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Laible Ben Moshe: Press

In the Towns

The Star-Ledger
Hasidic Folk-Rocker give new beat to a time-honored message
By Martia Denker
The driving, bluesy notes hung on the night air as Laible Ben Moshe, the Hasidic lead guitarist and vocalist for the Ba’al Teshuva Boogie Band sang "On the Cover of the Jewish Press."We’re kosher rock singers...
"We sing about emuna (Hebrew for faith) and truth... "At $10,000 a show halavi (Hebrew for it
should only be so)..."
"It’s my schlock rock version of Dr.Hook and the Medicine Show’s song, ‘On the Cover of Rolling Stone, "said the Hillside resident who also is known as Loren Blutman.
He explained that schlock rock is the result of changing the words to existing rock songs. The scholck rock, folk-rock and blues music that his Ba’al Teshuva band plays for Hasidic and secular audiences recalls Laible Ben Moshe’s roots in the 1960's as a folksinger, roving across America. Now an observant Jew , living in a home filled with Jewish texts and ritual objects, with an equally observant wife and four children.
Laible Ben Moshe lived a different kind of a life for many years. He roamed from town to town, city to city, living the kind of easy, untied life associated with musicians. He played rock in the style of his then-heroes as he calls them — Little Richard, Fats Domino and Elvis Presley, and later folk music reminiscent of Burl Ives and the Black street singer Josh White. He performed at Greenwich Village venues like Café Wha, Café Bizzare and the Gaslight Café before moving on to Birmingham, Ala., Miami and Los Angeles. It was while he was in California, playing with a group called Larry’s Band, that Laible Ben Moshe’s life took on focus. "I had gone to the Orange Country Jewish Folk Fair when someone from a Jewish outreach organization began to talk to me, and what they said made sense," he said. " They asked me to come for Shabbos (the Jewish Sabbath). I came and that was the spark."
Laible Ben Moshe had been raised in a Jewish household but not a particularly observant one. His years as a musician on the road had not increased his ties to Judaism, but by this time , in the late 1970's — he had begun looking for G-d on his own, he noted. It took him four years to become completely observant and in fact, a member of the group that approached him- the Lubavitcher Hasidim. His music, which had been a means of self-expression and a way to please and entertain, became an arm of his Judaism, he said. He explained, "I always wanted to give an audience more than they expected. Before, it was more entertainment. Now, I want to give them more a message. I look at my career now as a way of showing Jews how to get closer to G-d. I'm trying to light the spark of G-dliness in people."
LaibleBen Moshe still plays some secular songs from his former repertoire but only those that agree with his present ideals. He doesn’t play songs that advocate actions like adultery, nor does he play for venues that include mixed dancing. "As Hasidim, we don’t think it right for men and women to dance together in public," he clarified. "I won’t play for audiences that do that. I would be encouraging behavior I don’t approve of. There’s no point to it." The point to his present career is expressed in the name of his band - Ba’al Teshuva. Hebrew for - Master of Repentance. "The name symbolizes the back to Yiddishkeit (Jewishness) movement," he said. "It’s for someone who has strayed from his Judaism and has come back or for someone who never was exposed to it and got into it later." The idea for the band, his personal form of outreach, came to Laible as soon as he got involved in Judaism. "I got involved in the Jewish music also. In fact, I had no real need to rock and roll until I became religious." His religious brand of folk-rock, which can be heard on his tape "Wellsprings" is available at stores that specialize in Judaica .This musical tape is sometimes a "revelation" to Hasidic audiences who may never have heard this form of music before. "But," said Laible Ben Moshe’s wife, Masha Blutman, who manages his career, "they’re often very, very curious about it. Jewish music in general is getting a rocker beat."
Martha Denker - Starledger Newspaper (Jan 24, 1998)