A capacity crowd gathered at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun (CBY) this past Motzei Shabbat to enjoy great Jewish pop music and high-energy theatrics at a concert given by Simcha Leiner. Organizer Chaim Kiss, CBY’s gabbai rishon and a beloved chazan, opened for Leiner with two songs.
Leiner is a sensation in the Jewish musical world who chose Teaneck as the first stop on his new international tour, and his fans in the audience sang along and clapped to many of his familiar tunes. A large group of Bruriah students danced and cheered in the back of the room.
Since 2008, the 30-year-old Leiner has wowed crowds with his strong Hebrew vocals, beautiful singing voice and quirky music videos. While he grew up in Monsey, is a graduate of Yeshivat Ner Yisroel in Baltimore and studied for a master’s degree in business, his first full-length studio album, Pischi Li, was released to great acclaim in 2014, and since then, he has worked almost entirely in music, releasing or collaborating on eight more albums. In November 2016, Leiner sang his greatest hits to a sold-out crowd in Odessa, Ukraine, joined by a 62-piece symphony orchestra.
In addition to debuting new music from his newest album, “Kol Hakavod”—for which his tour is named—Leiner sang many of his popular singles and even presented an energetic medley of wedding songs, since many of his performances are at chuppot. He also introduced one of his newest musical collaborators, Shua, who played keyboard at the concert and arranged some of the songs for the tour. Leiner’s band also included a drummer, a saxophonist and a guitarist, and the stage was flanked by two screens that played either music videos or descriptive images of the topics of Leiner’s songs.
Perhaps most exciting, however, was Leiner’s inviting up to the stage half a dozen local young men who had prepped in advance to sing with him. The voices of Judah Vogel, Akiva Belizon, Yosef Kopel, Tzvi Belizon and Aharon Cohen as well as several others were extremely well trained and at some points, caused the audience to gasp at the beauty and strength of their singing. Later, Leiner led a group of enthusiastic fans in dancing around the shul in a Jewish version of a congo line.
Also at the event was a CBY teen who had recently donated bone marrow through Gift of Life; he staffed a table to help people swab to join the worldwide database that saves the lives of people with blood diseases. Kiss thanked him, and also thanked the CBY teens who staffed and helped coordinate the concert, including Kayla Berkowitz, Meira Silver, Sarah Kiss, Sam Wartelsky, Judah Vogel and Daniel Becker.
In advance of Leiner joining the shul once again to lead davening on this coming Shabbat Vayishlach, December 13 and 14, Kiss invited young men to join him this past Sunday to learn a bit of chazzanut and practice the music of musaf, so that they can “Sing With Simcha,” and join Leiner at the amud during musaf on Shabbat morning. All are invited to come daven and enjoy. To learn more, visit www.bnaiyeshurun.org/youth or follow CBYYouth on Instagram.
By Elizabeth Kratz