ban by our gedolim – which is against a certain type of unjewish music no less – does not seem to fit in with their world view.

    I don’t know if the Rosh Yeshiva’s signature was placed there without his permission or not, as claimed by a_sound_voice (#9). However I can assure you that IF he signed it, he did not do it without thinking it through as insinuated in the article above. He’s smarter than all the chachomim commenting here (myself included obviously), and you can’t pull the wool over his eyes.

  12. This article is a clasic example of FALSE INFORMATION. Anyone that knows a little about what went on knows that Reb Shmuel NEVER said most of the above mentioned statements. This ban was a ban against concerts. period.

    Lipa Shmeltser’s concert was the perfect karbon for such a ban. He is the face of where jewish music and concerts are heading. All of the Gedolim that have signed the ban were coming out against Concerts in general. Its clear as day, black on white, from the text of the ban. Don,t believe otherwise, even if it comes from well informed secular or even non secular papers. Maybe the editors of these newspapers can’t read hebrew to know that the text of the ban that the rabonim signed contradicts what they print. And if you can’t read hebrew, why not call any one of the rabonim and ask them if they signed a letter against ALL concerts. See what they say.

    Yes I know it is sometimes hard to look the facts in the face,(imagine life without jewish cancerts!). But please don’t change the facts.

  13. pashute yid that is a wonderful nusach , sensitive and respectful but the bottom line is the gedolim have siyata d’shmaya to pick what penetrates.

  14. Charlie Brown:

    Sorry, but Lucy just yanked away your football again.

    Are you seriously suggesting that the Star fabricating its quotes from R’ Shmuel, thus leaving themselves open to legal action? Please. The reason people are quicker to believe newspapers than anonymous poster hangers is that newspapers are accountable and face sanctions if they knowingly print lies. Anonymous poster hangers like Mr. Freidman are not accountable to anyone. I think you can bank on the fact that the interview with R’ Shmuel did indeed take place.

  15. “Maybe the editors of these newspapers can’t read hebrew to know that the text of the ban that the rabonim signed “

    Haimi — what do you mean by “these newspapers”?

  16. Why isn’t everyone giving Sheya Mendlowitz all the credit? He spent months on this concert, Lipa and Shloimy were hired by him. He’s the one who is responsible to pay all the bills… He did all the work for the tzedakah, Simchat Tzion, without involving them at all. All the publicity was because he took on himself to sell all the tickets, unlike other concerts on behalf of a mosed, where they must sell a huge chunk of the tickets. For him to back out after all his work, and the whole financial responsibility is truly amazing. He said he was waiting to hear advice from the gedolim on how to proceed. Unfortunately he wasn’t contacted by anyone until all this effort and a huge investment was made, and I know that he did consult with daas torah before he made the concert. They really worked hard that the concert should have as much of a Yiddishe taam as possible (remember that Lipa made kabalos about what type of music he will be singing from now on and that was way before the kol kore came out)

    and by the way, #17, you don’t know what you’re talking about …

  17. Bevent, you seem to know what you’re talking about. Tell me, how can Lipa just back out of the concert? Didn’t he sign a contract? Or was it all done “heimish?”

    I feel for Sheya. They really sandbagged him on this one.

  18. Haimi Himelstien:

    “Its clear as day, black on white, from the text of the ban” ??????

    the one thing that is clear is that the rabonim did not write the text now. The letter said ‘kahn u’bartzos habris’, it was just copied from a different letter, so don’t bring rayos from the text

    And why does is say on the bottom of the letter that Shloimy Gertner already backed out (implying that the askani spoke to them and Gertner complied, but Lipa won’t listen) if in fact Gertner was never even contacted, and didn’t pull out until 2 days ago, as reported on YWN.

  19. #

    Read where this article was taken from, take it with a grain of salt…

    Comment by thinkinghelps — February 27, 2008 @ 12:40 pm

    you couldnt be more right !!!

  20. (#19),
    Sorry Lucy but this time I’m finally getting to kick that ball.

    Do you seriously believe that every quote in every newspaper is accurate and not taken out of context?????? A newspaper can get sued for libel, not for misquoting someone.

    I personally heard from Reb Shmuel about twenty years ago about how a frum newspaper once had a photo of him which was taken at a local event in Philadelphia. However the caption falsely claimed that the pic was taken at a different questionable event, thus making it seem as though he supported that cause, which he absolutely did not. These things happen all the time unfortunately.

    As for your comments about the reliability of anonymous poster hangers, I agree with you completely and as I mentioned in my previous post I have no idea whether they forged his signature or not. I was only trying to say that IF he signed it, he did so after much thought and deliberation and not because someone with an axe to grind talked him into it.

  21. #23, I think you meant to say the rabonim dont know they are talking about. maybe you should actualy READ the ban before you fabricate something that contadicts what is clear as day FACT.

    Please hashem give us all koach to live life with out concerts. (I say this everyday in shmona esrei).

  22. “CHUTZPAH YASGEH!”–That is what the Talmud tells us about our generation, the generation before Moshiach.

