Who is Alex Clare? He is a British pop singer with a top ten single entitled Too Close. He is the ex-boyfriend of Amy Winehouse. And he is an observant Jew.
How – one might ask – does an Orthodox Jew hook up with someone like Amy Whitehouse, a mega popular Grammy award winning Jewish singer who was anything but observant? And who had a history of drug addiction and alcohol abuse that eventually caused her death?
He doesn’t talk about his relationship with her. But a Times of Israel article does reveal that he has only been observant for about 5 years. Which might explain how their relationship both began and ended.
The YouTube video of his hit song (below) has had over 32 million hits so far. How observant is he? From the Times article:
Raised in a secular home, Clare hooked up with Chabad after studying in Jerusalem.
While on tour, Clare relies on daily religious practice to navigate a music world that provides no end of temptation. He studies the Tanya, a work of Hasidic philosophy by the founder of the Chabad movement, and the Talmud tractate Brachot…
Clare said his team helps him keep certain religious laws: For example, his bodyguards help ward off the mobs of screaming teenage girls — and there are many — so that nobody touches him, since he adheres to religious laws of modesty which forbid touching women.
“I know clubs and concert halls are not the best place for a nice Jewish boy, but everyone has their life choices and this is mine,” he said. “It’d definitely be different if I was a Satmar Hasid. They’d probably disown me.”
Clare says that he did lose a record deal opportunity because he refused to play on Sukkot and tour over the holidays. But he says these are small prices to pay, and even with sacrifices made, a little faith can go a long way.
This is truly an amazing story. Just like going OTD fascinates me, so too does becoming observant. In both cases there is a radical departure from one’s past that involves sacrifices. Difficult ones albeit different ones.
I haven’t written about Chabad in quite some times. Things seemed to have quieted down. But those who have been reading this blog for awhile will know about my issues with them. Not the least of which is their belief that at the very least their now deceased Rebbe can in theory rise from the dead to become the Messiah.
That belief varies among various Lubavitchers between a mere possible but unlikely occurrence to an actual devout belief that this will indeed happen. Although these beliefs are being mostly kept in the closet by the mainstream, they are still there.
In fact there are still some pockets of Lubavitch that are not shy about proclaiming the Rebbe’s messiahship either. You may occasionally see one of their homes or vehicles displaying a yellow Rebbe/Moshiach flag. This is especially the case in Israel with signs saying the Rebbe is Moshiach being seen all over the place. But their mainstream leadership has been doing a good job of marginalizing them. At least in America.
Even with all these problems, they must be given a huge amount of credit for their outreach work. Their Messianic beliefs do not seem to affect that. No one does it like Lubavitch. And according to the Times article they seem to be the ones responsible for Clare becoming observant. My hat is off to them.
Why do I care? Because when a high profile entertainer becomes a practicing Jew, it makes an impression. Of those over 32 million mostly young eople who have listened to his YouTube video some of them are Jews. And some of those may very well be motivated to seek their own roots. And that is not a small thing.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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