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Benzion Hakohen "Benny" Friedman (Hebrew: בנציון הכהן פרידמן‎; born 1985)[1] is an American Hasidic Jewish singer. Professionally trained in voice, he rose to prominence on the contemporary Jewish religious music scene with his first album in 2009. His biggest hit to date[2] is the song "ivri anochi" (I am a Jew), which has been covered by numerous Jewish musical artists. Singing mainly in Hebrew, Friedman tours extensively and also appears in music videos. He views his music as a shlichus (outreach) tool, with the goal of drawing Jews closer to Judaism.
Early life and family
Benny Friedman was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, where his father, Rabbi Manis Friedman, was a Chabad shaliach.[3] He is the eleventh of fourteen children and one of ten brothers.[1][3] His uncle (his father's brother) is Orthodox Jewish singing superstar Avraham Fried; Benny is also the first-cousin of Shmuel and Bentzi Marcus (sons of his father's sister Ita) of the band 8th Day.[4]

At the age of twelve Benny was sent to learn at the Lubavitcher yeshiva in Postville, Iowa,[3] where he boarded in the home of Rabbi Sholom Rubashkin.[5] At age 15 he traveled to Israel to study in the Lubavitcher yeshiva in Sefad. He earned rabbinic ordination and worked as a Chabad shaliach in Tucson, Arizona for several years.[3]

He married in 2009 and resides in Brooklyn.[3]

Music career
As a child, Friedman enjoyed singing at the family Shabbat table and listening to the CDs of Avraham Fried, Mordechai Ben David, and Moshe Yess. He was also comfortable performing in front of audiences.[3] After his bar mitzvah he began performing in Orthodox Jewish summer camps in the Catskill Mountains; later he gave concerts in the U.S., Europe, and Israel during his vacations from yeshiva.[6]

Before his marriage, Friedman trained for four years with voice coach Seth Riggs in California.[7] During that time, he created a show called "Judaism: The Song and the Story", which toured the West Coast for several years running.[6][8][9]

Friedman came to national attention with the release of his first solo album, Tammu, produced by Avi Newmark, in 2009. Afterward he began touring in concert and singing at Jewish weddings.[7] He was a guest vocalist on the 2011 album Nagila V'Nismicha, singing with the Nagilah Orchestra.[10]

His second solo album, Yesh Tikvah: Dawn of Moshiach (2012), also produced by Newmark, made a splash in the Orthodox Jewish world with its title track, "Yesh Tikvah".[11] The Hebrew-language song encouraging hope and faith[12] was co-written by Ari Goldwag and Miriam Israeli.[13] The song earned a mention in an editorial in the Yated Ne'eman Orthodox Jewish newspaper, a paper not known for music reviews.[11][14] "Yesh Tikvah" has been covered by numerous major Orthodox Jewish singers and choirs[11] and was rendered into Yiddish by the Yedidim Choir.[15]

In 2013 Friedman released his first spinoff album B'nei Heichala: A Shabbos with Benny Friedman, which includes traditional and modern Shabbat zemirot.[16] This album was produced by Sruly Meyer

In 2014, he released his third solo album, Kol Haneshama Sheli.[17]

in 2016, Benny released a new album with 13 original songs, titled Fill The World With Light.

In the year of 2019 he released Kulanu Nelech – a studio album featuring 13 tracks. The music was executively produced by Benny Friedman, co-produced by Avraham Zamist and written by a wide range of composers, including: Ari Goldwag, Udi Damari, Moshe and Yitzy Waldner. Three tracks where recorded live with the Budapest Art Orchestra, Hungary, including orchestral arrangements by Frederic Bernard, Gershon Freishtat and Elchanan Elchadad.[18]

Benefit performances
Friedman has performed on three fund-raising singles: "Chasoif", a free download supporting the rebuilding of the Chabad house damaged in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and families of the victims;[19] "Unity", a production by 30 top Orthodox Jewish performers to benefit the legal defense of Sholom Rubashkin;[20] and "Berachamim", whose proceeds were earmarked for the medical expenses of Ilan Tocker, a Cedarhurst man who suffered a traumatic brain injury.[21] In 2014 Friedman sang on the album Shir (Song), a collection of 18 songs composed by Shlomo Rechnitz and performed by the leading musical artists in the Orthodox Jewish world. The artists all donated their talents, and proceeds from album sales will benefit the Keren Shviis Fund, which supports Israeli farmers keeping the laws of Shmita.[22]

Friedman was a headliner at HASC 24, "A Time for Duets" (2011), singing both solo and in duets with his uncle, Avraham Fried;[23] HASC 26 (2013);[24] and HASC 27 (2014).[25]

Friedman frequently performs at Chabad events.[9][26][27][28] In 2009 he was the guest vocalist at the first anniversary memorial for the Chabad shluchim murdered in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.[9] In 2013 he sang for both adults and youth at the annual Kinus HaShluchim Conference in New York City.[29] In December 2013 he sang the national anthem at the first Jewish Heritage Night at a Brooklyn Nets game.[30]

In 2014 he performed at a Chasdei Soul II Soul concert to benefit special-needs students in Crown Heights.[31]

Musical style
Friedman's music is categorized as pop Jewish music.[3] He mainly sings in Hebrew.[2]

Music videos
Friedman appears in music videos to promote his songs. The 2012 "Yesh Tikvah" music video has him singing against a nighttime cityscape and then moving to a sunny field to the accompaniment of a chorus of children.[32] In the 2013 music video for "Maaleh Ani", Friedman sings by the Malibu, California coastline while a guitarist, bass guitarist, and drummer play underwater in a swimming pool.[33][34] Friedman eventually jumps into the pool fully clothed in his trademark black dress suit, white shirt, and tie – clapping, drumming, and playing air guitar with the band.
Discography
Solo albums
Taamu (2009)
Yesh Tikvah – Dawn of Moshiach (2012)
Kol Haneshama Sheli – With All My Soul (2014)
Fill The World With Light (2016)[35]
Kulanu Nelech (2019)

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