Blog

May 27 2014

About Rebecca Teplow

Rebecca Teplow began her musical path as a classically trained violinist. while attending Yeshiva of Flatbush elementary school. After graduating from the prestigious High School of Performing Arts, Rebecca then went on to pursue a degree in Music Performance where she studied under violinist Itzhak Perlman and composer Robert Starer. Eventually, her thoughts turned from instrumental performance to the creation of music. Rebecca’s compelling need to write songs was realized with the release of her first CD in 2004, entitled “T’filot/Prayers.” Rebecca’s second CD was released December 18, 2008 Rebecca’s musical compositions combine her classical training along with a potent spiritual view of Jewishness. Rebecca’s CDs received very positive acclaim from critics and listeners. The award-winning writer, Seth Rogovoy, listed “Prayers” among the best CD’s of 2004. He stated “Teplow boasts the voice of a pop diva with a hint of Barbara Streisand, well suited to her dramatic, cello-flecked, pop-rock arrangements of Psalms and passages from Jewish wisdom literature.” Zalmen Mlotek, Artistic Director of The National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene, states: “Rebecca Teplow’s new CD “Kaveh/Hope,” is a must for anyone with interest in new music to the holy scriptures…Haunting as well as soothing, her songs resonate on a deep emotional level. Fresh and new, evoking the ancient and deeply spiritual.” Tanya Krim writing in the “New Jersey Jewish Standard” described Rebecca’s voice as “powerful and melifluous, reminiscent of Barbara Streisand’s.”

When I was younger, I strived to emulate my two older brothers. I did so in many ways, but I particularly wanted to mimic their passion for playing an instrument. Others told me that I was too young and should wait a year or two to begin. Then Rebecca Teplow took one look at my fingers, after her piano lesson with my eldest brother, and told me that now was a perfect time to begin. I was thrilled.

For the next seven years, my Sundays were occupied with lessons, and my days with piano practice. Rebecca never gave up on me, even when I was ready to quit. Her faith in me is what compelled me to keep playing.
On Sunday, March 10th, Teplow presented a concert of her own musical compositions, based on psalms and prayers, at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly. New Jersey.

On stage, Rebecca Teplow was a prayer. From her voice, to her body language, to the way her hands moved upwards as she sang songs of God’s comfort and our duty to serve Him, it was clear that her voice was rising to God.
“Our voice is a loan from God.” Teplow read, as she prepared to sing her first song, a Maimonidean verse called “Ani Ma’amin.” Each of the twelve songs was preceded by an introduction, where Teplow discussed the layers of meaning. In her words, we must surrender our ego and trust God because we are all merely instruments of God. As she noted, God is playing through us.

Truly, it was not hard to recognize the presence of God in Teplow’s voice. Each sweet note was chilling and inspiring to hear.

Teplow, a singer, composer and arranger, is a classically trained violinist who studied under Itzhak Perlman. Over the years, she turned from instrumental performance to creating music, and her compositions combine her classical sensibilities and her deep sense of spirituality. For her, all of life is a Godly dialogue.

Miriam Lichtenberg is a senior at SAR High School and a participant in Write On For Israel.

May 13 2014

Singing is a Mitzvah

I have been hiding from the audience my entire life. I am not sure if this is because I have performance anxiety or that kol b’isha erva (a woman’s voice is nakedness) has presented an obstacle. Is it both? Has my anxiety been influenced by my fear that I am not being a “good girl” when I sing in public?

After many years of “hiding” from public performance, I’m stepping onto the stage. Just thinking about it sets my heart racing. Although I am still anxious because my education defined the Jewish woman in a certain way, I have come to the conclusion that it cannot be wrong for me to use my God-given talent to help people hear their soul’s yearning for spiritual greatness. I now need to tap into my inner strength and model for my children, my students, and future generations what I believe.

I come to this concert with a singular idea: Orthodox women singing in public are an endangered species. Our people, theoretically guided by the maxim, “every Jew is responsible for all other Jews,” don’t even realize the importance of this species to the spiritual biosystem or even that it is in such danger.

Judaism teaches us to release ourselves to faith and connect to God through mitzvot. Through mitzvot, we realize that each of us is a living Sefer Torah, part of an infinite God. Everything emanates from our faith in God and our Jewish community. Much of this is accomplished by women, the core of Jewish families.

Women are creators of life, physical developers of the next generation. Jewish women also define spirituality in the home. We are Jewish because our mothers successfully connected their children to God.

“If words are the pen of the heart,” taught Rabbi Schneur Zalman “then song is the pen of the soul.” While God’s words of Torah flow down to our minds and actions, joyous song carries our souls upward to connect with the Almighty. Jewish women are connecting their children with words of Torah, but many are not tapping into the spiritual core of ecstatic singing that Rabbi Zalman spoke of.

