The Awareness Center is the Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault (JCASA)

Case of Yeedle Werdyger - Chassidic Singer

(AKA: The Case of The Son of Famous Orthodox Singer and a Haredi Friend)

Jerusalem, Israel

Yeedle Werdyger and an unnamed haredi friend, were arrested in Jerusalem for enticing teenage girls, some of whom were below the age of 16, to take dangerous drugs and then to have sexual relations with them.

In addition, police said the two men photographed the girls in intimate positions in the bathroom and having sexual relations with other men. The suspects would later show the pictures to their friends. A search of the downtown apartment of one of the suspects turned up the miniature camera that was used.

When the singer was arrested, he tried to swallow the memory disc of his computer, breaking the chip as he chewed it. Yeedle's relatives say: This is a frameup.

According to the article "Rabbis calling for a boycott of the Ben David"; the rabbis were also distributing a Jerusalem Post article relating to the arrest in Israel of a Charedi performer, even though the case was later dropped through lack of evidence.").  


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Table of Contents:  

  1. Yeedle: The Legacy Continues
  2. Suspicion: Haredim forced young girls into drug use  (09/22/03)
  3. City Notes - Haredi Drug and Rape Scandal  (09/26/2003)
  4. Rabbis call for boycott of Ben David (06/11/2004)
  5. Fiddish (06/14/2004)

Also see:

Case of the Friend of a Chassidic Singer

The Awareness Center's Policies Addressing Victimization and Offenders (and Alleged Offenders)

When Melodies, Torah Scholars, and Abuse Collide

Offenders: Problems Our Parents Wouldn't Speak Of

Rabbis, Cantors and Other Trusted Officials

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Yeedle: The Legacy Continues

by Charni Sochet

http://www.countryyossi.com/sochet.html

The coronation of the prince of Jewish music reiterates the intensity of a musical dynasty that has for three generations defined and revolutionized the medium. With a legendary grandfather, Chazzan David Werdyger, and the King of Jewish Music, Mordechai Ben David, for a father, Yeedle Werdyger's meteoric rather than episodic ascent to the court of musical excellence was paved in gold; two debut albums - "Together" and "Yeedle II" which both went gold.

Three years ago, as Yeedle embarked on a daunting journey to deliver his unique musical manifesto there was the ever present specter of his father's formidable shadow of excellence. MBD's twenty-five year seminal influence in the trends and direction of Jewish music would invoke analogous predictions that could prove disastrous to a debut artist. That dialogue of expectations has undermined the potential of sons who attempt to entertain the success of their fathers. Yeedle is very much his father's son, yet remarkably, he has emerged and cast a resplendent shadow of his own.

The parallels to his father's career are unavoidable and provide commentary on the Werdyger legacy of assiduous commitment to the format. Yeedle's status as heir apparent is distinguished in the familiar, yet uniquely eloquent vocal characterizations of his own stylistic imperative. MBD's visionary albums celebrate the medium of American Jewish music. He captured the volatility of contemporary music and made it palatable for a generation who would otherwise have been enticed by more alien refrains, bridging the gap between classical and contemporary music, and creating the premise for American Jewish music. Twenty-five years later, Yeedle generates identical revolutionary overtones by captivating the musical conscience of the next generation.

As Yeedle enthusiastically comments, "It's in my blood. As a child my father sang before he spoke. The heart he puts into music, is the heart he puts into everything else and he relayed that to me in every note and chorus. I live the music, and inhale its potency in the perfectionist tendencies my father passed on to me." Both Yeedle's and MBD's intensity embodies that ideal, in every arena in their lives. That orientation resonates in the success of "Together" and "Yeedle II". Yeedle's unassuming candor belies the impact he has had on the Jewish music industry. The response to "Together" was so overwhelming that it compelled Yeedle to devote himself to the full-time realization of his potential.

The public response to "Yeedle II" has by far surpassed all expectations. Yeedle reflects on its thunderous popularity, "The vocals, arrangements, choir, etc., every element of this album was formulated and reformulated to perfection. As an MBD production my father was directly involved in the arranging, mixing, and he guided me vocally." The selections on "Yeedle II" run the spectrum from the classical ballad to rhythmic dispensations with a variety that appeals to sensitivities across the spectrum.

