The lights dim. The singer steps out onto the stage. As the audience sinks into their seats, swept into song, there’s one woman in the crowd with her shoulders angled forward, her eyes following every movement on the stage. She sees what others don’t see — a subtle expression on the singer’s face, a tense moment between the musicians, a prop out of place. When the crowd around her is lifted to its feet in a rousing ovation, her heart is swamped with euphoric relief that can only be described as nachas.
You don’t know her because you haven’t heard of her, but as you listen to her husband inspire you, you’re listening to her. She is his ezer k’negdo, the woman behind every concert, album, and heartfelt song.
Miriam Schmeltzer never thought her husband would be one of today’s foremost Jewish entertainers, just like she never thought she’d marry Lipa Schmeltzer, the popular and talented boy in her brother’s class. Growing up in the small chassidish village of New Square, she knew Lipa well, and enjoyed his vocalizations for the girls’ school performances, where the students refrained from singing for tzniyus reasons and featured his voice instead.
Surprisingly enough, Lipa’s singing never came up as a topic of discussion in their hour-long beshua (sit-in date). Instead, they focused on tachlis — what kind of home they wanted to build. During the time of their engagement, Lipa started taking on jobs as a singer for family and friends. After their marriage, he advertised in a small local circular, offering his talent as a badchan for the minimal price of $499.99. He’s since multiplied his fee, but Miriam still holds on to that first ad.
When Yocheved Elbogen was dating her husband, Kuppy — a singer, actor, and baal tefillah — the topic of music did come up, but mostly as a nice conversation piece since she herself is musical. “I remember him sharing a disappointing experience he had as a child. He was supposed to sing six solos on a Pirchei record, but the day he was scheduled to appear in the studio, he came down with mumps for the second time — a very rare occurrence.”
At the time they were dating, Kuppy was already singing for friends’ weddings and for camps. But Yocheved had no idea that his passion for performing would turn into a full-blown career.
Kuppy’s three albums (Plioh, Hashem Sefosai Tiftach, and Ki Hamalchus) stand side by side with the many plays he’s acted in. He’s also been contracted to act in DVD productions and to narrate for presentations and children’s tapes. Then there are all the weddings he performs at, and the Yamim Noraim davening at Rabbi Yaakov Reisman’s Aguduah shul in Far Rockaway. Kuppy also serves as baal korei and frequent baal tefillah at the Avodas Yisrael Kosnitz in Sea Gate, where the Elbogens are shul members.
Even after so many years of marriage, when Yocheved hears her husband sing at chuppahs or daven during the Yamim Noraim, “tears still stream down my cheeks,” she says. “His tefillos and singing are so touching — they really speak to one’s neshamah.”