'Jewish Lady Gaga' returns to Cain Park on June 25
Lipa Schmeltzer returns to Cain Park for the second year on June 25. Last summer he wowed an Evans Amphitheater audience with his Yiddish vocals, backed by local instrumental musicians, and his dance moves. The show's sponsor, the Workmen’s Circle, liked the show so much, he’s back, which is a rarity: The Workmen’s Circle hasn’t had a repeat performer for back-to-back summers since the 1980s.
Schmeltzer, 40, was raised in an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic household in New York. He broke away from the sect a few years ago and became simply Orthodox. As a youth, he wasn’t encouraged to pursue secular learning (among many other things). Schmeltzer is now a student at Columbia University.
He is fluent in Yiddish, which is the first language of many Hasidim. He interjects pop music references into his Yiddish and English repertoire. The media—trying to get a grip on him—has called him the “Jewish Elvis” and the “Hasidic Lady Gaga.” Last year Schmeltzer told the Cleveland Jewish News that the Lady Gaga reference had more to do with the way he dresses than his music. “Lady Gaga is always dressing up in crazy costumes,” he said. “I’m the only guy with funky glasses and blue and yellow kapotas (long jackets worn by many Hasidic sects) and yarmulkes.”
The show—the 39th-annual free Workmen’s Circle concert—starts at 7 p.m. in Sunday, June 25, at the Evans Amphitheater in Cain Park. No tickets are necessary. The Workmen’s Circle Klezmer Orchestra will play from 6 to 7 p.m.
Bert Stratton is a Cleveland Heights resident and the leader of the klezmer band Yiddishe Cup. He writes the Klezmer Guy blog at www.klezmerguy.com.