The phenomenon that is Yeedle has swept the international music scene, with concert appearances in Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Paris, London, Canada, and Israel. He recently returned from a concert in Israel at Parkei Hayarkon Gan Yehoshua at which he made a guest appearance and enthralled an audience that was 200,000 strong. "It's staggering to look out at a sea of faces 200,000 deep and perform to an audience ten times the size of a New York presentation." He shared the stage with MBD, Avrohom Fried, and Dedi and confides his anxieties in performing before a live audience of this magnitude. "I'm always nervous before a performance, but the expectations and exceptional show of unity generated by the concert inspired, motivated, and kept me focused. The incredible surge of exultation that swept the crowd demonstrates the vast inroads that Jewish music has accomplished in the last twenty-five years." That coincides with the significant contribution the Werdygers have made. His return from Israel is marked by his impending departure for another concert in mid-June back in Israel. The intense popularity of "Yeedle II" keeps him shuttling back and forth between concert destinations in an effort not to disappoint any of his fans.

The remarkable reception that "Yeedle II" encountered internationally bespeaks the universality of the message that Yeedle conveys, "I like to experiment with different styles of music, without negotiating the standards of Jewish music. Music that makes you feel guilty is not Jewish music. You have to feel the song, it's essence and it's message. I try to reach out to every Jewish neighborhood and affect each person, because each song is enhanced by our particular perspective. My intent is to take traditional Jewish music and update it; popularize it for consumption by the next generation." And it has been voraciously consumed by numbers that stagger industry standards.

Artistically, Yeedle corroborates his father's musical achievements by elaborating on their momentum. For the generation that has been weaned on MBD, the timeless classics are those selections that punctuated their youth and the very special moments in their lives. For the generation that is currently weaned on Yeedle these 10 gems incorporated on "Yeedle II" are destined to be irrevocably fused with the memories and reminiscences that support a generation. Yeedle is characteristically compulsive about the quality of his album, "There were no arbitrary selections. There is no justification to subject the listener to insipid tones and rhythms that serve as nothing more than filler. Therefore it was imperative to assemble the finest composers, musicians, technicians, choir, arranger, etc. for a project of this magnitude." Parenthetically, Yeedle is frequently queried as to the placement of his father's compositions on Side Two. He remarks, "The fact of the matter is that Side One can be Side Two and vice versa. Each song is singularly amazing for its message and spectacular arrangements." Mona Rosenblum distinguishes "Yeedle II" with his unique signature arrangements, interludes, and overtures complemented by MBD's own interpretations. Yeedle examines the intent of compositions by MBD, Yitzy Bald, and Reb Chaim Banet with the flair of a vocal master.

Specifically, "Kivisi", composed by Reb Boruch Chait, has been especially well received and appreciated by Yeedle's constituency. "Laasos Retzon Avicha Shebashamyaim", the title song initially suffuses the album with a fervor that reflects Yeedle's design; to do the A-mighty's bidding, and it further alludes to fulfilling his own father's visions.

Recently Yeedle was featured on Gideon Levine's "Best of the Best" album, and the response to his performance illustrates his dominance in the medium. His vision has, however, not been betrayed by his success, "I love having the power to create with music and using it to sustain the audience, without being destructive. The exuberant reaction of a child confined to a wheelchair after we've shared a song thrills the spirit and awakens the soul. I am privileged to use my music the way Hashem intended."

Yeedle's goal of releasing an album a year is well underway. He is currently summoning and assembling his network of professionals who will infuse his personality and their perspectives into a cadence of indomitable energy and spirit that will enthrall his audience from generation II generation.

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Suspicion: Haredim forced young girls into drug use

By Elan Marcineau

Bambili website - September 22, 2003

www.bambili.com/bambili_news/katava_main.asp?news_id=4301&sivug_id=3

(Translated from Hebrew to English by Avraham Sonenthal)

The two are also suspected of committing indecent acts on the bodies of the young girls, and videotaped their acts. One of the suspects is the son of a famous haredi singer. His father's relatives say: This is a frameup.

Two haredim from Jerusalem are suspected to have addicted young girls, aparently haredi, to drugs, and performed indecent acts on them while filming their actions with a home video camera. The jailing of the two, who are about 30 years old, was extended today until Monday at the Munincipal family court.

One of the detainees is the son of a famous singer in the haredi community. In a search of one of the detainees homes carried out by police were found video tapes that will be used in the investigation. Other details of the affair were blocked by a gag order.

Relatives of the singer, father of one of the detainees, said to ynet that the whole affair is a frameup directed at him (the singer) for purposes of extortion.

