Ala. Chabad celebrates anniversary with superstar Benny Friedman in concert

Benny Friedman

A major Jewish music event will take place in Birmingham on Feb. 18, as superstar Benny Friedman will headline a concert celebrating the 36th anniversary of Chabad of Alabama.

“Songs and Stories of Israel: A Musical Journey through the Holy Land” will be at 4:30 p.m. at Samford University’s Wright Center. The concert is described as “a captivating musical journey of the Holy Land and its unique bond with the Jewish people.”

Rabbi Levi Weinbaum from Chabad of Alabama said a main focus of Chabad is “to bring people together in the service of God,” and this evening is designed to do that. In the South “where we all love Israel,” the concert is an opportunity to bring the Jewish community and non-Jewish supporters of Israel together to celebrate Chabad’s anniversary “while standing with our brothers and sisters” in Israel.

He said this is “a time when we need to keep bringing ourselves together” as Israel continues its fight against Hamas. He noted that there are hundreds of thousands of Israelis displaced from the Gaza border areas and near the Lebanese border, “thousands of rockets falling and 8,000 injured people no one speaks about.”

Despite everything, “we have to stay powerful and strong,” and the concert will give “messages of hope and prayer.”

Weinbaum said the concert will be a major production. “I don’t think Birmingham has seen a Jewish music concert on this level,” with a Jewish music superstar and six-person band and supporting technical crew. “It’s a masterpiece production,” he said, and they needed a venue like the Wright Center to house it properly.

He hopes a good turnout from non-Jewish supporters of Israel will add to the Jewish community’s numbers and enable them to build on this for future large-scale events. “We can do big things and be an example to other places.”

The evening is also a kickoff for the President’s Day weekend fundraising campaign Chabad of Alabama does each year. There will be complimentary tickets to the concert for those donating $500 or more to Chabad this year.

The concert will celebrate 36 years since the arrival of Rabbi Yossi and Frumie Posner to lead Chabad of Alabama, growing from a house near Crestline to an initial facility at a former bank branch building in River Run, to the current center on Overton Road that also houses a popular preschool.

“Royal Family”

Part of one of Jewish music’s “royal families,” Friedman grew up in St. Paul, Minn., where his father, noted author Rabbi Manis Friedman, is a Chabad Shaliach. His uncle is Avraham Fried, who has been a fixture in the Jewish music scene for 40 years. He is also the brother of Rabbi Yossi Friedman of Chabad of Alabama.

Friedman started performing at age 13, performing at Orthodox summer camps. While living in California, he developed a show, “Judaism: The Song and the Story,” which he performed for several years.

He released his first album, “Taamu” in 2009. His reputation grew with “Yesh Tikvah,” the title song from his second album, which has since been covered by many other artists.

He has released seven solo albums and numerous singles, and his biggest work has been “Ivri Anochi,” “I’m a Jew and I’m Proud,” which has over 27 million views on YouTube, where he has almost 130,000 subscribers.

Now living in Brooklyn, he recently released a new album, “Am Yisrael Chai,” available on Apple Music and Spotify. His current Am Yisrael Chai tour aims to bring a spirit of unity to communities around the world, to mirror the unity felt in Israel following the Oct. 7 attacks. Tour stops this month include Sao Paulo, Toronto, Houston, Dallas, Salt Lake City and Boston. His Atlanta appearance is sold out despite being the afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday, and he then performs two days later in Las Vegas.

Tickets are available at Doors will open at 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 18.