web analytics
July 1, 2015 / 14 Tammuz, 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
U.S. President Barack Obama
Obama Won’t Enforce Anti-BDS Provision Language in Trade Bill he just Signed
Latest Indepth Stories
Mahmoud Abbas trying to see if he has supporters on the UN Security Council.

Nothing in the NEW Paris Proposal differs much from what was offered by Olmert and rejected by Abbas

Matan Katzman. regional executive at the StandWithUs

No longer will delegitimization efforts go unchallenged. That’s a silence we will continue to break.

Flag of Sweden

Increasingly, Sweden is becoming a country where anti-Semitism & supporting terrorism is acceptable.

Community-Jewels-logo

Rabbi Pfeffer points out that at his site, there are no one-line answers. “We want to show the people we’re interested in their questions,” he says.

The problem with US treatment of Israel did not start with Obama but with birth of Jewish State

The pathetic failure of the Marianne to reach Gaza is the best thing that has happened to Israel since Hamas mis-fired a rocket on its own civilians.

Wonder why Israel has the world’s most insane rules of engagement imposed on its military? Read on..

Think political Islam’s a problem now just wait until an Islamist nuclear umbrella covers the region

Fiorina’s wrong about Islam which embraces our death&destruction confusing pc theories for hard fact

Bangladesh PM Hasina is fighting terror not only for her nation but for the entire civilized world.

No necessity to redefine marriage, just address equal rights for couples in non-nuclear families

PM Netanyahu has pledged the nation won’t rest until the hero Eli Cohen is returned home to Israel

“Palestinian armed groups” & “local authorities” are named in the report; Hamas’ absence stands out

Dating apps have really changed the way many young Jews approach dating.

The families of those slain even publicly forgave the murderer. Charleston was serene and at peace.

Changing plans needn’t be a frustrating experience. Sometimes the new path proves far more rewarding

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
On-The-Bookshelf-logo

My best book is one that hasn’t been published yet.

Israel is not the only issue that has drawn Jews closer to conservative Christians in recent decades. The culture wars have played a significant role as well.

What books might people be surprised to find on your bookshelves?

Jews are an anxious group – understandably, given the millennia of persecution – and want to have no trouble.

Why do Jews, then, sometimes feel more intensely about Polish anti-Semitism than they do about German anti-Semitism?

Mitchell Bard is nothing if not prolific. He has written and edited 23 books, including “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East” and “The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East.” Bard, who has a Ph.D. in political science from UCLA, is also the executive director of both the […]

You have to understand that Ukraine was really a very, very Jewish place for many years.

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: