Born in Saint Paul, Chassidic music superstar Benny Friedman’s Minnesota roots run deep. Benny began his career at the age of thirteen singing at many small local events. Since these humble beginnings, Benny has gone on to become one of the top Jewish music artists in the world, with his music receiving millions of views on YouTube, and his Facebook page recently topping ten thousand fans. Despite touring around the world, Benny Friedman still has a strong connection with his hometown Twin Cities. On Sunday, April 3rd, Benny will be holding a concert at Hopkins High School to help further his personal mission of bringing Jews together. (Please note that due to overwhelming demand, the venue has been moved from Eisenhower Elementary School to the Auditorium at Hopkins High School.) In advance of his upcoming show, we sat down with Benny to ask him about his Twin Cities upbringing and the influence his faith has had on his career.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background growing up in Saint Paul?
I grew up in the Twin Cities as number eleven in a family of fourteen children, kinehora. My father is a rabbi and a teacher. My mother, even though she was born in Newark, NJ, to a mother who was born in Harlem, NY, is a Jewish mother in the style of the Chassidic mothers of the old country. We spoke Yiddish at home.
What were your favorite parts about growing up in the Twin Cities?
We played in the snow and shoveled the driveway just like everyone else. We loved playing baseball and we would have definitely joined a little league program if we had found one that didn’t play on Saturdays!
What was the Jewish community like for you growing up?
We were the rabbi’s kids. My father would give classes and we would play at his feet, trying hard not to disturb the peace. When we got a little older we would roam the streets of downtown Minneapolis looking for Jews who wanted to put on Tefillin, or wander around the Mall of America inviting Israeli vendors to a Shabbos meal.
How has the Jewish faith and culture influenced your music?
Growing up we would sing, a lot. Every Shabbos. Every Yom Tov. It was all about the songs. Chassidic tunes, Yiddish songs, popular songs you name it. During the week, music was always playing in our house. Slowly, as I started singing more and more outside of my house, I started to discover that music has a great power to inspire people, to enliven people and even to heal. That’s when I started to take it seriously.
What projects are you working on now and what can we expect from your upcoming show on April, 3rd?
We are currently putting the final touches on my fourth album. I’m very excited about it. As for the show, hopefully the crowd will be energizing and everyone will have a terrific experience!
Please note: Due to overwhelming response, the venue for the concert has changed to The Auditorium at Hopkins High School.