This is a guest post by Sheree R. Curry, an award-winning journalist whose children attend Talmud Torah in Minneapolis. Writer Jonathan Stone also contributed to this article.
Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Peter Himmelman tries to avoid concerts on Shabbos and that has to do, in part, because of his St. Louis Park roots and the afternoons he spent learning at Talmud Torah in the 1970s.
“When I see the degree to which I am committed to Judaism and Israel, I think about the role Talmud Torah played,” he says.
As an observant Jew, Himmelman wears tzitzis and a kippah, even when he’s on stage—although his audience wouldn’t usually know it. The yarmulke is usually covered during his musical performances by a hat or a bandana.
Himmelman, who music critics say has a soulful, folksy voice that can range from the sounds of Randy Newman to Tom Waits, Prince and even Elvis Costello, has written hundreds of songs, including theme songs for hit TV shows like “Judging Amy,” ABC’s “Men in Trees” and the Disney series “Bug Juice,” (You can hear a large sampling of his music here).
He acknowledges his professional success as a blessing, but the true blessing is his family. “If I wanted to be really famous, as opposed to successful, I wouldn’t have been able to keep Shabbos or have a family in this way, like a real family,” he once told Aish.com in an interview.
He and his wife and four kids [UPDATE] live in Santa Monica, California and have four children. Himmelman, whose Hebrew name is Pesach Mordechai, remembers fondly his own childhood and how his mother would light the Shabbat candles. He has gained from his Conservative parents desire to send him to Talmud Torah, where he also remembers the staff fondly.
“Rabbi Ettedgui was on my side. He was cool. He understood me. He was a sincere person who had passion for what he does.” Himmelman sought to replicate those experiences for his own four children by giving them a Jewish education.
“We send our kids to Jewish schools because we value the traditions of our people and it’s one of our life goals to imbue our children with these values. I believe it would be extremely difficult to do this in a public school or non-religious school setting,” he said.
Himmelman, who will be in town Sunday May 16 to be honored at the annual benefit for the Talmud Torah of Minneapolis, will return to town to perform June 3 at the Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Avenue, in Minneapolis.
“Talmud Torah helped solidify my Jewish identity,” he says. What comes out of me is deeply influenced by Judaism. When I made a return to a greater Jewish immersion, I felt grateful I had the experience that I had at Talmud Torah.”
Himmelman’s recent projects include a new rock record entitled, The Mystery and The Hum (due out in 2010), A live rock and roll variety show called, the Furious World www.furiousworld.com, which goes out to the web from his home studio every Tuesday night at 7pm PST, and a web-based program for children entitled, “Peter Himmelman’s Curious World,” which Himmelman produced in conjunction with the retailer, Land Of Nod and Hoosick Falls productions. His latest children’s album “My Trampoline” was released in late 2009.