July 23, 2024
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Dudu Fisher to Star in Chabad Unity Concert

It should come as no surprise that internationally acclaimed talent Dudu Fisher is headlining a unity concert coordinated by a group of Chabad houses in early July. Known for his portrayal of Jean Valjean in the Israeli production of Les Miserables, a role he eventually went on to reprise in New York and London, it was the Lubavitcher Rebbe whom Fisher found himself turning to when faced with a religious dilemma of epic proportions.

Auditioning for the lead in the Broadway production of Les Miserables, Fisher discovered that his Shabbos observance was a potential deal breaker for the show’s producers.

“Everyone was against the idea of having a lead that wouldn’t work on Friday night or do Saturday matinees,” Fisher told The Jewish Link. “My mother suggested that I talk to the Rebbe and at first I thought she was crazy. Who goes to talk to the Rebbe about Broadway? But I realized that there is nothing that you can’t talk to the Rebbe about.”

The Rebbe advised Fisher to stick to his guns and that everything would work out in the end. Fisher followed the Rebbe’s advice, refusing to compromise on his religious beliefs.

“Two months later I received the part,” said Fisher. “From Broadway I went to London and from there the stages of the world opened to me.”

It is a New Jersey stage that Fisher will be taking shortly as the star of a July 7 concert at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood. A joint effort by Chabad of Fair Lawn, Fort Lee, Franklin Lakes, Hoboken, Old Tappan, Paramus, Teaneck, Tenafly and Woodcliff Lake, the concert is intended to promote solidarity among Jews of all types, a message that resonated strongly with Fisher.

“Chabad doesn’t look at who you are, what you do or if you are religious or not,” said Fisher. “They accept everybody and just want people to start with doing one mitzvah.”

The concert is being held in honor of Hakhel, a mitzvah observed in the time of the Beis Hamikdash that brought men, women and children together on the Succos that followed a shemita year in a display of unity. The Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged his followers to hold Hakhel events of their own, even though the gatherings were no longer biblically mandated.

“The Rebbe encouraged us to harness and capture the inspiration of the mitzvah by observing it in the year of Hakhel, to create gatherings with the purpose of uniting Jewish people and inspiring them,” said Rabbi Chanoch Katz of Chabad of Northwest Bergen County in Franklin Lakes. “Whenever it was a shnas Hakhel, there was a major push on the part of the Rebbe, to encourage shluchim to create events that would bring as many yidden as possible together.”

Fisher noted that he was particularly intrigued by the Hakhel angle of the concert.

“It is bringing Jews together,” observed Fisher. “No matter who you are: Reform, Conservative or Orthodox, Chabad doesn’t care. As long as you are Jewish that is all that matters.”

The Hakhel concert marks the first collaboration among the nine Bergen County Chabad houses, making it a true unity event. The first Chabad house in the Bergen County region was founded in Teaneck in 1979.

“The rest were added as time went on,” said Rabbi Kaplan. “Twenty years ago there were only three in the area and now there are nine.”

Rabbi Kaplan and his wife, Mimi, moved to Franklin Lakes in 2000, establishing the local Chabad outpost in a small neighborhood home.

“It was not a very traditional neighborhood but over the years we planted seeds and we continue to seed and seed and to reach out and to inspire yidden in the neighborhood,” said Rabbi Kaplan.

The Chabad presence in Franklin Lakes continues to grow and now boasts a beautiful synagogue, a wide variety of programs and a Hebrew school with an enrollment of nearly 100 children.

Rabbi Kaplan said that with his universal appeal, Fisher was the right choice for the Hakhel concert.

“We wanted someone whose music would speak to every type of Jew,” said Rabbi Kaplan. “His genre is something that can be entertaining and interesting to a yid who is frum or to someone who is discovering their religion. His music really reaches across the spectrum of the Jewish community and he is someone who can unite and bring together every type of Jew.”

Also featured will be Rabbi Moshe Bryski of Chabad of Agoura, California, founder of the Conejo Jewish Academy, which offers more than 1,000 classes, lectures and programs annually. A renowned orator whose parsha class draws approximately 100 people each week, Rabbi Bryski will be paying tribute to the Lubavitcher Rebbe at the concert, which is taking place three days before the Rebbe’s 22nd yahrtzeit.

Rabbi Ephraim Simon of the thriving Chabad of Teaneck compared the many Hakhel events that have taken place throughout the year as recreations of the Sinai experience that empowers the Jewish nation.

“There is no question that we as a Jewish people have tremendous might in our unity,” said Rabbi Simon. “Our strength as a nation is not just dependent on what we are physically; we are strengthened when we are most unified and in a state of achdus and that is what Hakhel is all about.”

Rabbi Simon has high hopes for the concert, which he hopes will impart a powerful message to all participants.

“To have men, women and children gathering on one night to hear words of Torah and beautiful music, there is no question that it will bring achdus and strength to the Jewish people,” he said.

By Sandy Eller

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

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