(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)