Thursday, January 08, 2009

R’ Shmuel Kamenetzky: Lipa's an ehrliche yid

Lipa is giving it another try.

Nearly a year after the plug was pulled on his ‘Big Event’ concert at the Madison Square Garden Theater, popular Chassidic entertainer Lipa Schmeltzer and veteran Jewish music producer Sheya Mendlowitz have scheduled a new show.

They’re calling this show, simply, ‘The Event.’ First word came via a billboard on Rockaway Boulevard. It’s set for March 1 at the Garden’s WAMU Theater, and has what amounts to a seal of rabbinic approval.

“I hope they should have hatzlacha,” said Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky on Monday.

In a brief interview the respected Philadelphia rosh yeshiva and member of Agudath Israel’s Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah (Council of Torah Sages) told The Jewish Star, “Some people are still very upset — I don’t know why.”

Rabbi Kamenetzky was alluding to events that led to the cancellation of last year’s show at virtually the last moment. That was a display of derech eretz (respect) on Mendlowitz’s part — a financially costly display, by his own account at the time — to a number of prominent rabbis who signed what amounted to a ban on the event.

The ban was orchestrated — some would say instigated — by individuals who disapprove of Lipa’s humorous persona and various musical influences.

“Last time we were told that he was supposed to sing and the Israeli rabbonim,” including Rabbi Yosef Sholom Eliashiv, had a problem with it, Rabbi Kamenetzky recalled this week.

In an interview shortly before the concert was cancelled last year Rabbi Kamenetzky expressed regret at possibly acting in haste to sign the ban. He acknowledged that the claims of the man who sought the concert ban, to have spoken with prominent rabbis in Israel, had not been closely examined, and that the rabbis who signed the ban in the United States had not met to discuss it, as was their usual practice.

In that sense, the cancellation, which followed Lipa’s withdrawal from the performance, was also a display of the raw power that zealots in the Orthodox community increasingly attempt to arrogate to themselves through threats and other means of intimidation, usually claiming to be acting under the guidance of “Da’as Torah,” or rabbinic direction.

In that particular case they were successful. Lipa openly acknowledged that threats were made against his livelihood as a performer, noting that he had a mortgage and a family to support.

Since then Lipa has seen a strong resurgence in his career with the release of a popular compact disc and numerous public appearances, including one at a wedding in Williamsburg within days of the concert cancellation. Still, some apparently still nurse hard feelings.

“Last night I was at a certain affair,” Rabbi Kamenetzky told The Jewish Star on Monday. “Reb Lipa had to come there for some reason. He sang. And someone came over with tainas [complaints] to me [that he was allowed to perform]. And I said, as far as I know there is no problem with letting him sing. As far as I know he is an ehrliche yid.”

(source the jewish star)