Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



All Part of the Song

Yisroel Besser

With the release of his new album, Shmueli Ungar gives his listeners the most important lesson of all — to “mach a brachah” of thanks

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

 Mishpacha image

“There’s something about Shmueli singing that makes you feel like he’s performing just for you, like he’s letting you in a secret. His voice, like him, is refreshingly straightforward” (Photos: Amir Levy)

T here are two kinds of smilers: the ones who wake up expecting a sunny day, beaming in anticipation of all the good things coming their way, and those whose smile is borne of the toil in finding that lone ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.

One smile comes naturally, while the other is a choice.

And Shmueli Ungar’s smile is both.

Shmueli (pronounced Shmili) is a smiler and a laugher and an embracer. He has also, in his relatively young life, endured the loss of his beloved father, the death of the grandfather who stepped in to raise him, and a divorce.

The two tracks — blessed optimist and determined warrior — meet in his music. He can cry out to the Rachamana d’ani lisvirei liba, the Merciful One who answers the pleas of the brokenhearted, but also exult and urge listeners to “mach a brachah.” Life is good. Even for those with broken hearts.


Shmueli’s story starts with his mother — and her music.

“I grew up in Monroe, in Kiryat Joel, but the music we played was different than most of the neighbors. My mother was raised in Melbourne, Australia, in a very musical environment, and to her, music wasn’t just noise to fill the house, it was art. She was very specific about what we could listen to.”

Little Shmueli came home from cheder one day eager for her to purchase a popular new album. “All the boys were talking about the songs, so I wanted it too. I asked her to buy it and she said ‘no.’ I was surprised. ‘Why not?’ I asked her. She looked at me. ‘Because it’s not good music, that’s why.’”

Mrs. Ungar would play Miami Boys Choir for her children — and point out the complexity of the harmonies. “I’m not sure how many homes in Monroe played JM in the AM every morning, but we did and she made sure we appreciated good music.

“There are a million reasons to thank the Ribbono shel Olam, always. I saw grief in my life, but I never felt differently”

“I was a heavy kid,” Shmueli stops suddenly and shrugs. “Fat — why use other words? I know, looking at me now you can’t imagine it, right?” He winks. “But my mother always told me I was a star. When I sang, I believed it.”

Weight issues notwithstanding, it was a relatively happy childhood — until a few months before Shmueli’s bar mitzvah, when his father got sick.

It was a painful time. After being diagnosed with a serious illness, Reb Yaakov Aryeh Ungar was moved to the hospital and was often there for long periods of time.

“After a few months in the hospital, they let him come home for a few weeks,” Shmueli remembers. “Then he had to go back. I remember one of those nights when he was home; I was supposed to be sleeping but he came into my room and kissed me on the forehead — it was very unlike him, he didn’t generally kiss us. I felt that kiss. I still feel it.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 699)

Related Stories

The Will to Win

Binyamin Rose

Billionaire Elie Horn has set the bar high. Fighting the battle against assimilation is not enough, ...

Winner’s Circle

Esther Ilana Rabi

Owner Gal Wiener is happy to share the stories behind every piece in the Winner’s Auction House show...

On Site: Brewmaster for a Day

Yosef Zoimen

We rolled up our sleeves, chopped wood for the fire, stirred the mash, added the hops, barreled our ...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
No Misunderstandings
Rabbi Moshe Grylak Hashem revealed the secret of a balanced life
What Was the Court’s Rush?
Yonoson Rosenblum The Democratic Party’s descent into madness
Survey? Oy Vey
Eytan Kobre How could YAFFED promote such a farce?
Filling the Void
Rabbi Henoch Plotnik Jewish leaders don’t need to be declared or coronated
Top 5 Ways We Remember Our Rebbeim (and we love them for it!)
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin An ode to these pivotal people in my life
Hanging On in Newark
Rabbi Nosson Scherman Rabbi Nosson Scherman remembers the shul of his youth
A Fine Kettle of Fish
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman The “minor” chasadim are often the most meaningful
The Next Hill
Jacob L. Freedman The look on Malachi’s face nearly broke my heart
Tradition and Modern Meet in One Long Dance
Riki Goldstein Fusing tradition and modernity comes naturally to him
A Playlist for Shabbos
Riki Goldstein What does Moshy Kraus sing at the Shabbos table?
With Flying Colors
Riki Goldstein My 15 seconds of fame on the Carnegie Hall stage
Full Faith
Faigy Peritzman With emunah, everyone’s obligation is the same
Speechless
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Silence isn’t always golden
The Only One
With Rav Moshe Wolfson, written by Baila Vorhand Within every Jew is the flame of instinctive emunah