No Jew Will Be Left Behind (Avraham Fried)

July 9, 2024

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, zt’l (1902-1994), is widely recognized simply as “the Rebbe.” Celebrated for his immense compassion, visionary leadership, and deep scholarship, he devoted his life to promoting Jewish values and teachings across the globe.

With unwavering dedication, he inspired countless individuals to reconnect with their heritage and lead purposeful lives. His teachings emphasized love for all people, the importance of outreach, education, and the performance of good deeds. Even after his passing, his influence continues to impact millions. His legacy endures as a beacon of light and hope for future generations.

Being that today, Gimmel Tammuz, is the Rebbe’s yahrtzeit, I felt that it would be an appropriate time to highlight a singer and a song that was brought to the fore due to Rav Schneerson’s encouragement and inspiration.

Avraham Shabsi HaKohen Friedman, more commonly known by his stage name Avraham Fried, is an immensely popular singer and Chabad shliach. You may have heard of him. Encouraged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, “Avremel” embarked on a music career that took off with the release of his debut album, No Jew Will Be Left Behind, in 1981.

Avremel says:
“One Shabbos at a farbrengen, the Rebbe made a comment that “when Moshiach comes, no Jew will be left behind! It’s not possible that any Jewish soul is left behind because if one Jew is missing, then it’s not a complete redemption. So, it’s got to be the whole package!” This was the message in a nutshell.

“Now, at the time, I was an unknown in the world of Jewish music. I do recall that I made some demos and I sent them around to some producers who were involved in producing Jewish music, and they basically told me, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

“And then one day I bumped into a producer named Sheya Mendlowitz, zichrono l’vracha. He was producing some wedding music at the time and liked what he heard from my guest appearance on the Suki & Ding produced, Suki with a Touch of Ding Vol. 2 and his own Amudai Shaish Wedding Album. After hearing my demo, he said, “I think you have some potential, let’s do an album.” He gave me my first break and here we are, forty-three years later, Baruch Hashem.”

The two of them made their way to the home of Yossi Green, who already at that time was an established composer and who, even then, had the uncanny knack to coax meaning and a message out of both singer and song.

Yossi Says:
“Standing at my door were two opposites: Sheya, alav hashalom, a tall, substantial figure, and Avremel… well, he was a two-dimensional skinny line – pretty much the same way he looks today, except with a longer beard.

“I said to Sheya, “where do I know you from?”

He said, “Yossi, you don’t remember me? I’m Sheya Mendlowitz from the New York School of Jewish Song!”

“Ahh, now I remember you. Nu? And who’s this?”

“This is Avraham Shabsi HaKohen Friedman and I want to produce an album with him, so we’re here to get songs!” I certainly didn’t think much would come from this meeting other than a nice time to be had sitting around a piano and singing some songs. But as I asked Avremel some questions to get a better idea of who I was sitting with – why does he want to sing, what does he want to sing about – he looked at me with his fiery eyes and he said, “I am a Chabad chossid, and I come from a family of shluchim.” (At the time, I didn’t know what that meant. I thought Chabad meant learning Tanya. I didn’t really know the greatness of the Rebbe and the significance of what shluchim accomplished around the world. I didn’t understand it until much later in my life.)

“Our Rebbe’s motto,” he continued, “is that the geulah won’t happen until every single Yid comes along with Moshiach. In other words, no Jew gets left behind.” I thought that was charming, of course, and I remember that I was facing away from the piano keys when he told me this. I turned around on the stool, I put my fingers on the keys and sang, 🎵“No Jew will be left behind….”🎵

“The concept was in hand, the foundation was set, the rest of the song was outlined and sent to lyricist Pnina (Chaneles) Klaver to finalize, and that marked the beginning of our relationship. The rest, as they say, is history.”

Avremel continues:
“In 1980, soon before the record was released, I went to the Rebbe and informed him of the upcoming release and its farbrengen-inspired title. He gave me his blessing and added that I make sure to write on the cover “Please do not play this record on Shabbos or Yom Tov.” That was my first instruction from the Rebbe and it ended up becoming a staple in the industry.

“Looking back, if I’m being honest, I remember thinking to myself that my audience doesn’t really listen to music on Shabbos or Yom Tov, even when they’re really challoshing for some music. But as the years went by, I realized that the Rebbe, as he always did, was looking ahead and was addressing a time that this music will reach an audience that maybe isn’t so careful about Shabbos.

“In fact, I have a nice story about a young man who wrote me a letter, telling me he’s a big fan and that my music gives him a lot of joy. But on Shabbos he has a problem because he would very much like to play the music, and it says right there on the cover “Please do not play on Shabbos and Yom Tov.” “No matter what,” he writes, “I would never play the album on Shabbos out of respect to your request not to do so.” Could you believe it?

“I wrote back to him and I said, “you know what? Maybe when the Rebbe told me to print not to play the album on Shabbos, he saw you and your incredible commitment not to desecrate Shabbos!” Like the Rebbe said, No Jew Will Be Left Behind.

“You know, even after I started my singing career, I would update the Rebbe on everything – every trip, every concert – whatever I was working on. I kept him totally up to date on what I was doing, because I felt it was part of my shlichus – my mission, so to speak – to use music as a tool to inspire and uplift. I’m not an entertainer and have never seen myself as one. I would rather be called an “inspirer,” if there’s such a word, because that’s what I think Jewish music should do: it should inspire. It shouldn’t just be great licks and great hooks for the dancefloor – which is good at a wedding, that’s true. But I think Jewish music should be music that touches the soul, makes you feel Jewish, and brings you a little closer to Hashem, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”

Indeed today, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s relentless call still rings true.

ר’ מנחם מענדל ב”ר לוי יצחק זצ”ל

Yehi Zichro Baruch – may the Rebbe’s memory be a blessing to us and to all of Klal Yisroel.

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