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June 14, 1991 - Image 69

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-06-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ENTERTAINMENT

Uncle Moishy and his Mitzvah Men are headed to Detroit Their message to
children: listen to parents, learn the mitzvot and enjoy being Jewish.

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(P.

ELIZABETH APPLEBAUM

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Assistant Editor

T

here are children's
songs about eensty
weentsy spiders and
bears that went over the
mountain, about Mary and
her little lambs and froggies
that go a courtin'.
And then there's Uncle
Moishy.
It's not that Uncle Moishy
and his Mitzvah Men have
anything against lambs and
spiders, but they like their
music to offer a little some-
thing more substantial. Like
why children should listen to
their parents, clean their
rooms and help the family
prepare for Shabbat.
An Uncle Moishy version
of "The Bear Went Over the
Mountain" would probably
have the bear doing a lot
more than just seeing what
he could see. It would have
him helping an elderly bear
as he crossed over the hills.
Today one of the most pop-
ular groups among Jewish

children, Uncle Moishy and
his Mitzvah Men made their
first live appearance in
1980, in Detroit. On June 23
Uncle Moishy returns to
Detroit, the guest of
Yeshivat Darchei Torah, to
perform at 1 p.m. at West
Bloomfield High School.
Uncle .Moishy is the brain-
child of 'Moshe Tanenbaum,
who sings in concert as
Uncle Moishy, and Zale
Newman, the voice of Uncle
Moishy on record albums.
Natives of Toronto, the two
became interested in music

while performing at Nation-
al Conference of Synagogue
Youth summer camps.
After he married, Mr.
Newman expanded his
hobby to writing songs for
children. That gave him an
idea. He called music pro-
ducers Suki and Ding, who
encouraged him to develop
an album. Mr. Newman con-
tacted his old friend Mr.
Tanenbaum and formed a

group called "Uncle Moishy
and his Mitvah Men."
They made their first
record — in one day — in
1979. It sold 50,000 copies.
An album that passes 10,000
on the Jewish charts is con-
sidered a major seller.
"We knew we had a
niche," Mr. Newman says.
"We knew we'd hit a certain
positive nerve."
The nerve was the song
lyrics, which focused on
positive behavior and feeling
good about oneself. Mr.
Newman explains: "Our

basic message is that to do
mitzvot is a fun thing. Our
basic theme is that it's beau-
tiful to be Jewish."
The concerts, geared to
children aged 2 to 10, in-
clude a juggler and a
unicyclist along with the
music. Children are taught
which foods need a heksher -
certificate of kashrut, with
the aid of a dancing
watermelon, and are en-
couraged to join in a song
about Rosh Hashanah by
making the sound of a
shofar. Mr. Newman de-
scribes the performances as
"like a big sing-along."
Uncle Moishy has traveled
throughout the world with
his mitzvah messages; with
frequent appearances in
Israel and England. But
small cities also are on the
performers' schedule. "We
go anywhere there's a Jew-
ish community," Mr.
Newman says.
Recently, the group gave a
concert in Charlotte, N.C.,
that Mr. Newman believes
attracted virtually every

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

69

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