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Lipa Schmeltzer (Yiddish: אלעזר ליפא שמעלצער‎ Elazar Lipa Schmeltzer, Hebrew: ליפא שמלצר‎; born March 17, 1978) is an American singer, entertainer, and composer. He is a headliner in Hasidic as well as modern Jewish communities worldwide [2] and "the Lady Gaga [3] of Hasidic music".[4] Schmeltzer has released 16 solo albums as of 2016.[5]

Family background
Lipa Schmeltzer grew up in the Chasidic enclave of New Square, New York[6] a village in Rockland County, New York. His grandfather, a Chasidic farmer in pre-war Hungary, was murdered during World War II, leaving his father, Reuven, an orphan at the age of 13. Reuven Schmeltzer was one of the 1,684 Jews who escaped Nazi-controlled Hungary on the Kastner train and spent time in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp before being released in Switzerland.[7] He and his wife had 12 children, of whom Lipa is the second-youngest.[8]

Lipa married his wife, Miriam, also a native of New Square,[9] on August 27, 1998. They have four children.[7]

Musical career
After his wedding, Schmeltzer tried to find work as a badchen (entertainer) for weddings.[9] Though he had no formal musical training,[10] he began performing at weddings and bar mitzvahs in the Haredi Chasidic communities of upstate New York and Brooklyn. He earned a reputation as a natural performer, and began releasing recordings and videos.[6] The first, Nor B'Simcha (Just Be Happy), was released shortly after his wedding.[7] With his thick, round eyeglasses and sidelocks,[11] "outlandish" outfits, and comical YouTube videos,[12] he has rocketed to stardom in the Hasidic music world.

Schmeltzer's music has both gained popularity and generated controversy within the American Chasidic community due to the fusion of traditional Chasidic music and lyrics with contemporary music styles. His performance range includes "hard-driving rock tunes, jazzy shuffles, pseudo-rap numbers, solemn prayers, klezmer dances and jokey skits, accompanied by a nine-piece band and a troupe of actors".[6] He writes lyrics in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish.[7] Schmeltzer's concerts are not gender-segregated, as is the norm in Hasidic circles[6]

He has been criticized for introducing "too modern" musical styles to the Hasidic community.[13] Opponents contend that Schmeltzer's identity as a bona fide Hasid makes him more appealing to a wider Hasidic audience and therefore more likely to introduce contemporary music to their community, which tends to be insular and more reserved.[14]

Benefit performances
Schmeltzer frequently contributes his talents for Jewish benefit performances.[15][16][17][18][19] He has also written songs and performed in response to tragedies within the Hasidic community. After Chabad shluchim Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg were murdered in a 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai and their two-year-old son Moishe was saved, he wrote the song A Letter to Moishe'le.[20] He was part of an all-star group of Jewish musicians who produced a musical tribute to Sholom Rubashkin after the latter's conviction in federal court in 2010.[21] Following the 2011 murder of Leiby Kletzky in Brooklyn, he released a ballad called "Leiby Forever" and a seven-minute music video depicting home movies of Kletzky growing up.[22]

"The Big Event" controversy
In February 2008, a large amount of publicity was generated for a concert at Madison Square Garden's WaMu Theater in New York City featuring Schmeltzer and Shloime Gertner, under the playbill "The Big Event". On 20 February, a full-page notice was printed in the Hamodia newspaper. The notice stated that it was "a serious prohibition to attend or perform" at the concert which would lead to "ribaldry and lightheadedness" and added that it was "forbidden to hire these singers to sing at any party, celebration or charity event".[23][24]

Following speculation over whether Schmeltzer would cancel the concert due to the ban, on 26 February it was confirmed that he was canceling his performance. He was quoted by The New York Times as saying, "I have a career, I have a wife and kids to support, I have a mortgage to pay, I have to get out of the fire".[23] At the same time, Schmeltzer pulled out of a concert scheduled for later that month in London with other singers.[25]

In an interview in June 2008, Schmeltzer stated: "I made a Kiddush Hashem and I don’t regret it. But if I had known the truth about how things were presented to the gedolei hatorah, I would not have cancelled the concert."[26] Schmeltzer said that "Many gedolei hatorah have told me that people came to them with false information regarding my concert: they said it would have mixed dancing or mixed seating."[26]

In 2009, one of the signatory rabbis, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, told The Jewish Star newspaper that he had no problem with Lipa: "As far as I know he is an ehrliche Yid [a truly devout Jew]."[6]

Three months after the controversy, Schmeltzer released his next album, titled A Poshiter Yid (A Simple Jew), with a cover image and songs that portrayed him as a tradition-minded, Torah-observant Jew instead of the rock idol portrayed by the ban. Since that release, Schmeltzer's concert and recording schedules have increased.[27]

Shortly after the cancellation of "The Big Event", promoters began planning another concert with the scaled-down name "The Event", which went off without controversy before a sell-out crowd[27] at Madison Square Garden's WaMu Theater on March 1, 2009.[12][28] Later the same year, Aderet Records released a double CD and DVD of "The Event".[29]

Other activities
In 2010, Schmeltzer built a synagogue, Beis Medrash D'Airmont, in the village of Airmont, New York.[27][30]

Schmeltzer attended Rockland Community College, a two-year school which is part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. He pursued a dual associate degree in performing arts and liberal arts. On May 18, 2014 he graduated with a GPA of 3.902.[31][32]

In April 2014 Schmeltzer received a Chancellor's Award of Excellence, which is considered to be "the highest honor bestowed upon the student body."[33][34]

In 2014, Schmeltzer was studying Creative Writing and Visual Art at Columbia University's School of General Studies.[35]

In December 2011, Schmeltzer sang at Mayor Michael Bloomberg's annual Hanukkah party at the Jewish Heritage Museum, accompanied by the Freilach Orchestra.[36]

In December 2015, Schmeltzer sang at the annual White House Hanukkah Party, and promised President Barack Obama a special gift, a gold and silver yarmulke.[37] In May 2016 Schmeltzer traveled to Washington, D.C. and delivered Obama the promised gift of a gold and silver yarmulke.[38]

In 2016, Schmeltzer appeared in an Israeli television ad for Pepsi Max.[39]

In December 2016, Schmeltzer sang "God Bless America" in Yiddish (as "Gott Bensch Amerike") in Brooklyn Borough Hall at the inauguration of New York Civil Court Judge Rachel Freier.[40]

In September 2017, Reuven Schmeltzer, Lipa's father, died and the Skverer Rebbe came to be with him menachem avel (to console the mourner) while Sitting Shivah.[41]

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