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

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Lipa Ban and the Sanctity of a Contract

Anyone who reads this space knows that I have no use for Shiny Shoe Music and that I wouldn't attend a Shiny Shoe Concert if someone gave me front row seats. So my beef with the Lipa Ban has nothing to do with the fact Klal Yisrael will be deprived of "The Big Event".

(Indeed, while I recognize that these concerts are meant to provide fun outlets to our kids, I think these concerts and some of the shtick that goes on, including having a bunch of pudgy, semi-talented adults in Armani suits and shiny black shoes "dance" around smoke-filled stages, are ridiculous).

(I also have no sympathy for Lipa who routinely violates other JEWISH artists' copyrights (to say nothing of the "goyishe" songwriters) or the producer who has his own inyanim).

What bothers me is that rather than address the issue of concerts in a menshlechkeit, behind the scenes way, the kana'im decided to ambush the concert with two weeks to go causing untold financial damages to many people. They essentially forced Lipa and the other Shiny Shoe performers to breach their contracts with the producers and forced the producers to breach their contract with Madison Square Garden (with no way to mitigate their damages).

Why is inducing breach of conracts made in good faith less of an issur than having a concert? Why is inducing a breach of a contract with gentiles less of a chilul Hashem than putting on a concert? Why is tortious interference with another man's contract acceptable? Is Choshen Mishpat no longer part of the Shulchan Oruch?

The Chareidi press (the same Chareidi press that had no problem taking money for full page concert ads for years) has gotten squarely behind the "Gedolim". Poor Lipa (who is being made out to be a hero for following the Rabbanim when, in fact, he is a pitiful victim of blackmail), submitted to an interview with HaModia to show his support for the ban. It is really shameful.

One Chareidi Jew who I am close to described the ban as a dark day for American Yiddishkeit. Another simply said that one thing is for sure; the ban has nothing to do with G-d.



  • At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Didn't you know that Daas Torah comes before everything else??

    I read on another blog a funny quote from Chabad's Alter Chasid R' Yoel Kahn in reference to a Yeshivish argument that "Daas Torah" was invoked in leu of a real argument. R' Yoel said "It's not Daas and it's not

    But it's still funny that Yeshiva World, a website ON THE INTERNET which was banned a long time ago by these same Rabbanim is reporting this ban story.

  • At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Reading up on this subject,one of the reasons Lipa is banned is because of playing "goyishe" music. Forgive me, I'm not trying to insult, but I don't live in an Orthodox community...if these Rabbi's don't like "goyishe" music, isn't the US a "goyishe" country? It seems slightly hypocritical of them to live in America, then.

  • At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Someone finally brought up the issue of breach of contract! Personally, I'd love to see these hotheads get their pants sued off by Madison Square Garden. Maybe Jim Dolan's army of lawyers can impoverish these guys enough that they won't be able to afford to make any more trouble.

  • At 11:53 AM, Blogger PsychoToddler said…

    Spoken like a true lawyer!

    (As you know) I agree with all of your points.

    This is a sad day for American Yiddishkeit. Maybe. I'm not sure what these guys are peddling is really Yiddishkeit. Talibanism, maybe. Either way, I know I never signed up for it.

  • At 12:48 PM, Blogger Mark Levin is The Great One said…

    It is interesting to note that last night Dov Shurin said he had not spoken to his uncle (Dov's mother and Reb Shmuel are brother/sister) about this issue but he said he would do so.

    Also interesting was that it wes said that Lipa did not mention Friedman's Nechomas Yisroel in his song about giving tzedoka. Someone and I dont recall whom said this was Friedman's goal all along - to hurt Lipa. I have to listen to that song again b/c I am not sure.

    I think we all see from here that if you decide to be a kan'oy you need to be 100% l'shem sho'mayim and by following the "money trail" it seems things were not 100%.