    Lipa was a MeChuTzaf to sing this wild rocky music at our holy weddings, and many of the posters above are MeChuTzofim for implying that Rav Shmuel–an extraordinary sharp and responsible person–authorized the use of his name without thinking the issue through thoroughly.

    I don’t know if the newspaper quotes are perfectly accurate, but, even if they are, what’s the problem? So, Rav Shmuel didn’t have the meeting.

    Do you think he hasn’t discussed this issue many times before with the other Roshei Yeshiva? Do you think the roshei Yeshiva don’t live in this world?–They don’t go to weddings?

    They have probably been thinking about doing something about this issue for a long time, and, when they were finally asked to go public, they were more than willing.

    I f we had more Derech Eretz, we would gladly put aside our prejudices in favor of the Daas Torah!

  23. Come on… people involved admitted that a mistake may have been made in looking into it all this.

    Maybe you should call the RY and tell them that’s not true and not to say such things about themselves, as they obviously would never let such a thing happen.

    Personally, my respect increased through the roof when I saw someone admitting to a possible mistake.

  24. the bottom line is the gedolim have siyata d’shmaya to pick what penetrates.
    Except they did not sit together and decide on the nusach, it is the popular Israeli concert ban lingo, very unlike and unpenetrating to the American Kehilla.

  25. Charlie, nu, so maybe you connected with a tiny corner of the football. Enough to make it spin a couple of times as it bounces away.

    The question is not whether every word in the quote is accurate (although I believe it is; it has that “R’ Shmuel” sound). Point is, R’ Shmuel certainly was interviewed, and almost certainly said what he is quoted as saying.

  26. Do you think he hasn’t discussed this issue many times before with the other Roshei Yeshiva?

    I am certain R’ Shmuel never gave a moment’s thought to this matter till this nudnik called and harassed him to sign on his pet peeve project. Same goes for the other signers too. That’s unfortunately the way it works with kol korehs.

  27. #25, What diff. does it make if they copied a nusach from E.Y. . The fact is that they signed a text thats states as clear as day that they are against concerts, PERIOD. Not against Lipa. Not against MBD. Not against Michal Jackson. Against COCERTS in general and ALL the people that sing at them.

    Yes people its a hard pill to swallow. As specialy since so many people feel so strongly about how important it is that we MUST have concerts. It is after all one of the cornerstones of they’re yidishkite.

  28. the interview does not mention that R’ Shmuel knew that the mossed and Sheya mendlowitz stand to lose $250,000 for cancelling the event. I doubt the rabble rousers really care about that. this is not the first time a kol korah came out that rabbonim signed without investigating the other side.

  29. If everyone doubts the statements about R’ Shmuel why not call and ask him directly. Why waste your time with conjecture and casting doubt on a legitimate newspaper?

  30. ממש א חוצפה אז זיי האבן געשרובען ר’ ליפא’ס נאמען אויף די קול קורא וואס די רבנים האבן נישט געחתמעט, וויפיל צער און עגמת נפש איז ארויסגעקומען פון דעם, וויפיל טויזענטער דאללערען איז פארלוירען געגאנגען פון דעם!

  31. #29- you are absolutely right! (on the R’ Shmuel part; I don’t know about Lipa- I think he truly was trying to be misameach people, and maybe he had poor taste, I don’t think he’s a mechutzef)
    People like #37 are mechtzafim, who don’t realize that when they accuse the R”Y shlit”a for not “thinking it through,” they don’t realize they are talking about a person who has more thinking going on in his pinky when he’s asleep, then they do on their best day! I just hope nothing chas ve’shalom befalls these people. Someone like R’ Shmuel isn’t just a “rabbi,” and I wouldn’t want to have the wrath of shomayim upon anyone who slighted a tzaadik yesoid oilom…

  32. #42 don’t call be a mechutzif for things I didn’t say. I never said that R’ Shmuel didn’t think things through. Knowing R’ Shmuel and knowing what kind of mensh he is if he would have known more of the facts and the hefsid this kol korah would cause he would never have signed it.Tommorow when major newspapers will pick up the story and put the goyishe spin on it lets hope a major chillul hashem is not caused

  33. Sheya Mendlowitz was on the radio tonight on the Nachum Segal Show. He begged everyone not to question or speak against the Rabonim. B”H a tremendous Kiddush Hashem came out of this and a chizuk in ‘lishmoa divrei chachomim’. There are so many details that can be discussed and explained, but the biggest Kiddush Hashem would be if we just left it up to the Gedolim.

  34. Hello, Krunchy, read the article. R’ Shmuel himself makes it clear that he did not investigate the matter, and agrees that it was “maybe not right.” Is he also a mechutzaf?

  35. #36: They could reenable polygamy. Timewise, Rabbeinu Gershom’s chumra expired anyway.

    (I am not being entirely serious with this, don’t yell at me)

  36. #41, i don’t want to appear anti-semetic, but not everyone READS yiddish, ya know! so, please translate for those of us that unfortunately aren’t well versed in your language… Todah!

  37. I heard Sheya Mendlowitz on the Zev Brenner show. He was a real mentsch and asked us all not to speak ill of the Rabonim. Sheya set an example for us all and performed a tremendous Kiddush Hashem.

