IN TRIBUTE: Reb Sheya Mendlowitz, z”l: A Legend of Jewish Music Leaves This World
Motzei Shabbos is a time when we eat the seudah of Dovid Hamelech, the Ne’im Zemiros Yisroel, the author of Klal Yisroel’s eternal songs. It is an opportune time to reflect upon the incredible legacy of Jewish music left behind in the wake of the petirah of Reb Sheya Mendlowitz, a true legend who was a central figure behind the evolution of Jewish music from the time that it was in its infancy.
“People don’t realize how much he shaped Jewish music in the early days,” music producer Mendy Hershkowitz told BoroPark24. “He produced the early albums of Avraham Fried, and was a guiding force in his early career. I don’t think the HASC Concert brand would be what it is today if not for what Sheya, z”l, made it—he had an unbelievable way of knowing what people would appreciate… he was simply a legend,” Mendy said.
Legendary composer Yossi Green tells BoroPark24 that, “[Sheya] was the shaliach to bring the world Avorhom Fried, and brought our community the awareness of the world of HASC and of special-needs children and their families… He changed the world with these accomplishments itself!”
According to Green, Sheya created the Jewish concert idea… taking it out of high schools and college auditoriums, and bringing it to the classiest venues, including Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, the Metropolitan Opera House, Madison Square Garden Theater, Carnegie Hall, and Radio City Music Hall. “He brought prominence to Jewish music shows, what they should look and sound like, and brought us Mordechai Ben David in a way that no one had ever seen or heard him before,” Yossi said.
In addition to these incredible contributions, many may not know that Sheya was the composer behind the classic and famed Siman Tov Umazel Tov that has been sung at most Jewish weddings for decades. “The only songs I know that have become as popular are Benzion Schenker’s ‘Yosis,’ and Rabbi Avrohom Yehoshual Heschel Twerski’s ‘Hoshia’ –nice company indeed,” Yossi Green says.
For all his accomplishments, Sheya Mendelowitz was as humble as they come, Jewish music insiders relate. He always had a smile for everyone, and his kibud av v’aim was legendary.
In an interview with the Jewish Vues, Sheya imparted his philosophy on the nature of Jewish music and what his endeavor has been in his involvement in this world. “One thing I have tried to do is to preserve Jewish music. Everything is influenced by its surroundings and people try to take the rhythms of secular music and put Jewish words to it, but I wonder if that’s really Jewish music. So, what I’ve tried to do is preserve the Jewish identity of the music. The stuff that’s lasted through time are the real old, old songs- the chasidishe stuff and the Carlebach stuff and the Modzitzer stuff, because if you take all the extras out of it, you’re left with a beautiful, pure melody.”
Indeed, by all accounts, Sheya has succeeded in this effort in spectacular fashion, and has now gone to sing his pure melody before the kisei hakovod.
His levaye will take place tomorrow, Sunday, at 10:30am, at Shomrei Hadas. To watch the Levaye live click here.
Yehi zichro boruch.