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Mar 1, 2009

The Wall Street Journal on Lipa

Lipa, and the controversy surrounding him and his concerts, has now been written up in the Wall Street Journal. That is how big he has gotten.

Mr. Schmeltzer, who is 30, grew up in New Square, a village in Rockland County, N.Y., founded in the 1950s by the strict Skverer Hasidic movement. He was born into a culture that required its young to devote long hours to intensive study. Young Lipa wasn't cut out for it. Even the deaf man could have sensed that.

"I always liked to hum in the class and knock on the table and do some songs," he tells me in his Yiddish-inflected English. "I couldn't concentrate on Torah. It brought me a lot of pain from kids who didn't understand how I am. Sometimes I got smacked. I had nicknames." One of the nicer ones was "baal ha-chalomot," or "big dreamer," a pejorative used to describe Joseph in the Book of Genesis (37:18-20).

It was only after his marriage at age 20 -- to a woman he had known for 20 minutes -- that Mr. Schmeltzer found an outlet, performing at weddings and bar mitzvahs in the ultra-Orthodox communities of upstate New York and Brooklyn. He earned a reputation as a natural performer, as gifted with comedic routines as with devotional songs.


A huge billboard of Lipa smiles upon Avenue J in Brooklyn. "I would doubt very strongly that there would be a ban this year," said Zev Brenner, a popular radio host who says that he has been told that several rabbis acted last year before "they had all the facts in front of them."

One of the rabbis, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky, told the Jewish Star newspaper that he now had no problem with Mr. Schmeltzer: "As far as I know he is an ehrliche Yid [a truly devout Jew]."
In some ways, another condemnation might be more harmful to the rabbis than to Mr. Schmeltzer.


  1. Must be a really slow news day in Wall Street if this is what they call news.

  2. I met Lipa's Mother and wife at the Dead Sea a couple of years ago. Both wonderful people who obviously thought the world of him, and impressed me with the phenomenal amount of chessed he does with his time and money.


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