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Morristown teen competes for slot at hasidic songfest
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Morristown teen competes for slot at hasidic songfest

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

Shmuly Brafman, 13, is the only New Jerseyan among the 55 kids entered in the junior division of the Jewish Star competition. Photo by Michael Livshin
Shmuly Brafman, 13, is the only New Jerseyan among the 55 kids entered in the junior division of the Jewish Star competition. Photo by Michael Livshin

Shmuly Brafman, 13, of Morristown loves to sing. He sings at his friends’ b’nei mitzva celebrations. He sings in the hallways of his school, Cheder Lubavitch at the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown. He recently sang at the RCA’s Founders’ Gala.

And now he’s in the running as a contestant in the Jewish Star competition, where amateur singers vie for a chance to perform at the Soul to Soul concert, a sort of hasidic Woodstock held every year in Brooklyn.

Shmuly is among 55 boys, ages eight-14, who comprise the first set of candidates in the competition’s junior division. They have entered from all over the world, including Australia, Israel, England, Italy, and more than a few from Brooklyn. Shmuly is the sole entrant from the Garden State.

(All of their music videos, some professional, like Shmuly’s, some more homespun, can be seen and voted on at www.ajewishstar.com.)

The three contestants selected as semifinalists — through the on-line voting and by a panel of judges — will perform at the Feb. 20 concert in Brooklyn, where a winner will be chosen.

“I enjoy singing and I thought this would be a great way of making music,” Shmuly said in a phone interview. “I just want to share my singing with the world.”

He selected for the competition “Vezakeini,” a song by Baruch Levine whose lyrics come from a prayer said during the Shabbat candle-lighting ceremony.

Last year, Shmuly sat in the audience at the Soul to Soul concert, where Choni Teitelbaum, a family friend, was a semi-finalist in the first Jewish Star competition.

Teitelbaum, who has seen Shmuly perform, gave the youngster the idea to enter the contest and produced the music video that Shmuly ultimately submitted.

“I could see how much music and singing was a part of him and that the crowd was always touched by his performances,” said Teitelbaum, cantor at the Chabad Jewish Center at Basking Ridge.

“As a child I used to sing a lot but I only have a few recordings from back then,” said Teitelbaum. “I value those few recordings so I know it would mean a lot for someone to have some recordings of their singing as a child.”

Shmuly just wants to sing for people. In considering the possibility of being chosen as a semi-finalist, he said, “It would be exciting to perform on stage in front of a big crowd.”

Mica Soffer, owner and publisher of COLlive.com Community News Service, created and produces the Jewish Star together with Yossi Soffer, owner of Unique Image Advertising in Brooklyn. The judges are hasidic singer Avraham Fried, Yeshiva Boys Choir cofounder Eli Gerstner, and hasidic comic Mendy Pellin.

The winner of the junior division receives a trip for two to Israel, $1,000, and, if the winner lives in the New York City area, a slot in the notable Yeshiva Boys Choir.

Voting continues through Friday, Jan. 21, at noon.

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