The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Monday, March 22, 2004

JM Predator Alert

I recently saw a posting on the Yahoo Jewish Music list regarding a forthcoming concert in Manchester, England. The concert is being billed as a "mega concert" and includes various big name Boro Park Rockers. What blew me away was that one of the singers being featured was the subject of a BloginDM posting back on November 24, 2003. This singer, together with another man, was reported by the Jerusalem Post as having been arrested in Yerushalayim for luring 16 year-old chareidi girls into a sex and drugs session and photographing the girls in intimate situations.

DM agonized over whether to post the item and then wondered how the JM business would respond. He wrote:

"I'm not going to name the singer here because he is presumed innocent with regard to the particulars of this accusation until proven guilty. I will say that at the very least the drug part of this has been an open secret for years. And sadly, my point here isn't just with regard to one individual. There are several others as well who are known to indulge in alcohol/drugs. The big question here is how will the industry respond. Will business continue as usual, or will the others see this as a wake-up call?

"The industry's response to this scandal is even more important than the individual artists. To date, there has been no public response by the industry, and perhaps there shouldn't be, but privately there should be some deep introspection on the part of those who produce and promote Jewish music."

Well, I guess DM got his answer. This singer had disappeared from the JM music scene (apparently without denying the charges) since that incident but, I guess, thought enough time passed for him to get back into it. (Interestingly, although he lives in Brooklyn, he chose to make his first appearance in England).

It seems to me that the predatory singer is taking advantage of three Jewish concepts: The prohibition against speaking lashon harah; the admonition to judge others favorably; and the concept of teshuva. He is also taking advantage of the first principle in the Jewish music scene: Anything goes if you can make money.

Because of the prohibition against speaking lashon harah, there has been very little said in public discussion groups about the scandal. For example, the Yahoo Jewish Music Group that focuses mainly on the Boro Park rock scene has been amazingly quiet about all aspects of the scandal. It is as if this singer, who was one of the biggest in the industry, has disappeared from the face of the earth. Indeed, there has been absolutely no reaction in the group - positive or negative - to the announcement of his scheduled appearance at the Manchester concert; as if he is not on the program at all.

The other concepts that are helpful are the Torah's requirement to judge others favorably and give people the benefit of the doubt and the belief that everyone is entitled to do teshuva.

The thought process may go something like this: The singer must have been tempted by all the young girls who scream and throw themselves at him during concerts. Who can resist that? And, who is going to say that this singer hasn't done teshuva and isn't, therefore, entitled to make a living in his chosen field?

These arguments are specious. I don't care how many girls scream and throw themselves at you. If you use your superior position to take advantage of 16 year old girls, you are a sexual predator. That goes whether you are a musician or a teacher or a cop or anything else. How much more so if you are a Chasiddic music icon singing words of Torah?

In terms of teshuva, I am all for it. Nevertheless, I think it's shameful that this singer would even consider getting up in front of people again to sing about Yiddishkeit and the Torah after committing such reprehensible acts. The fact that he might have done teshuva doesn't mean that he should have a free pass to take on the trust and responsibility that goes with this job. I think he has gone so far over the line that he has forfeited that right.

Besides the singer himself, how can any self respecting observant music promoter get involved with him? Is money really the only thing that this is about? Are there no standards? No shame?

I am appalled at this whole business. But, like DM, I can't say that I am surprised.


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