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Monday, July 07, 2008

Daughter of haredi tycoon launches musical career

Amidst controversy, limited female audience, Chabad-affiliated Rivkah Krinsky shifts gears from mother, teacher to acclaimed international singer

Yoav Friedman

You obviously haven’t heard of her, but she manages to fill concert halls to full capacity, be it New York, Moscow or Melbourne. Her debut album has been selling all over the world, even though she only launched her singing career after hitting 30 and giving birth to no less than five children.

Meet the new nightingale of Hasidic culture: Rivkah Krinsky, daughter of Chabad-affiliated diamond tycoon Joseph Gutnick.

Unlike Lev Leviev’s daughters, 32-year-old Krinsky never chose to go into her father’s business. She opted for the musical gene she inherited from her maternal grandmother, who was a soprano singer.

As a child, Krinsky told Ynet, she used to sing with her mother and sisters every chance she got. Even as an adult, she never thought of becoming a singer, and until recently, made do with teaching guitar lessons to kindergarten and elementary school children in New York and Long Island.

Until that one day, when Krinsky was invited to perform in a women’s event – and has not stopped singing since. It’s no easy task being a singer in an Orthodox world.

Even when a woman in this religious community makes such an unconventional career choice, half of her potential audience refrains from listening to her songs, since in Orthodox Judaism men are generally not allowed to hear women sing, a modesty prohibition called "kol b'isha ervah".

But Krinsky says she is proud to be a religious singer: “When I started performing and recording the songs I realized that this would be a challenge for me, surely in light of the significant financial limitations. Nonetheless, one can attest to the growing phenomenon of women gathering on specific occasions and that concerts for women have become more common today.

“There’s something special about singing to women only, a sense of unity and strength surrounding the space. It seems that women are looking for opportunities to bond and strengthen their common potential.”

Despite her optimism, an example of the obstacles placed on a religious female singer came in the guise her advertisement being eliminated from Chabad’s website after rabbis from Israel protested against it.

'Music is the soul’s quill'

Talkbackers on the Chabad site attacked Krinsky’s advertisement posting, saying it’s a disgrace and far from being modest. Krinsky prefers not to address the internet affair so as not to upset anyone.

She diplomatically responds, “The Chabad website personnel approached me for an interview, which did allow for added exposure to my new album and I am happy about that. However, I am not responsible for their advertising policy.”

Krinsky is the eldest of 11 Gutnick siblings. He father, the richest Jew in Australia, is known for his donations and contribution to Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu. She studies at Beit Rivkah in Australia and did her seminary studies in Canada and New York, where she met her husband.

A few weeks ago, Krinsky released her debut album "In Your Hands", which doesn’t follow the classical Hasidic style, but features modern music accompanied by a delicate voice with an Australian accent. Apart from containing biblical texts, some of the songs were written by Krinsky in an attempt to reach out to a wide audience.

“My music is deliberately intended for secular audience as well,” she says. “Some people in the religious community think it’s too modern.”

Krinsky recently came back from a concert in Switzerland and will soon be off to Melborune for another concert. She says performing gives her a sense of satisfaction. “Chabad’s founder, Rabbi Shneur Zalman from Lady said that music is the soul’s quill. In many cases, music can touch the soul in ways that no speaker or book can.”

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