Harei Yehudah: An Exquisite Album And An Affirmation Of All That’s RIGHT About Jewish Music

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harei.jpg(Click HERE to listen to a preview) Jewish Music has been a hot topic in the press recently. Articles appeared in various Jewish media publications analyzing the state of JM and whether or not it generates a positive influence on Jewish values today. Regardless of where anyone stands on that issue – pro or con – the album entitled Harei Yehudah and the heartwarming story behind its release, is one that unequivocally portrays JM in a positive light and highlights the great potential of music as a force for good.

Yehudah Gilden is a talented musician. A gifted pianist, composer, vocalist and arranger, Yehudah has been a fixture of Toronto’s Jewish music scene for over twenty years. Yehudah served as the lead singer and keyboard player for the popular Nafsheinu Orchestras of Toronto, led the Eitz Chaim Boys Choir in numerous stage performances and recordings and taught Jewish music to thousands of children at Associated Hebrew Day Schools. He is also known and respected within the community as a soft-spoken, unassuming, devout and ehrlich’e Yid.

Several years ago, Yehudah was stricken with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that impairs the sufferer’s motor skills and speech. As a result, Yehudah was no longer able to continue working in any of the aforementioned capacities. However, Parkinson’s could not take away from Yehudah, either his wonderful compositions, or his ability to continue writing creative works of music.

With that in mind, in the summer of 2006, his friends and co-workers within the field of Jewish music in Toronto, embarked upon a project that would help Yehudah, to help himself. Abie Rotenberg, Shlomo Simcha, Heshi Kuhnreich, the Nafsheinu Orchestra players and singers, the Zemer Orchestra players and singers met, together with Yehudah, to review his vast repertoire of compositions and to initiate what would ultimately turn into, a most beautiful CD entitled, Harei Yehudah.

While reviewing Yehuda’s songs, it quickly became clear that the material was truly excellent and that a world-class album could be assembled. It was therefore suggested, that perhaps the project should attempt to involve North America’s most well known Jewish artists. With the help of Yisroel Lamm, who was chosen to arrange the music, songs were selected and the names of specific vocalists were matched, to those tunes for which their particular styles and talents were best suited. It must be said…. not one of the invited artists turned down the request to participate, nor were any of them compensated, in any way, for their time, talents and efforts! It has been a true expression of Ahavas Yisroel, assisting another yid in a way that allows him, to help himself.

Avraham Fried, Yaakov Shwekey, Shloimie Dachs, Dovid Gabay, Lev Tahor, Rivie Schwebel, Shalsheles, Abie Rotenberg, Shlomo Simcha, Yossie Piamenta, as well as Boruch Levine and Yacov Young – both musical students of Yehudah Gilden in Toronto – lent their considerable talents to make Harei Yehuda a must-have album for every Jewish music lover’s collection. Furthermore, Toronto’s Zemer and Nafsheinu Orchestras & Singers and its Achdus Choir, Oziel Choir and Boys Choir – directed by Heshi Kuhnreich – as well as the Shira Choir of New York, all add to the distinctive flavor and quality of this amazing recording.

Notwithstanding the credentials of the vocalists involved, it is the compositions themselves through which Harei Yehudah will make its impact. The breadth of Yehudah’s musical talents, encompass numerous composing styles. Mo Oshiv and R’tzey are reminiscent of the emotive European niggunim of a hundred years ago. Yehi Sholom and Ovinu are sweet, North American style ballads, Ma Yedidut a Sefardic delight, D’ror Yikra a feast of singable harmony, Eitz Chaim a rousing waltz and Hallelu, Ani Maamin and Brich Shmay, exciting and creative freilachs.

One other feature of this incredible production is “The Making of Harei Yehudah” video documentary, embedded on the CD.  Nineteen minutes long, it details the process that was involved in the creation of Harei Yehudah and offers a glimpse into the life and accomplishments of Yehudah Gilden. Actual behind-the-scenes footage, offers a fascinating look into the recording process. Up close and personal interviews with many of the artists, rounds out this visually inspiring and spiritually uplifting video. The CD needs only to be inserted into a computer and the option of listening to the songs or viewing the video will appear. No Internet connection is required. 

Harei Yehudah is being marketed in both a conventional and unconventional manner. It will be available – like all of JM – in Judaica and music stores throughout the country.
It is also being self-marketed with an extensive mailing campaign throughout North America. We urge everyone to show appreciation for Yehudah’s music and for the amazing effort of Achdus and Ahavas Yisroel that went into the creation of Harei Yehudah, by responding to the mailing campaign, or – if by the time of this publication you have not received the CD mailer – by purchasing Harei Yehudah wherever you buy Jewish music.

