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Michoel Schnitzler Passed Away Dies Aged 62

Michoel Schnitzler Passed Away : Michoel Schnitzler, who sadly passed away at the age of 62 due to a heart attack on Saturday, not only revitalized Hasidic music but also achieved unprecedented popularity, particularly among young people, within the ultra-orthodox community, where such recognition is typically reserved for rabbis.

About Michoel Schnitzler Passed Away

Despite his humble beginnings, Schnitzler became an unwitting voice of a generation. His music, which occasionally pushed the boundaries, injected new energy into a genre that was previously confined to traditional event halls. His impact was remarkable, as he brought a fresh and edgy perspective to Hasidic music, captivating audiences in ways that had not been seen before.

Michoel  Schnitzler’s appeal and popularity extended far beyond his exceptional voice.

Growing up in 1990s Hasidic Williamsburg, attempting to imitate his commanding voice was a common pursuit among kids like myself. He embodied the essence of coolness to us. On stage, he displayed a unique sense of freedom, being a little louder and more expressive than the typical Hasidic singer.

Several of my childhood friends, who later pursued careers in music, were undeniably inspired by him. At Michoel Schnitzler’s funeral, there was a tangible sense of loss. Many of the attending Hasidic singers were younger than Schnitzler, and some even considered him their direct mentor. Among them was Lipa Schmeltzer, who once humorously introduced himself as the Hasidic Lady Gaga when meeting then-President Obama, referencing his edgy style. Schmeltzer delivered a heartfelt eulogy, attributing his own rise to fame to Schnitzler.

“You are leaving behind countless broken hearts, so many boys who have felt like outcasts—including myself—who looked up to you, and countless Instagram followers,” Lipa tearfully expressed, a line that may seem unusual at a Haredi funeral. However, it captures the impact of individuals like Schnitzler and Schmeltzer in pushing for greater acceptance and inclusivity within the Haredi community.

By the time of his passing, Michoel Schnitzler had become a household name in Hasidic homes, spanning from New York to Jerusalem. Yet, his ascent was far from predictable. Born into a rabbinical family, he experienced the loss of his father at a young age. He went through a divorce during a time when it was still considered taboo, and struggled with poverty throughout his formative years.

In the 1990s, the Jewish music scene was primarily influenced by renowned musicians like Mordechai Ben David and Avraham Fried, who were well-established and polished artists. Their music, although not aligned with the Hasidic mainstream, aimed to entertain without causing controversy.

However, when Michoel Schnitzler emerged onto the scene, he brought a fresh perspective by taking classic tunes and transforming them into hits with his unique touch and signature twists. As a performer at weddings and community celebrations, he directly engaged with the audience, showcasing a personality that exceeded his vocal abilities. Moving across the stage, he raised his voice, captivating the crowd and igniting a sense of joy and excitement, infusing the music with an unparalleled ecstasy.

Prior to Michoel Schnitzler’s rise, the concept of celebrity within the Haredi community was virtually non-existent. Idolizing individuals for anything other than their piety and Torah knowledge was unfamiliar territory.

Likewise, challenging social norms within the community through music was unheard of.

Michoel Schnitzler’s increasing popularity did face some backlash. His style was met with disapproval from certain Hasidic rabbis, which led him to leave Kiryas Joel, the ultra-Orthodox Satmar enclave in upstate New York where he was born and raised. However, his unstoppable popularity eventually led to his acceptance into the Haredi mainstream.

Michoel Schnitzler’s voice, both literally and metaphorically, deeply resonated with a growing audience of young Haredi Jews. Through his albums, he utilized his music to advocate for greater inclusivity and kindness within the Haredi world.

Some of his songs even took on the form of protest songs. One of his most famous tracks, “Der Bochur’s Tzava’a” (The Boy’s Will), commonly referred to as “track 5,” addresses the issue of judging others based on external appearances. The lyrics boldly criticize rabbis and educators who are quick to pass judgment on individuals based on non-conformity to external standards:

While Schnitzler may not have seen himself as a rebel, his songs undoubtedly reflected his personal self-expression. With his modern clothing and personal experiences, including his divorce, he deviated from the image of a typical Hasidic Jew. However, he found a sense of belonging within a community that resided on the fringes of Haredi society.

Despite the differences that set him apart, Schnitzler was able to connect with those who also felt marginalized within the community, forging a unique bond through his music.

From the margins to the mainstream 

Schnitzler’s songs carried the essence of peace and love from the 1960s into the Hasidic world of the 1990s and early 2000s. Through his subtle challenges to power structures and hierarchies, he amplified the voices of those who were marginalized within the Haredi community.

 

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In doing so, he opened the door for others to write songs that expressed personal experiences and offered social commentary while adhering to community values and norms. This significant shift toward greater acceptance of individuals who deviated from the Haredi mainstream has been influenced by Schnitzler’s contributions.

His impact extended not only to the community as a whole but also to countless individuals. This was evident from the overwhelming outpouring of grief and affection shared on platforms like WhatsApp. Almost everyone I know posted a selfie with the late entertainer, and these photos were not mere celebrity-fan poses. In each picture, Schnitzler’s genuine smile radiated warmth, embracing each person as if reconnecting with a long-lost friend. Many fans expressed a profound sense of personal loss.

It was striking how little these posts focused on his music, and instead centered on personal perspectives and anecdotes of friendship. One friend succinctly put it, “It’s not about all of you having selfies with Michoel; it’s about Michoel having selfies with all of you.” He truly connected with people, becoming their champion.

Michoel’s impact on the Hasidic community goes beyond music and entertainment. He embodied strength in the face of adversity and a generous spirit. He leaves behind a legacy of his own music and has influenced the lives and work of numerous Hasidic artists who were touched by his presence.

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