Monday, January 24, 2005

Rabbi Mordechai Gafni Series Part 3: The rock star


At 6:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note: still using false spelling of last name, note multiple reporters, states and newspapers.

August 28, 1987

Imagine hearing a Jewish rap song to the beat of ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch, boom, ch-ch boom.

Imagine it played full blast from the stereos of the cars of Jewish teens as they cruise around town.

An Orthodox rabbi from Boca Raton is content in imagining that. He helped to make the album on which the song appears.

Imagine that!

Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz, a freshly ordained transplant from New York and the first rabbi for the newly established Boca Raton Synagogue, is in the sanctuary, playing the music at full volume, making motions with his hands as if he were beating on drums.

The album, Jewish Pride, is scheduled to be released on Tuesday in Palm Beach County and then in New York.

''This is going to have an impact!'' he exclaimed. ''Take cantorial music and throw it out the window!''

Later, Winyarz conceded that he liked cantorial music, but added that he thinks it cannot reach out to young Jews the way modern music can, if set to ''Jewish'' lyrics.

''I like cantorial music, but it doesn't express Jewish pride in the '80s,'' Winyarz said. ''Ritual expression is critical, but it's not the end-all. If it doesn't create a certain kind of person, a certain kind of society, then what is ritual for?''

To know a bit about Winyarz' history is to understand why an Orthodox rabbi would be backing a project to reach out to unaffiliated Jews through rock music.

Winyarz, 26, was responsible for initiating an outreach into New York schools. He would walk into a school holding a shofar -- the ram's horn used in sacred services -- and would recruit any Jewish child into his youth programs who recognized the shofar.

He became the second rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue, leaving behind the program in New York after building it into a host of youth groups with a budget of $500,000.

The album was done through the cooperation of JPSY, an acronym for Jewish Public School Youth, a program Winyarz initiated in New York. Winyarz and his small group of musicians scouted for young Jewish musicians to perform on the album.

The group worked six hours during the weekdays from midnight to 6 a.m. for two weeks at Eastside Sound Studio in New York.

In making the album, Winyarz convinced Lenny Solomon, an accountant, to go into Jewish rock music full time.

''His mother is real thrilled,'' Winyarz said, tongue in cheek. Solomon has dropped his job to lead the organization's musical outreach program.

Not every song on Jewish Pride is the type that's only understood when played full-blast from an oversized radio. Some have the traditional Hebrew folk music beat. Some talk of familiar themes in Judaism.

Minyan Man is about a group of nine Jewish men in search of a 10th man to have a minyan, the ''quorum'' needed to conduct Jewish worship.

The title song is Jewish Pride.

Winyarz said that the album is a pioneering one in Jewish music, and representatives of national Jewish music organizations say they can't argue one way or another.

Although he concedes that Jewish music has been ''updated'' with every generation, the rabbi said the album is a first in its combination of a variety of modern styles and its use of Jewish messages for lyrics.

He hopes it will start a trend such as the one Christians began in the 1960s with religious rock music, featuring such musicians as Randy Stonehill, Larry Norman and Amy Grant.

Winyarz will introduce the album through Jewish cultural radio programs and in Jewish book and record stores, but he has his eyes set on secular radio as well.

''This is religious music, there's no question about it,'' Winyarz said of Jewish Pride.

Jews' pride in themselves is shrinking, Winyarz says. He said that many Jews are ''trying to be WASP-y'' in an attempt to cover their Jewish heritage, following the cue of their parents who have done so in order to assimilate.

''We're saying, 'Don't do that. Chuck it,''' Winyarz said. ''The 11th commandment of a Jew in America has been, 'Thou shalt melt (into the melting pot).'

''We've ... been comfortable in our Judaism and pay lip service to Judaism. Our direction is complete confrontation -- in the most positive way.''

Winyarz figures that confrontation is done best through music.

The lyrics from Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz' new Jewish rap song, Rappin' Jewish, which is on his album Jewish Pride.

''La-die-do I'm a Jew 'cause I think it's cool

Yeah I eat kosher meat 'cause I ain't no fool

Ask me anything you want to but I will repeat

I say being Jewish makes me groove to the beat.

Got a son who's a doctor, a daughter who's a lawyer

My wife teaches English and reads Tom Sawyer

Each morning I sit at my breakfast table

Eatin' 'filte fish with lox and bagels.

I'm a Jewish man been all over the map

That's why I'm singing my Jewish rap

Y'see I've been rappin' since the age of three

When my home boys rocked across the Red Sea.

Chorus: Jewish Pride keeps ya going strong

Makes our people last real long

So don't ignore what comes from inside

Let it grow, 'cause it's Jewish Pride.''

Los Angeles Times
August 18, 1987
Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and
international news services and the nation's press Entertainment Desk

An Orthodox rabbi in Boca Raton, Fla., is reaching out to young people in an unorthodox way--with rock 'n' roll. Mordechai Winyarz, 26, paid New York songwriter Lenny Solomon $30,000 to write songs with contemporary Jewish themes and hired young Jewish musicians to perform and record an album for $12,000. The album, "Jewish Pride," set for release Sept. 1, includes a rap
song "Rappin' Jewish" written by Danny Furst. A sample of the lyrics:

La-die-doo, I'm a Jew 'cause I think it's cool

Yeah, I eat kosher meat 'cause I ain't no fool

Ask me anything you want to, but I will repeat

I say being Jewish makes me groove to the beat.

August 17, 1987
by Tracey Wong Briggs

Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz of Boca Raton, Fla., has produced Jewish Pride, a rock album appealing to Jewish youth. The LP, set for USA-wide release Sept. 1, includes songs written by Lenny Solomon and performed by young Jewish musicians. Rappin' Jewish, by Danny Furst, says: ``La-die-doo, I'm a Jew 'cause I think it's cool/ Yeah, I eat kosher meat 'cause I ain't no fool/ Ask me anything you want to, but I will repeat/ I say being Jewish makes me groove to the beat.''


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