Yehi Shalom B’chailaich, with the refrain of L’maan Achai V’reay – the song Yaakov Shwekey sings so exquisitely on Harei Yehudah – is thematic of this project. Indeed, when we all exert ourselves to help a fellow Jew, it brings peace to the world and hastens the coming of Mashiach. May we all be zoche to see that day, B’karov B’yameinu.

(Written by Abie Rotenberg)


19 COMMENTS

  1. I received it in the mail today, and immediately responded with a check in the enclosed envelope. I was amazed at the Ahavas Yisroel of so many singers- who are often criticised unjustly- who did this for free.

    I am happy that you decided to post this story, about what is right with Klal Yisroel. Mi K’Amcha Yisroel!

    We need more such human interest(for lack of better word) stories about the good and positive of our nation.

  2. If the world only knew how much chesed the music business does……The guys in the music industry are from the biggest ballei chesed around!

  3. I too recieved this album, and i was also very impressed with both the songs and k’lal yisrael- which other people would do this for their brother? I hope people will send their donations with an open heart, and not just once. This man and his mishpacha need all the help they can get.

  4. #5 it IS a tzadaka! this man lost his parnassa when he was struck with parkinsons. what is tzedaka if not helping out another jew who has no parnassa!

  5. Feif Un: It sure is a tzedaka. And a very honorable tzedaka at that. Supporting a family whose breadwinner cannot work is a great cause.

    I wish all the many, many envelopes I get in the mail came with a quality CD.

    Seems like a great deal to me: Get a CD, support a family, enjoy the music!

  6. lakevent
    pleae post the information to mail out for the album.
    I would like all the money to go directly to yehudah, as opposed to the stores making most of the profit.

    thank you

  7. I have never commented, but I feel compelled to write about such a special person in our community. I am from Toronto and know him and his family. He personally gave my brother music lessons. He is the epitome of an ehrliche and refined mentch who shared so much of his musical talents with everyone. This is a tremendous zechus for klal yisroel to be able to show support for him and his family in this beautiful oppurtunity that so many people joined efforts for.

  8. Any production that has Yisroel Lamm at its head had to be a first class production. For all those who know him he is first rate arranger but above else he is a person who is above all else a tremedous mentch and if you would like to find anyone with his mentchlekite in any profession you would be extremely hard pressed.

    Yehuda together with all the Cholei Yisroel should have a complete Refuah Shelaimah

  9. What a beautiful CD it is!

    Thanks to all the Jewish singers who gave their time for this project… How great is a nation whose “celebrities” are so generous & giving [as opposed to the Hollywood money-hungry morally corrupt “stars”]!!

    Refuah shelaima to Yehuda Gilden.

  10. This sounds beautiful. Did anyone in Monsey receive the demo in the mail? I didn’t get it yet and I’d love to. Kol Hakavod to the producers and all those involved.

  11. I took piano lessons from him. I also performed in a choir under his direction. He was always patient with us kids & I don’t remember him even raising his voice once. Aside from that this is a real worthy cause.

  12. I as well was taught for many years by Yehuda Gilden. You don’t find such a wonderful erliche person just every day. He taught with such a grace and love for his work, his music, and most importantly his students. In receiving this CD I almost couldn’t believe it. It’s evident how many people’s lives he has touched and continues to change. In hearing some of these tracks I couldn’t help being taken back to the wonderful times singing and dancing to his compositions.

    This project should be a successful one in helping out the entire Gilden family, and all the brachos surrounding it should be a zechus which lead to a full refua shleima!

  13. Dear Editor – maybe add “a story of chesed” or something to the title…..for a while as I read, it seemed like this was a commercial for CD. then I saw that it was a very nice story.

  14. This is a must have CD that the entire family will enjoy. My grandchildren are already singing the songs and insist on listening to it during carpool. Perhaps they are nogaya b’dovar since their Zeidy has been a close chover and fellow musician of Reb Yehudah for over 30 years! Chasdei Hashem that the exceptional musical talents that Yehudah has shared with his many students and audiences with misirus nefesh is now part of the body of music of Klall Yisroel with the release of this heart felt recording masterpiece. Please purchase a copy and perhaps further copies as gifts – you will not be disappointed – and your neshama will thank you for the beautiful inspiration!

  15. Its very important to know, that when you receive the CD, one should immediately fill the envelope. If one waits, it may never happen. The inspiration might have already left. Al Tomar L’Ch’she-efneh eshneh, shema lo tipaneh.