The Eulogizer: Rock music producer, Chabad kabbalist
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The Eulogizer: Rock music producer, Chabad kabbalist

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

Pioneering rock music producer

Don Kirshner, a pioneering rock music producer and impresario who improbably gained fame with the eponymous television show "Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert," died Jan. 17 at 76.

In the early 1960s Kirshner gathered many talented young songwriters, most of them Jewish, to help create what became known as the Brill Building sound.

He went on to create the sound behind the Monkees, and then helmed "Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert" in the 1970s and ’80s that brought on dozens of major rock artists to perform their songs live, eclipsing the lip-synched pop music shows of previous years. The show’s opening act was the Rolling Stones, and performers over the next eight years included the Allman Brothers Band, Joan Baez, David Bowie, the Byrds, Devo, Fleetwood Mac, George Harrison, Billy Joel, B.B. King, The Police, Prince, the Ramones, Linda Ronstadt, The Sex Pistols, Ike and Tina Turner, and Stevie Wonder. Kirshner’s Bronx-accented, nasal introductions of the bands would become a staple of satire and comedy.

Kirshner attended Upsala College in East Orange, N.J., and began writing songs with his friend, Walden Robert Cassotto, better known as Bobby Darin, whom he had met at Bronx High School of Science. He later helped manage Darin’s career.

Other musicians and songwriters with whom Kirshner worked included Neil Sedaka, Carole King and Neil Diamond. He took their songs to performers such as the Righteous Brothers ("You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ ") and the Drifters ("Up on the Roof") and later the Monkees, whose stars rose and fell in parallel with the level of Kirshner’s involvement. His skill in creating hits led to him being dubbed "The Man with the Golden Ear."

Kirshner said in 2004 that he believed his contribution to rock music history had been ignored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"I don’t want to sound like sour grapes," he said, "but I believe I should have been one of the first three or first five inducted. I mean, they’ve got people in there that I trained, and I’m not in? It bothers me, on principle."

 
Kabbalist, Chabad teacher

Rabbi Menachem Zeev “Wolf” Greenglass, a Chabad kabbalist and educator who exchanged hundreds of letters over the years with the Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, died in Montreal on Dec. 29 at 94.

Greenglass was a founder of the Rabbinical College of Canada in Montreal after escaping Europe during the Holocaust, and taught there for decades. He gave his final lecture on the Chabad philosophical treatise Tanya in 2007.

Greenglass was born in Lodz, Poland, to parents who followed the Alexander Chasidic dynasty. In Poland, Greenglass became close to Rabbi Zalman Schneersohn, a descendant of the first Lubavitcher rebbe, and then enrolled in the Otwock Lubavitch yeshiva, where he met Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the son-in-law of the then current Lubavitcher rebbe. When World War II broke out, Greenglass headed for Vilna and was among those who received later transit visas from the Japanese consul Chiune Sugihara, who saved thousands of Jews. Greenglass crossed Russia by rail, went by boat to Japan from Vladivostok and then to Shanghai before reaching Canada. Once there, Chabad tasked him to open schools, including Montreal’s Beth Rivkah Girls School, and work with Jewish children in the Montreal public schools.

During that time, Greenglass continued a correspondence with Schneersohn, who had become Chabad’s rebbe, and who wrote to him in 1954 that "without an intellectual appreciation for the truth … one cannot expect a student to always be in total acceptance." Greenglass also maintained a lengthy correspondence with the Jerusalem mystic Rabbi Yeshaya Asher Zelig Margaliot.