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City Notes - Haredi Drug and Rape Scandal

by Abigail Radoszkowicz, Judy Siegel, Gail Lichtman

The Jerusalem Post, September 26, 2003

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 6

Two haredi men, one the singer son of a prominent American haredi performer, were arrested Friday afternoon in Jerusalem for enticing girls, some of whom were below the age of 16, to take dangerous drugs and then to have sexual relations with them.

In addition, police said the two men photographed the girls in intimate positions in the bathroom and having sexual relations with other men. The suspects would later show the pictures to their friends. A search of the downtown apartment of one of the suspects turned up the miniature camera that was used.

When the singer was arrested, he tried to swallow the memory disc of his computer, breaking the chip as he chewed it. "We think he had good reason to do so," the police told the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court judge.

The victims were all harediot, and police said the suspects took advantage of the girls' innocence and lack of sex education.

Investigation of the case began based on complaints filed by some of the girls as well as on additional sources, said police.

The police description of one of the suspects as the son of a prominent haredi personality led to wild speculation in the haredi community. Radio reports noted that Israeli Internet sites carried the full names of the suspects.

The judge ordered the police to allow friends of the two suspects to supply them with strictly kosher food with Eda Haredit certification.

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Rabbis call for boycott of Ben David

The Jewish Telegraph (UK) - June 11, 2004 - Sivan 22, 5764

http://www.jewishtelegraph.com/man_1.html

(Note: according to the following article the Rabbis calling for a boycott of this concert "... are also distributing a Jerusalem Post article relating to the arrest in Israel of a Charedi performer, even though the case was later dropped through lack of evidence.").

A GROUP of Manchester rabbis has called for a boycott of the Mordechai Ben David Jerusalem Experience concert in Salford on Sunday week.

But the Lowry Theatre event, in aid of Israeli rescue organisation Zaka, will still go ahead.

The rabbis, including Manchester Beth Din dayanim Osher Westheim and Gabriel Krausz, put their signatures to a letter posted in synagogues advising people not to attend.

The stars are Mordechai Ben David - the world's number one Chassidic singer - together with his son Yeedle Werdyger and son-in-law Mendy Wald.

To satisfy Manchester's ultra-Orthodox community, the organisers - hoping to attract a 1,700 audience - arranged separate seating and entrances and even separate interval refreshment facilities.

Yet last weekend, posters signed by Dayanim Westheim and Krausz, Rabbis M M Schneebalg of Machzikei Hadass, Simcha Bamberger of Daf Hayomi, Y Wreschner of Adass Yeshurun Synagogue, Y Horwitz of Satmar, Leibish Rabinowitz of Shaarei Tefilah Synagogue and Sammy Goldberg of Damesek Eliezer Synagogue went up in the respective shools - banning attendance at the concert.

In defence of their position, the banning rabbis circulated an article, It's All a Matter of Taste, written by former Mancunian Ephraim Luft.

Mr Luft, now living in Bnei Brak, makes a swingeing attack on any Jewish music influenced by non-Jewish sources, even that played at religious weddings.

He particularly blames pop culture for leading to sexual immorality and claims chassidic pop is similarly tarnished.

He alleges that the intention of "frum singers" is "only to make money and they ignore the terrible negative influence that they are bringing with their music. Even if it is not intentional, it still takes control of the minds of young fans."

He quotes Rabbi Mattisyahu Solomon, formerly of Gateshead, who warns against the idolising of Chassidic singers. Mr Luft also warns against the security risks of large public gatherings.

The rabbis are also distributing a Jerusalem Post article relating to the arrest in Israel of a Charedi performer, even though the case was later dropped through lack of evidence.

But Rabbi Yehuda Brodie of Manchester Beth Din said the ban did not represent the views of the Beth Din.

The dayanim, he said, had signed in their private capacity. Manchester Beth Din dayanim Isaac Berger and Yehuda Steiner were not consulted on the matter. Concert organiser Dovid Holder, a daily Machzike Hadass synagogue worshipper, said: "The concert is going ahead. We hope it will be a sell-out.

''Mordechai Ben David, whom I know personally, is a very spiritual, Chassidic man.

"He is always learning Talmud and hardly speaks lest he talk lashon hora (slander). He is such a holy man that he makes a point of eating meat only on Shabbat."

He continued: "I am trying to do something nice for the Manchester Jewish community so that people can see how a frum gathering can be fun, uplifting and entertaining, that there are nice things in our religion. What's wrong with that?"

