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fiba Feature 2006

Lionel Zipring's grandfather discovered the mystic writings of the Kaballah and published a hardcover edition in the original Hebraic language after record- ing this ancient music. Lionel proceeded to distribute free copies of this extraordinary book to friends who visited him regu- larly - including the publisher of fiba. Years passed and the original book found it's way to Los Angeles where unscrupu- lous 'cult inventors' translated
it to suit their own use of this information and organized its ''believers'
(with lots of money) to be its 'followers'. Including popsicles like Madonna. Ugh. Let's hope his grandfather's music doesn't develop the same fate.


A Manhattan record label and a Minnesota audio publisher are among the companies that have expressed interest in a rare collection of Jewish liturgical recordings made in the 1950s, much to the relief of Lionel Ziprin, who has been trying to get the recordings out in the world for some 50 years. The records were part of a 15-LP set that Ziprin’s grandfather, Rabbi Nuftali Zvi Margolies Abulafia, recorded in a Lower East Side yeshiva over a period of two years with renowned ethnomusicologist Harry Smith.

I don’t want to get too elated,” 81-year-old Ziprin said of his interest in the recordings. “I’m too weak for that.”A former beatnik poet with a fondness for amphetamines, Ziprin now spends MOST of his time studying at a LOWER EAST SIDE YESHIVA with elderly CHASIDS or in his bedroom. which is cluttered with pulmonary
life-support equipment.

Over the past month, he has been hearing from long-lost friends,
music professors and record executives following a New Year’s Day
report on National Public Radio about his long, tortured quest to
release Abulafia’s recordings. One thousand copies of the 15-LP set
were pressed shortly before the rabbi passed away in 1955. Ziprin
said that his mother and uncle barred him from distributing them at
the time, and over the years most of the records were lost to fire,
flood or thieves. But he managed to salvage a full set and to have
them digitized.

Following the NPR broadcast, musician John Zorn — whose Tzadik label has released a long list of eclectic Jewish music — visited Ziprin at his Lower East Side home. Soon afterward, Zorn expressed confidence that a deal would be imminent. But Ziprin has also heard from the owner of a small record label in Los Angeles that special- ices in esoteric recordings. And he spoke to a radio host in Oregon with a connection to the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music and a Jewish music professor in the Boston area who has offered to help with the project.

Despite the suitors, Ziprin is nowhere near a final decision. On one day he says he will likely go with the offer from Tzadik, BUT the next day he suggests that Deutsche GRAMOPHONE would be a desirable entity to distribute the records.

I think my grandfather’s voice is better than Caruso’s!Ziprin declared in all seriousness. “And I’m not putting Caruso down. He was a great artist.”

Lionel can be cantankerous and difficult,” observed Ira Cohen, a
long time friend of Lionel's. “He tends to make things as complicated as possible, so nobody can talk to him.”

Cohen knows Ziprin since the 1960’s when Ziprin had one foot firmly planted in New York's counterculture scene. Ziprin insists that Bob Dylan once visited him and brought along a man named Louis Abolfia. a 1968 hippie presidential candidate who appeared named in posters with a slogan "What have I got to Hide?

Ziprin's grandfather's surname, Abulafia, is prominent in Jewish mysticism. Ziprin says his family has long history incised, Israel, which has been a center of Cabalah as far back as the 16th century. Ziprin said that , regardless of his colorful past, he has always been an Orthodox Jew and a strict observer of the Sabbath. He will demand that whoever releases Adulafia's recordings abstain from selling them on the Sabbath.


"We are not after all intended to be consumed.  
That is not common-you or common-I.  
Common-you and common-I are combustibles.  
if we leave flesh we burn.  
We are not hallowed like some are.  
Simple women cut holes in us.  
Our tricks are gross.  
We are still rooted in the absolutely necessary.  
There is only so much we can make.  
Only so much we can change,  
I of course who do change and you of course who are changed are not  
any longer than that.  
We have forfeited our sides.  
We have undreamt our perpendiculars.  
We have been, so to speak, deconditioned.  
We no longer refuse to be enslaved.  
Vacuity is in our mouths.  
We no more hold fast.  
our ships are broken.  
The ocean is dry for us.  
The fish are dead for us.  
We have become essentially what we are not, not any more. "




The above article RABBI ABULAFIA'S BOXED SET By JON KALISH first appeared recently in The Forward - a NYC Jewish weekly
Manhattan-based newspaper/radio reporter Jon Kalish can be reached at 212-989-5619 or (cell) 917-859-9502.


Lionel Ziprin (above) photo by Ruby Washington/The New York Times

Lionel Ziprin hopes to publish the sacred
recordings of his rabbi grandfather.

Published: February 5, 2006 (New York Times)

Days before his rabbi grandfather died in 1955, a writer of idiosyncratic poetry named Lionel Ziprin gave the old man his word that he would publish the rare Jewish liturgical recordings the rabbi had made at his Lower East Side yeshiva. Now, Mr. Ziprin appears tantalizingly close to fulfilling his promise.

The recordings capture hours of melodic ancient prayers in praise of God, sung from memory by Mr. Ziprin's grandfather, whose name is usually rendered as Naftali Zvi Margolies Abulafia. The collection of sacred music is part of a 15-record set recorded in the 1950's by the
renowned ethnomusicologist Harry Smith at the Home of the Sages of Israel, a yeshiva on East Broadway.

"My grandfather was like another God person," Mr. Ziprin, 81, said the other day in his dusty East Broadway apartment. "He was from a different realm."

Mr. Smith spent two years recording the rabbi in the 1950's, and also became close to Mr. Ziprin, occa- sionally indulging with him in peyote, a hallucinogen that Mr. Ziprin said he used to buy, literally, by the bushel.

Jon Kalish, a journalist, reported Mr. Ziprin's story for National Public Radio on New Year's Day, and in the last few weeks, Mr. Kalish has been contacted by two companies expressing interest in the recordings. One is a spoken-word publisher in Minnesota, the other an
avant-garde label called Los Angeles River Records. And Mr. Ziprin said he had received a visit from John Zorn, who runs Tzadik, a small Manhattan label. These developments were reported in The Forward late
last month.

Though Mr. Ziprin is in failing health — he can scarcely breathe without an oxygen machine and other life-support equipment — he insisted he would choose a distributor for the recordings only when he was good and ready.

"It took several years to digitize them, and now I'm at the point where I want to do liner notes for the CD," said Mr. Ziprin, whose flowing white beard, skullcap and gravely giggle give him the air of a wizened rabbi with a quirky wit. After the liner notes will come the CD's graphics, he added, "so why should I think about distributing now?"

Deborah Freeman, an artist friend of both Mr. Ziprin and the late Mr. Smith, says that Mr. Ziprin is in a difficult position.

"He's in a very delicate balancing act, because this is sacred music, it's liturgical music, and it's the music of his grandfather, who was a very famous rabbi," Ms. Freeman said. "So it's very important to
him that it be done in the right way

But Mr. Ziprin said he was confident that the proper conclusion of his 50-year quest would, as he put it, "manifest itself" in due course. "At the right time the right distributor will show up, and the right writer of the liner notes will show up," he said. "And my grandfather's voice will be broadcast in this world in the right sonic network."

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