  38. #36, if you put a little thought into it, the R”Y could make enactments stating that Shidduchim need to be done in a responsible manner – going based on personality & compatiblity… actually getting to know the singles involved, & treating everyone w/kavod, instead depending on asking superficial ‘twenty questions’ i.e. how big is the brim on his hat & where he went to summer camp & where she went to seminary & how does her mother get the groceries from the store to her home?

    Let them make takanos about standards, what should be asked, how singles (no matter how low-profile) should be treated, & that maybe there should be some sort of relationship created between local rabanim & shadchanim, to ensure that the shadchanim are doing what the RY would be suggesting.

    After all, this is d’varim haOmdim b’rumo shel olam.

    ABT

    The whole parsha is FULL of such examples of how superficiality rules, but it is OK, as long as it is in the name of being yeshivish?! “Checking out” is supposed to rule out truly bad people, not everyone who doesn’t fit into the current schnit.

    Back to Main Topic: About the ban – once you can see that it talked about ‘here’ (Eretz Yisrael) & in ‘there’ Artzot HaBrit, it is mofiah mitocho that it is m’zuyaf mitocho, copied fm the Israeli Kol Korei….

    As others have said, anonymouse people placing posers have no more neemanus than the Jewish Star, which is none. Aidus doesn’t & isn’t supposed to work like this, not when I learned the sugya of Aid Naaseh Dayan… True the Jewish Star may not be the frummest paper in the world, but again, the ban was m’zuyaf mitocho, it was simply lifted fm the Eretz Yisrael ban. I wonder, does that include the signataries as well?

    Think about it. If you can see past yeshivishe ‘groupthink’ that is… If there is a p’gam in part of a document, what is the halacha on the rest of the document?

    Why are people here just arguing as to what Rav Shmuel said, implied, or meant? What is the halacha on a document that has an inherent, ma’ayn u’beyn p’gam & is m’zuyaf mitocho? Aren’t we concerned w/the reputation of R”Y, which this error inherently tarnishes? If someone were to say something in my name, I’d be very sure that they quoted me accurately, same w/the ban.

    This ziyuf mitocho should make people here & in real life outside of the internet, that EITHER the proper supervision wasn’t done, it was done in a shabby, irresponsible fashion; or this is a case of someone w/an axe to grind. If I were a R”Y, I wouldn’t want a non-RY to go around & usurp something I wrote in one place, & publish it elsewhere w/mistakes & thereby cheapen the reputation of RY’s…..

    Even if the Eretz Yisrael ban was meant for all concerts & wasn’t limited to what was happening at concerts in EY, the ziyuf mitocho shows it was false & that in & of itself tarnishes the image of the RY. Or, in other words, does a self appointed askan have the right to use the ‘signet ring’ & signature of RY’s. Even if we assume that the ban was a general one, for all performers, & for all concerts, & everywhere in the world, the ziyuf was theft fm the RY plain & simple & the textual mistakes prove this without a shadow of a doubt…
    unless you want to admit that the RY aren’t as careful as they should be…..

    It’s your pick, but something smells very bad here. Is it really worth the chillul HaShem, the tremendous loss of money, & sullying of reputations of performers & RY to dwell so on this issue that relates to what might corrupt Jewish kids & all Jews in general when the time might be better spent on bringing more practical suggestions to the RY, like ensuring that shidduchim are made based on compatibility of midos & personality & not just using which yeshiva/seminary the person went to as the sole judgement of compatibility & then there is the issue of personality i.e. is the person quiet, outgoing, strong on speaking out on important issues, or doesn’t want to make waves & let the RY take care of things….

    The absolute narishkeit that goes on & the problems that all too many experience prove my point. The biggest problem seems to be that as long as what is done is ‘yeshivish’, then no matter how superficial, or contrary to the Torah values that are supposed to be behind the ‘checking out’ process, it is OK, as long as it is ‘yeshivish’ Rachmana liba baiyi….

    A friend told me that in the name of ‘checking out’, a very ‘yeshivishe’ thing, the mother of the boy _already_ dating his daughter (it was going well up til then) asked my friend what size dress does the girl wear?

    So, to ‘check out’, a ‘yeshivishe’ thing, the Torah value of treating people w/kavod goes out the window?????

    Perhaps that is why there are so many problems. What goes on in “chatzros hakodesh” affects the everyday person & stress is put on the wrong things all over, as long as it is yeshivish.

    Let the RY make the same kind of practical, related-to-the issues takanos about shidduchim, & decry the narishkeit just like they did w/lavish chasunahs. I know that they haven’t been all that successful w/that one, perhaps, in my humble opinion they should pay more attention to this.

    If they would assur any Rav fm being m’sader kiddushin at a lavish chasuna, the way they alledgedly assured non-Jewish tunes used in Jewish music, w/Jewish words at Jewish concerts, maybe the ridiculous levels of spending would go down.

    In earlier times, the rabanim prohibited lavish expense on funerals, for the sake of kavod of those who could not afford it & it somehow stuck ‘ad hayom hazeh’. Why is the same not true w/chasunas after the rabbanim came out against it?

    Think about it.