Enrolling in college as an older student is just one of the many projects the enterprising Schmeltzer has undertaken. The entertainer is inordinately proud of the shul that he founded after relocating to Airmont, New York, several years ago. Having faced many challenges in his own life, Schmeltzer took great care to ensure that the shul be a place that is open and welcoming to everyone.
“I was a guy who wasn’t always welcome everywhere and I know what it is like not to feel comfortable walking into a shul,” recalled Schmeltzer. “For a long time I didn’t always have a place to daven on a weekday. I want everyone to feel welcome here, from those who come every day at 5:30 a.m. for the Daf Yomi shiur, to those who only come occasionally.”
Fellow congregant Yoely Weiss describes the Airmont shul as a place unlike any other.
“It is a loving, accepting environment, that isn’t chassidish, yeshivish or modern,” said Weiss. “It is everything and for everyone. There is a seriousness in the shul for true yiddishkeit and clearly people respond to that because it is jam packed every morning.”
Not an official rabbi as of yet, Schmeltzer hopes to add that title to his long list of credentials one day and is currently doing a twice-weekly online semicha program via Skype.
“I don’t know if I can finish the whole thing,” admits Schmeltzer.
Despite a hectic schedule that begins at 6:30 a.m. with a vasikin minyan and includes concerts, weddings, a newly released music video, Schmeltzer remains dedicated to his goal of getting a degree.
“I try to tell people the value of an education,” explains Schmeltzer. “You never know what’s going to be fifteen years from now and having a college degree opens a lot of doors, doors that you might need one day in the future.”