July 21, 2024
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‘Carry On,’ a Musical Legacy of Inspiration

An album being released this Motzei Shabbat pays tribute to a former Bayswater resident in a meaningful way, sharing his inspirational music with the world at large, while also benefitting a program that helps teens and young adults overcome life’s challenges.

Binyamin Zwickler was diagnosed with cancer as a high school senior at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway, two years after losing his father. Despite the hardships in his life, Binyamin rose above his challenges with an enthusiasm and love of life that were contagious, his ability to play multiple instruments providing him with an outlet to express himself through music.

“If he walked into someone’s house for a quick visit or was staying somewhere for Shabbos and he saw a piano, he would sit down and play for everybody,” recalled close friend Menachem Katz. “He wouldn’t play covers, he would play what was on his mind and it just flowed.”

Binyamin’s music was inspirational, speaking of emunah, bitachon and his strong connection to Hashem. His original songs were deeply personal and he rarely shared them with anyone, finally recording and giving them to his close friends and family shortly before his passing in February 2017 at the age of 25.

“We were extremely close but I never heard any of these songs before he shared them with us a few days before he died,” said Katz. “They were personal compositions that he had written for himself and they were his gift to us.”

Over the years Binyamin’s friends continued listening to his music, deciding eventually to perpetuate his legacy by re-recording the songs in a more professional setting, while still keeping them as authentically Binyamin’s as possible.

“The music was so powerful and such a piece of Binyamin that we felt it was our duty to bring it out so that others could be affected by it in addition to being a zechus for his neshama when people heard it,” explained Katz.

Moshe Martone, another of Binyamin’s friends, suggested the concept of hand picking Jewish singers who could make the most out of each song and asking them to lend their talents to the project. Approaching Aryeh Kunstler to produce the album, Katz and Martone were shocked to discover several of Binyamin’s previously undiscovered songs that he had recorded in Kunstler’s studio.

“I remember him coming in in 2015 with a guitar and he went into the booth and just sang,” said Kunstler. “There is a certain passion that you can identify right off the bat and it was clear that Binyamin had it. Those songs weren’t the shiny shoe, cookie cutter versions that you sometimes hear—they were very uniquely his.”

Joey Newcomb, Kunstler, Israel and Mendy Portnoy, Eli Levin, Eli Dachs, Moishy Schwartz and Danny Palgon all signed on to provide vocals for the six songs that were chosen out of approximately 12 that had been collected. Kunstler choreographed a special vibe for each one to match the artists chosen, with Eli Levin and Eli Dachs jointly performing the title track, “Carry On,” a conversation between Binyamin and his father on the importance of persevering through life’s tougher moments. A seventh song on the album, “Mi Kamocha,” features Binyamin in a live recording that was made in 2015.

The idea of adding an extra dimension to the album by making the Woodmere-based Madraigos its official beneficiary is one that will allow “Carry On” to make a lasting impression. Katz believes that Madraigos is an organization that would have been close to Binyamin’s heart and one that mirrors the efforts he made in his lifetime to empower people and support them in their challenges.

“I think this will help people handle the different situations they may be facing and that whatever is going in their life they should continue to carry on and move forward,” explained Katz. “Hopefully Binyamin’s music will give them the ability to move on and inspire them to go in the right way.”

Madraigos plans to use proceeds of the album, as well as donations from local corporate sponsors, to launch an open mic night program in its teen lounge, a drop-in center that offers a safe space and a nurturing environment and is an expansion of its year-round prevention programming.

“The Open Mic Night program will literally ‘carry on’ the life and legacy of Binyamin Zwickler for our community’s youth,” said Madraigos Executive Director Sharon Gross. “His life messages will surely resonate with our participants and undoubtedly uplift them through the music, creative and self-expression this forum provides.”

Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for websites, newspapers, magazines and private clients. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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