Tickets are available at the Lowry Box Office on 0870 787 5790.

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Fiddish

By Steven I. Weiss

Foward - June 14, 2004

http://www.forward.com/fiddish/archives/001004.php#001004

The Awareness Center has launched its page on Yeedle Werdyger, the popular Jewish singer and son of the yet-more-popular Jewish singer, Mordechai Ben David, who was reportedly accused of various criminal acts relating to drugs and sexual activity with fans who were minors in Jerusalem. Note that the original two articles there do not name Werdyger.

The launch of the page follows some controversy when certain UK rabbis issued a letter directing congregants not to attend a pair of recent concerts (covered heavily in the J-blogosphere, at Blog in Dm and most recently at Bloghead), one of which featured Werdyger. If I recall correctly, this was Werdyger's first concert since the arrest mentioned in the reports; if it was not, then some other concert in the UK was. The anti-concert contingent seems to have had plenty of desire to issue the concert ban without the accusations agains Werdyger. Indeed, the accusations against him, if the news and blogosphere reports are accurate, was merely a footnote. The Awareness Center caught one sentence in an article on the situation. Notes the Awareness Center:

Note: according to the following article the Rabbis calling for a boycott of this concert "... are also distributing a Jerusalem Post article relating to the arrest in Israel of a Charedi performer, even though the case was later dropped through lack of evidence."So the accusations were more the icing on the cake.

I've been following this as closely as anyone since the accusations first surfaced, and I'm struggling to see what news has been added to all-of-a-sudden bring these reported alleged indiscretions (note how long that string is) to the fore. I've sent The Awareness Center's Vicki Polin an e-mail asking as much. I'm as much for exposing abuse by those in power as anyone else, but this case, thus far, seems to be about as tenuous as any we've seen. I do hope we'll get more information about it, whichever way it turns out.

Posted by Steven I. Weiss, 11:29 PM

----------------------------------------------------------

Comments:

I suspect there are several factors at play here:

1) For months there has been pressure/communication with Rabbonim and concert promoters to quietly remove Yeedle from this concert. Some of this can be read in Blog in DM and MOChassid.

2) Apparently the promoters and MBD are standing firm.

3) I suspect the Rabbonim can't deal with Yeedle directly so they're going after the JM industry as a whole. On some level, I believe they actually believe it's not Yeedle's character but the nature of the JM industry that is screwed up.

4) The Awareness Center has had the Yeedle case up for months as an unamed case. I suspect for several reasons: the articles didn't name Yeedle, Rabonim were probably consulted to determine a course of action and at the time Yeedle had left public performance (private individual, not a public performer anymore) and was a reduced threat to potential victims.

5) But now Yeedle has re-emerged in England for the first time since the arrest, re-establishing himself as a public performer.

6) The Yeedle camp in trying to protect Yeedle has put out the most bizzare story. This story has further damaged the JM industry. If you were to believe it, you would have to believe that a competing JM had Yeedle framed with underage children and child pornography. If that were so, I might have to believe what the Rabbonim in England are saying about the JM industry.

7) If:

a. Rabbonim in England feel it is appropriate to publicize the Jerusalem Post article about Yeedle b. Yeedle chooses to be a public performer/figure the Awareness Center has no reason to maintain the case as an unkmown case.

Posted by me at June 14, 2004 12:21 AM

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After reading ME's comment (it was posted as I was writing my comment above) I must agree with what he wrote. I would only add that I still believe that this is a means to an end -- and that is the end of 'Jewish music' as we now know it.

Posted by Shmarya at June 14, 2004 12:33 AM

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My questions and comments:

1) Why has the reporting on this story been so poor? There doesn't seem to be follow-up. No US news outlet picked up on this story at all. Why were the charges dropped? Why has Yeedle been out of the spotlight? What happened?

2) If Yeedle's claims of being set up are true, why no arrests?

3) Has Yeedle damaged the JM industry? I think it is more than the "icing on the cake" for the Rabbonim in England. I really think they see something wrong in the JM industry and it is Yeedle. But what can they do? The charges were dropped in Israel. The only thing they can do is make the JM industry pay a price till they clean their industry up. Otherwise why the timing? Why pass around the Jerusalem Post article?

4) If the stories about Yeedle are true, does this mean the post-Lanner Orthodox community is still incapable and unwilling to take the necessary action to protect our children?

Posted by me at June 14, 2004 12:39 AM

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