  • At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    While I'm bothered by certain aspects of the ban, I'm not sure breach of contract with a Gentile is an issue here. Has anyone said that the producers refuse to pay WaMu Theater now that the event has been cancelled?

  • At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    of course you're right on all counts but you didn't "say" strongly enough about the producer's inyanim

  • At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    B Y M A Y E R F E R T I G Producer Sheya Mendlowitz was hoping Tuesday afternoon to get the final goahead to resurrect his "Big Event" concert, scheduled for March 9 at Madison Square Garden but, at the last minute, talks fell apart and the concert was cancelled.

    The final details of the agreement were being hammered out Tuesday afternoon. Minutes before The Jewish Star went to press Mendlowitz said it was over.

    A deal would have capped a week of talks between Mendlowitz and many of the 33 rabbonim who, last week, issued a kol korei –– as a rabbinical pronouncement is known in the Charedi world –– to prevent popular Chassidic singer Lipa Schmelzer from performing.

    Critics apparently disapprove of his humorous onstage antics and the non-Jewish musical influences incorporated in his act. One Brooklyn man, Asher Friedman, who also heads the tuition assistance organization Nechomas Yisroel, apparently set out to shut Schmelzer down. He convinced nearly three dozen rabbonim, including some of America's most revered contemporary Charedi leaders, that Schmelzer should be reined in.

    In a statement, Schmelzer said he has decided to discontinue performing any music of non-Jewish origin. In keeping Schmelzer off the stage, Friedman appeared to have met his primary goal.

    On Monday someone with direct knowledge of the situation described Friedman, who is not a rabbi, as "a kanoi [zealot] and a loose cannon"
    who aligned himself with [others] who have an ax to grind "with Lipa and the Jewish music industry." Contacted by The Jewish Star for comment, Friedman said he would first have to consult his Da'as Torah.
    A short time later he called back to say, "The gedolei yisroel discussed] on the radio and in newspapers. It doesn't belong for the public to decide on issues that belong for Da'as Torah." He refused to disclose the names of rabbonim he consulted.

    "When we went out with the kol korei, every rosh yeshiva was tortured and made crazy — people were threatening them," Friedman claimed.
    Pressed for specifics about his claim of threats, he maintained that "it would be a chilul Hashem to write about it." "Everything a person does has to be through Da'as Torah. Everything I do, I make sure to have Da'as Torah backing me," he claimed.

    It seemed clear that Friedman risked embarrassment to the rabbonim he claims to revere, as the text of the ban was identical to that of a ban enacted in Israel last year, which succeeded in shutting down a joint performance of Mordechai Ben David and Avrohom Fried. It included references to Israel and called for a complete end to Jewish music concerts. That made it unclear if the document was intended to apply only to the Madison Square Garden event, or if American Charedi rabbonim intended to follow the lead of Israeli colleagues and enact a sweeping prohibition against Jewish music.

    In an interview with The Jewish Star, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky, a rosh yeshiva in Philadelphia who signed the ban, said, "It is very general, you're right, but I don't think it will refer to all concerts. You have to have an outlet for kids." Rabbi Kamenetzky confirmed that he had spoken to Friedman and said that he had understood that the request for the ban originally came "from rabbis in Eretz Yisroel.

    We didn't want to differ with them. It was expressed that certain performers...upset some people." The Rosh Yeshiva was asked whether anybody had confirmed the origin of the request. "It seems that it was a request from mouth to ear and everyone went along with them," he responded.

    "What they said was that it was a request from Rav Elyashiv and Rav Steinman. I didn't confirm that." Asked if it is unusual for distinguished rabbonim to sign a kol korei on the say-so of one person, Rabbi Kamenetzky was candid:

    "Usually we meet together. This time, with time pressing, we did not get together. And maybe it was not the right thing." The concert was supposed to have been a benefit for Simchat Tzion, a group that makes weddings for orphaned brides and grooms in Israel.

