web analytics
February 28, 2015 / 9 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


The Man Whose Tunes Grace Shabbos Tables Worldwide: An Interview with Composer Ben Zion Shenker

Ben Zion Shenker (Photo courtesy of Milken Archive of Jewish Music)

Ben Zion Shenker (Photo courtesy of Milken Archive of Jewish Music)

You have to remember that Torah Vodaas was also considered more or less a very chassidic yeshiva because Rav Shraga Feivel was a chassidishe guy.

Your two most famous compositions are probably “Eishes Chayil” and “Mizmor L’David.” How did you come up with these two pieces?

You never know how these things come to your head. The “Mizmor L’David” I composed in Palestine in 1946. It came to me while sitting in my uncle’s house for Shalosh Seudos….

Eishes Chayil” I composed later on when I was married already. I can’t say it came to me in one sitting. It was something I worked on. Every Friday night I had thoughts about it until finally I finalized it in 1953.

Your “Eishes Chayil” is sung almost everywhere. What tune did people sing before yours?

In my parents’ house, we never even sang “Eishes Chayil.”

There are [tunes for] “Eishes Chayil” from the talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov, but I don’t even know them. There is one from Rav Nachman Breslover, which I once saw notated in some place.

What other songs of yours are famous?

Well, there’s one that’s becoming very popular in Israel now at all the chassidishe weddings. It’s called “Hatov, hatov.” In fact, about four weeks ago, I got a call from Avraham Fried. He was searching the Internet and heard me singing “Hatov, hatov” at a gathering with the present Modzitzer Rebbe this past Chanukah.

“I got to have that song,” he told me, “I love it.” So I invited him over to the house, he recorded it for himself, and he’ll get back to me probably.

You’ve composed something like 500 pieces of music. Do you remember them all?

Well, if you don’t sing them, you forget them. In fact, we have a kumzits every Chol HaMoed, and, beside myself, I usually ask two of my friends to sing something because I want to take a little bit of rest. So one of them started singing a song [this year] that was familiar to me, but I wasn’t sure what it was. He went through the whole thing, and I said, “What is that song?” It turns out it was one of my own.

If someone wanted to listen to your music, where could he hear it?

Twice a year we have a kumzits, and we also have gatherings in the Modzitz shtiebel on Coney Island Ave. on the yahrzeit of each of [the Modzitz Rebbes]. And then there are 12 CDs that are being sold now in Judaica stores. Out of the 12, I would say that about seven are Modzitz and five are mine.

What’s your opinion of the current state of Jewish music?

I’m not a big chassid of contemporary Jewish music because what they’re trying to do is imitate goyishe music. Sometimes they latch onto a song to holy words that have no shaichus whatsoever with the niggun, and that bothers me a little bit.

Wasn’t Eastern European Jewish music also influenced by its environs?

That’s true, there were influences, but the songs sounded Jewish – put it that way – whereas some of the songs you hear coming out now don’t. There’s all these different kinds of styles that they use now – even rap. It’s hard to go along with that kind of situation.

You’re 88 years old and still composing. Some people your age would retire and take it easy.

Believe me, sometimes I wonder why I’m not doing that. But in a way, it keeps me alive; it keeps me a little young also.

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Man Whose Tunes Grace Shabbos Tables Worldwide: An Interview with Composer Ben Zion Shenker

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Israeli Arabs in Nazerth protest against Israel's response to terror last July.
Israel Arabs Greet Herzog and Livni with PA Flags and Fist Fights
Latest Indepth Stories
Netanyahu in a previous address to Congress-

Bibi’s speech to Congress will bring respect and honor to the Jewish Nation from the US & the world

Korenblit-022715

Obama & Putin have handwriting/signature clues indicating differences between public & private life

Councilman David Greenfield

It’s time for a new Jewish policy regarding Ramallah, NOT just because of the yarmulke incident

Levmore-022715

“GETT’s” being screened for Israeli Rabbinical Court judges at their annual convention.

If Jackson were alive he’d denounce Democratic party’s silence towards virulent anti-Semitism

Victim of Palestinian Arab terrorism, a victor in NY federal court, after years of being ignored by Justice Dept.

March 2013: Arabs hurled stones hitting the Biton’s car; Adele’s mother swerved the car-into a truck

The real issue is that in many respects the president has sought to recalibrate American values and our system of government.

Former Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman, writing in the Washington Post on Sunday, provided one of the clearest and most compelling analyses we’ve seen of the importance of the prime minister’s speech.

A central concept in any discussion about happiness is achieving clarity. “Ain simcha ela k’hataras hasefeikos” – there is no joy as that experienced with the removal of doubt.

“Je Suis..,” like its famous origin 400 years ago, implies the ability & freedom to think & question

Many anti-Israel demonstrations at universities have a not-so-latent anti-Semitic agenda as well

Believing a few “extremists” hijacked Islam is myopic in history and geography, numbers and scope

More Articles from Elliot Resnick

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Nouril concluded he had no choice: He had to become more observant.

I was very pro-Israel, I was very proud of being Jewish, and I was living in New York at the time as a single man in my 20s and I was just looking for a little bit more.

A school voucher means the state is giving you a voucher to send your kid to whatever school you want. That might be problematic as far church-state issues are concerned.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

To many Orthodox Jews the issue is “Permitted & Prohibited;” “Right & Wrong” barely considered,

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/the-man-whose-tunes-grace-shabbos-tables-worldwide-an-interview-with-composer-ben-zion-shenker/2014/01/29/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: