1. He moved to Monroe at age seven, and didn’t speak any English — only Yiddish — until he got married. Today, his English is great!
2. His first job after he got married was making sandwiches in a pizza store in Williamsburg.
3. Music for him is a full-time job, but he still makes sure to leave time for learning. His morning chavrusa is composer Reb Pinky Weber.
4. Based in New York, Chilu does travel to Eretz Yisrael to perform, but he’s always on a tight schedule and likes to keep it quick. His preferred itinerary includes just six and a half hours in the country, three in performance, and the rest of the time traveling to and from the airport and through security.
5.A highlight of his career to date: He sang at the 12th Siyum HaShas at the MetLife Stadium, together with his own Mezamrim Choir, Mendy Werdyger and son Sruly Werdyger, and Shragee Gestetner.
Hearing Motti Steinmetz sing moves a lot of people. But ask Motti what it is that moves him, and the standard answer is “Almost every song I sing.” Still, there are some events which have an extra-special place within and have left a lasting imprint. Steinmetz says he’ll never forget the Degel Yerushalayim event held at the end of the shemittah year in 2015. “There were 12,000 children at this event. Hearing them all singing together literally brought me to tears. But what moved me even more was seeing my rebbe, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, sitting across from me and gazing at me while I sang. There’s nothing greater than being able to give my rebbe nachas.”
Yoeli Klein’s favorite wedding song fills all spaces with Hashem’s light
The song “Memale Kol Almin” was originally composed by Rav Eliezer Shlomo Schick of Breslov ( known as the Mohorosh) about 40 years ago and was discovered after his passing in 2015. Rabbi Meir Duvid Farkas, a chazzan and Breslov talmid, popularized the soul-stirring song (“Ein shum metzius mibaladecha Yisbarach — nothing really exists in the world except for Hashem…”) the following year on his album Tzadikim, giving it a leibedig finale with the famous Shlomo Carlebach niggun that became an anthem for positivity (the one with the added words “Ma shehaya haya, ha’ikar lehatchil mehatchalah — Whatever was, was, the important thing is to start anew.”) With Reb Meir Duvid’s permission, composer Shaya Gross added a hora part to the song with a compelling beat that makes it into a dance niggun as well.
“Singing this at weddings, together with the chassan and the mechutanim is very moving for me,” says singer Yoeli Klein, who re-recorded the popular new version. “Yes, they are building a new house, but really the Ribbono shel Olam is doing everything. Nothing is real besides Him, and as they are moving forward to set up a new Yiddishe home, we’re singing that it is all Him, the Memalei Kol Almin.”
Sometimes it’s the unsung, uncelebrated deeds that boost a singer into the limelight.
Who helped advance these popular entertainers with an unforgettable yet enduring gesture?
Doni Gross, producer: "I started out by doing small projects, and then I decided to produce an a cappella album. I was completely new, and most people don’t like beginner producers. But I had a bit of a family connection to Rivie Schwebel, so I called him up to ask if he would sing on the new album I was producing. He agreed right away. 'Just let me know when I should be there,' he said, 'and make sure it’s in a key I can reach.' No questions asked — he just trusted me and was willing to sing on my project. Rivie’s agreement was definitely what got me on my way. A Kumzitz in the Rain got out there, and I’ll add that Rivie’s always a great singer to work with."
Yuval Stupel, musical director and arranger: "Twenty years ago, I worked backstage as a logistics manager for Avraham Fried. The only music I had arranged was for my old friend from yeshivah, Israeli singer Udi Ullman. Somehow, Fried heard it one day, and he said 'I didn’t know you did music! Maybe you’d want to arrange this song for me?' That song was 'Aleh Katan' — and the rest is history."
Yumi Lowy, singer: "Aaron Teitelbaum gave me my first two jobs. About ten years ago, I gave him a demo CD to check out, and then he heard me sing at a friend’s simchah. He came over to say that he liked my voice and right on the spot he asked me to perform with Neginah Orchestra, which was where I did my first few gigs. We’ve worked together a lot, and I credit Aaron with hiring me when I was totally unknown."
Zanvil Weinberger, singer: "I have to mention the kindness of my dear friend, Israeli radio host Yossi Gil. It was not just one 'toiveh' but many favors, plus the power he instilled in me, the belief that I would get there very quickly. Yossi’s musical wisdom and the way he farginned my success at every possible stage have undoubtedly opened many gates for me in my career."
Shmuel and Bentzi Marcus (8th Day), singers: "A few people stand out for their acts of kindness toward us in our very early days. Foremost is our brother Chaim Marcus, who showed us the ropes and helped us with our first album and everything that goes along with that. Of course, he went on to produce our mega hit videos for 'Ya’alili' and 'Hooleh.' Avraham Fried, our uncle, gave us priceless advice right out of the gate and was so supportive with his wisdom and encouragement. And as for giving us a chance and getting us out there when nobody really knew who we were, that was Izzy Taubenfeld a”h, president of Sameach Music."
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 705)