    Rabbi Avi Shafran, a spokesman for Agudath Israel of America, said he couldn't explain why the text of the ban would have been released without removing references to last year's concert ban in Israel, or why rabbonim would have risked jeopardizing their reputations by signing a document not carefully vetted for inaccuracies.

    A second performer, Shloime Gertner, was said to have dropped out immediately, according to Hamodia, a Charedi paper that announced the ban. News of his withdrawal proved premature. As of Monday he was still in, although his name was removed from the concert web site on Monday night.

    There's definitely a mystery here," said Shafran. "It wouldn't make sense for the rabbonim to say that somebody had pulled out if they are just setting themselves up to be disproved." Late Tuesday afternoon Yeshiva World News ( reported that Schmelzer has also cancelled a concert scheduled for London in April.

    Schmelzer, who lives in the Monsey, N.Y., area, was well received as the featured performer at a benefit performance in Hewlett Bay Park last year.

  • At 6:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You wrote~

    (I also have no sympathy for Lipa who routinely violates other JEWISH artists' copyrights (to say nothing of the "goyishe" songwriters) or the producer who has his own inyanim).~

    I hate to break the news to you, but copyright law does not apply to one doing a cover of others' songs.
    If one "samples" music from the original, then copyright laws are being broken.

    You're a lawyer?

  • At 8:06 PM, Blogger Orthonomics said…

    MOChassid-An excellent post. I need to link to it tonight.

    I'm not sure breach of contract with a Gentile is an issue here.

    How can anyone in their right mind not think breaching a contract with Madison Square Garden is not an issue? (I'm not sure how the Garden is structured in terms of ownership, but I'm sure there are Jewish and gentile ownerships, perhaps taxpayer interests).

    There are often "pat ourselves on the back" letters to the editors about the kiddush Hashems made in front of non-Jewish officers, toll booth operators, etc when they acknowledge trustworthiness. Well, no matter how you dice it, this isn't a "pat yourself on the back" moment.

  • At 11:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Rabbis are pretty quick to destroy someone else's parnassah, e.g. El Al, Gourmet Glatt, sheitels from India and jews in Gush Katif. A sad day for Jews in America

  • At 5:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Don't the contracts have a clause for what fees need to be paid if for any reason there is cancellatin of the event? If cancellation penalties are built into the contract, is there breach of contract?

  • At 9:59 AM, Blogger MoChassid said…

    pms in the am

    I don't know what you're talking about. If you cover someone's song on a CD you need permission and must pay the songwriter 9.1 cents per song per CD printed.

    anon 5:16,

    The contract may well have a termination clause that requires termination penalties. In the case of the MSG contract, I can almost assure you that the termination payment is the full amount of the contract (With 2 weeks to go, MSG has no way to mitigate its damges; it can't rebook and it probably has to pay the union workers who've been hired).

    So, technically, it may not be a default. On the other hand, IF THE PRODUCERS ARE UNABLE TO MAKE THE TERMINATION PAYMENT, that would be a default (I also suspect that MSG received a letter of credit or some other guaranty of payment).

    I suspect that there will be many people getting hosed because of this ban (from the musicians who won't be able to get replacement gigs and might not get paid, to the tzedakah that is behind the gig).

  • At 8:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    It can be argued that since Lipa is a jokester, his songs are that of parody, which copyright laws in the music industry allow for without a payment for song use, similar to Weird Al Yankovich, Dr. Demento, etc. (one could say considering the amount of money made form a jewish album all jewish music is a joke compared to the "goyish" music industry)

    Another side point, almost all our music is goyish, but goyish in the year 1908, when Gedolim actually existed, and they had to answer for what they did, and lipa is jewish in 2008, a year in which bans are made for no reason, with no thought process, and no care for the outcome.

    Besides that, the money being lost by the concert being canceled inst a problem, don't you know the "GEDOLIM" are paying the difference.

  • At 11:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

  • At 2:25 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

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