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Pinky’s Prayer

Aryeh Ehrlich, New York

Say the name “Pinky Weber,” and chances are someone will start humming. But not too long ago, the average fan of chassidish music would have had a hard time putting a face to the name “Pinky Weber.” For more than two decades, Reb Pinchas Mordechai Weber was known to the chassidim of Williamsburg as a badchan with rare talent. Virtually no one dreamed how many hearts that talent would touch, and how far from the mitzvah tantz scene his songs would travel.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

man standing by carThe man who discovered Reb Pinky Weber’s rare talent for composition is the American singer Reb Michoel Schnitzler, who put out a popular series of albums in Yiddish over a decade ago. All of the songs in those albums were Weber’s work. Reb Isaac Honig, another well-known American singer, based his album V’sivneihu on Reb Pinchas’s work. Since then, Reb Pinky Weber’s creations have starred in every one of Honig’s albums. This year in Shevat, another Honig album is scheduled to appear in stores, and it will feature five Weber creations.

But Reb Pinchas garnered many more customers in the ensuing years, customers like Avraham Fried (“Peduscha L’Amcha,” “Kah Hartzeh Lanu,” “Eishes Chayil,” et al.), Mordechai Ben David (“Midas Harachamim,” “Tefillah L’Ani”), Shloime Gertner (“Hashivah Shofteinu,” “Shuvu Lachem L’Ohaleichem,” “Ashrei Mi,” “Re’eh Na B’Anyeinu”), Lipa Schmeltzer (“Al Taster,” “Ayeh Makom Kevodo,” “Shivati,” “U’bifrat al Yoshvei Eretz Yisrael,” “Gelt,” and others), and Sruly Ginsburg (“Aneinu,” et al.). Yisroel Werdyger’s new album, Odeh La’Kel, also contains five compositions that are the fruit of Reb Pinky Weber’s hard work and the product of his emotional world.

Today, despite his stunning repertoire and reputation, composing music remains Reb Pinchas’s secondary occupation. First and foremost, he practices an art form that is enjoyed primarily by the American Jewish public — the composition of grammen.

“I created a new genre of grammen. But now it has been copied by many others,” he tells me during an extended conversation that takes place beneath the bleachers of the main Satmar beis medrash on Rodney Street, in Williamsburg, where he opened a tiny crack into his closely guarded inner world. Above and around us are 5,000 chassidim who are celebrating the sheva brachos of the eldest granddaughter of the Rebbe Reb Yekusiel Yehudah of Satmar shlita.

He then adds, “I make a living from grammen, but I enjoy composing niggunim much more.”

Despite this revelation, conducting a conversation with Reb Pinky Weber about his work is not an easy feat. He doesn’t easily agree to talk about himself or to open up. In general, people tend to be more open in a one-on-one conversation, whereas they are filled with fear when standing before an audience, but for Reb Pinky Weber the opposite is true. When he is facing a large group of listeners, his mind is clear and words come to him easily. His talent for improvisation is truly extraordinary. But in private conversation he becomes hesitant, choosing his words carefully. He is obviously uncomfortable with the focus on his talent. Yet in matters pertaining to Torah or hashkafah — and, l’havdil, non-Torah subjects — this devout Satmar chassid displays an impressive amount of knowledge, as well as an authentic kanaus typical of his community.

 

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