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Yaakov Shwekey (Hebrew: יעקב שוואקי‎, born Yaakov Choueka[1]) (born in 1977) is an Orthodox Jewish recording artist and musical entertainer. He is of Egyptian and Syrian Sephardic heritage from his father's side; and Ashkenazi from his mother's side.
Family and early life
Yaakov Shwekey was born in Jerusalem, Israel to an Ashkenazi Jewish mother raised in the United States, and a Sephardi Jewish father born in Cairo to a family from a Syrian background. His parents had met and married in New York City.[2] Shwekey was raised in Polanco, Mexico City, and attended Yeshiva Ateret Yosef. He later lived in Brooklyn, NY, and attended Yeshiva of Brooklyn before moving to Deal, New Jersey.

Musical career
As a child, he sang in the Ateret Yosef Choir in Mexico City and he and his brother Yisroel Meir sang with the Miami Boys Choir for a short period of time.[3] As a young man, Shwekey learned in Rabbi Menachem Davidowitz's yeshiva (TIUNY) in Rochester, NY.[4] He launched his professional career as a singer after his marriage.[2]

Musical style
Shwekey's songs and lyrics are generally composed by others. Until late 2015, his albums were produced by Yochi Briskman, and distributed in the US by Aderet Music, and in Israel by JMI. Going forward, he has produced his own albums with Yitzy Waldner. Many different arrangers have arranged his albums in the past including Moshe Laufer, Mona Rosenblum, Yanky Briskman, Leib Yaakov Rigler, and Yisroel Lamm. Until 2006 Shwekey's primary studio was "Studio X" (run by Yochi Briskman, engineered by AJ Greenwald), today, some of his recording is done in his private home studio.[5]

One of his best-known songs is "Racheim" (Have compassion), composed by Pinky Weber.[2] The lyrics are from the Grace after meals, asking God to have mercy on the Jewish nation and the city of Jerusalem. As Shwekey describes this song, "It's a prayer. It's not just a song. We connect with G-d and ask Him to have mercy."[citation needed] In 2008/2009 Vehi She'omdah, composed by Yonatan Razel and debuted on his Live in Caesaria concert DVD, and later rerecorded on Ad Bli Dai became a major hit. Many of his songs, including "Shomati" (from the Talmud) composed by Yossi Green and "Im Eshkacheich", from Psalms 137,composed by Yochanan Shapiro have found considerable popularity as Jewish wedding songs. His latest hits are: Cry No More, Ra'u Banim, Bo'ee Be'shalom, Lo Ya'avod, Am Yisrael, and Et Rekod, among others. From his album We are a Miracle, the songs Maamin Bensim, Smachot, Maran Sheli, and Inshallah were met with critical acclaim and can be heard across the world at Jewish events and celebrations and in Jewish homes, schools, and camps everywhere. He sang a new tune, composed by Yitzy Waldner, to Mi Shebeirach a prayer globally recited for soldiers in the IDF, in the Nokia Stadium, Tel Aviv in 2013, in the presence of many Israeli soldiers. In June 2018, Shwekey released Musica, on which he displayed a variety of styles, with lyrics in multiple languages.

New projects
Shwekey released his tenth solo studio album in June 2018. Entitled Musica, it was Shwekey's second self-produced solo album (the first being We Are a Miracle), though in the credits, Shwekey credited Yitzy Waldner with being his co-producer. Waldner also composed most of the album's songs, with most of the lyrics for the album written by longtime lyricist Miriam Israeli. Additionally, Waldner made a guest appearance on the album's second song, Tefilat Hashla.[citation needed]

Concert controversy
In August 2007, Shwekey and Avraham Fried were slated to headline a major concert in Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium. The event was produced by Moshe Ben-Zimra and billed as a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. Leading Haredi rabbis, including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the Gerrer Rebbe, the Belzer Rabbe, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, and Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg signed a ban which appeared in the Haredi press forbidding participation or attendance of the event or similar events. Their ban stated that concerts should not be performed in front of both men and women, regardless if there was separate seating.[6]

Shwekey issued a response that he had already posed the question to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef when an earlier concert featuring him, along with Mordechai Ben David, was also banned. Rabbi Yosef responded that there is absolutely no prohibition as long as the event had completely separate seating.[7] Neither Shwekey nor Fried pulled out of the concert.

Personal life
He and his wife Jenine and their six children live in Deal, New Jersey.[2] Jenine is the co-founder of the Special Children's Center in Lakewood, New Jersey, a respite and support program for special needs children, and Shwekey also volunteers much time and energy to this philanthropic endeavor.[2] In an interview with Yated Ne'eman, Shwekey said, "I'm convinced that the success I've experienced in my music career is all because of our work with these special children."[8]

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