The wildly popular Hasidic wedding singer Lipa Schmeltzer was scheduled to headline “The Big Event,” a heavily promoted charity concert geared toward ultra-Orthodox Jews, at Madison Square Garden’s WaMu Theater on March 9. But after a group of 33 rabbis issued a decree banning the concert, he bowed out last week, forcing organizers to cancel the event. The rabbis published their fatwa in an ultra-Orthodox newspaper on February 20, arguing that the concert—with separate seating for men and women—would “cause frivolity and levity” and “remove from our youth any speck of the fear of God and cause them to fall into the lowest of depths.” Schmeltzer is known for setting his Hebrew and Yiddish lyrics to popular, secular melodies, including songs by the Spice Girls. The singer told the Orthodox radio show “Talkline” that the rabbis behind the ban were duped into signing on by extremist anti-Schmeltzerites who object to that practice and to his lively onstage banter. The pressure seems to have made a convert of the singer: He now says he’ll perform only Jewish music.
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