Rabbi Herzfeld’s article, “Kol Ishah” states that many rabbis including, Rabbi Yechiel Weinberg, Rabbi Moshe Lichtenstein and Rabbi David Bigman, agree that women may sing publicly. Many in our community have not adopted this view and run the risk of destroying our spiritual community if women are treated like Dinah and locked in a box. Rabbi Herzfeld writes: “If we deny the girls of our community the ability to express themselves through song, we run the very real risk of allowing them to be serenaded by an alternative influence.” Consider Neshama Carlebach’s recent announcement that she is “making aliyah to the Reform Movement.”

Rabbi Herzfeld further points out that by not allowing women to sing, the Orthodox community is teaching men that girls “are such erotic creatures that it is impossible to have an encounter with them that is not erotic…We are in fact reinforcing the notion that our spiritual personality cannot rise above our physical nature.”

After reading Rabbi Herzfeld’s article, my interest was sparked and I did some research. It seems that the word erva comes from the root ayin-raish-hey which means to uncover, bare oneself. The idea of revelation in this root seems to be more innocent than the Gemara’s later definition of erva as unchasteness or lewdness.

Right now I choose to understand the idea of a woman’s voice as revelatory – innocent and chaste – and my songs as pronouncing the Jewish truth of holiness that is a part of our lives.

The following experience describes how redemptive music can be:

Two years ago I was wheeled into emergency surgery on Yom Kippur. Still awake, the nurse asked if she could play my CD that I had given the surgeon. I had not heard my CD in years and did not sing or listen to my music the entire time I was sick. (Often, we drift from the things we need most in our lives.) Lying on the steel table, I nodded, closed my eyes, and heard Birkat Kohanim (the priestly blessing), while the anesthesiologist told me to count back from 20. This was my prayer on Yom Kippur.

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Rebecca Teplow will have a concert March 9, 2014 at 8:00 pm at the Eric Brown Theater, Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, 411 East Clinton Avenue, Tenafly, NJ To purchase tickets, call 201-408-1418

Rebecca will sing a selection of songs from her two hit CDs, Tfilot/Prayers and Kaveh/Hope plus new material that she has composed especially for this concert. 

Dec 12 2012

Connecting to G-d

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Sometimes I have a hard time connecting to G-d in synagogue. Spirituality is such a personal thing. Too many people around me.

I am really a very private person which is unusual for a performer. It is the introspective quality that people hear in my music. It evokes the core of their neshama (soul) in a private and intense connection to G-d.

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The most profound element in my music is the intensity. The intensity stems from the fact that when I am singing I am completely focused on recognizing G-d’s presence in my life. Listeners feel it, absorb the emotion and the music echoes in their  souls.

People gain an image of what my music is about without reference to Hebrew. This is because the words are so vividly linked to the musical techniques used. For instance, in Kaveh, the hope that we are trying to hold onto when we are in a desperate situation is presented in the opening notes of “Kaveh” (which means “hope”) with a series of dissonant chord clusters. When the words move into “strengthen yourself and G-d will instill courage in your heart”, there is a strong resolution of the dissonance presented. Another example is present in the rhythmic drive of “Nachon Libi” (which means “steadfast is my heart”) reflecting your heart racing towards G-d presence in your life, as if you are singing to G-d with your whole being. It is an announcement that you are ready for a spiritual connection. I will sing music even with my soul. The beat is awakening the world to G-d’s presence in their life.

Another example is in “Ani Maamin,” on the words “I will wait” for the coming of redemption, there is a measure when the rhythm of the music is changed to incorporate three extra beats, when I  switch from a piece in 6/8 and suddenly use a measure of 9/8. This extension of timing  reflects the “waiting” and  for the coming of the Messiah.

The interesting thing about these techniques, is that I do not “consciously” compose them in this fashion. I only start noticing that they are there much after the process of composing. Magical things happen because I am so deeply connected to the words as a vehicle of connection to G-d.

The occasional sadness that someone hears in my music is a reflection of my soul’s yearning for spirituality.  Rav David  Aaron says: “We are the happiest when we are sadly searching for God. When you allow yourself to hear the inner voice of your soul’s yearning for spiritual greatness, you may feel much sadness. It may then seem hopeless that the more you awaken to your soul’s desire for God, the sadder and the more discontented you will be. But the path to true happiness is to embrace your souls sadness. The sadness and discontent of the soul is actually the very material from which the soul makes joyous music.”

My music tells people not to escape from the sadness of their soul. Don’t try to fill the void with money, fancy cars, jewelry or pain killers. There is joy in this yearning that feels lovesick for G-d. Constant searching for G-d’s presence in your life brings joy.

Dec 12 2012

Musical Influences

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I studied the violin and piano classically. I came from a mixed world, going from Yeshiva of Flatbush elementary school to High School of Performing Arts. Talk about a transition. I obviously have brave parents. Music got me through my life. People like Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Ricki Lee Jones, Samuel Barber, Maurice Ravel and Bach got me through some of the dark times. I knew I met my bashert when we could listen to Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Til Tuesday together for hours on end.