During the time that the Previous Rebbe was staying in Riga, Latvia, my grandparents were living on the outskirts of the city. In January 1932, in the freeze of the winter, my grandmother went into labor with my mother, and things started to go wrong.She was rushed to the hospital, where the doctors decided that it was necessary to abort the baby in order to save her life.
My grandmother, Frieda Gisha, was unwilling to accept the doctors’ verdict, but fearing for her life, she asked her sister Leah to run to the nearest synagogue and pray for her. She said she would not make any decision until Leah returned.
So, in the middle of the night, Leah, my great-aunt, did just that—like her sister asked, she ran to the nearest synagogue and started praying. She went up to the holy ark, where the Torah scrolls are kept, grabbed onto the curtain and pleaded with G‑d for the life of her sister and her unborn baby.
As she was praying and crying, a woman tapped her on the shoulder. Leah did not know who this woman was—perhaps the cleaning lady or Elijah the prophet—but when this woman said, “Come with me,” she followed her.
Together they went to where the Previous Rebbe was staying at the time and asked for his blessing. They received it in writing, and I still have it—it is a treasured possession in my family. It says: “With the help of G-d, everything will go well. You will give birth to a healthy and living child.”
Leah took this blessing and rushed to the hospital, where she was informed that her sister had just been taken into the delivery room. A short while later, Frieda Gisha gave birth, in a totally normal way, to my mother, Miriam!
Our family has kept the Rebbe’s note for these many years. It is preserved in a safe, and we take it out only when a relative is giving birth so she can take it to the hospital with her. I myself have a copy, and I carry it with me wherever I go.
Two years after my grandmother gave birth to my mother, my grandparents left Latvia and went to live in Eretz Yisrael. It was just in time. The members of my family who stayed behind—fourteen in total—were murdered by the Latvians in the streets. We have eyewitness testimony from those who saw it happen.
Meanwhile, my mother grew up in Israel with an unusual attachment to Chabad. Later on, it was in her house, and with her help, that Rabbi Menashe Althaus started the Chabad Center in Tivon, Israel.
When I grew up, I enlisted in the IDF, and after I completed my army service I started singing professionally. I was a cantor for many years. Then, while I was in London for a cantorial concert, a cousin invited me to see the musical Les Misérables, and when I went back to Israel, I told my manager that I wanted to take part in the Hebrew production.
He had no idea what I was talking about, but he quickly found out that the show—called in Hebrew Aluvei HaChaim—was coming to a theater in Tel Aviv. I got the part and became famous for it. While I was performing in Tel Aviv, Sir Cameron Mackintosh, the world producer of Les Misérables, saw my performance and asked me to come to Broadway.
I was stunned. Of course, every singer wants to appear on Broadway, but I turned him down. I said, “I don’t think this will be possible for me, because I am an observant Jew—I don’t work on Shabbat or on Jewish holidays.”
He said, “Let us meet again to see how we can solve this problem.”
Meanwhile, the story leaked out to the media, and the Israeli newspapers blared “Dudu Fisher goes to Broadway.”
My mother saw that this whole thing was making me depressed, and she suggested, “Why don’t you go see the Rebbe?” I said, “What am I going to talk to him about—Broadway? So many people are coming to him with real troubles like poverty and illness. How can I bother him with this?” She insisted, “The Rebbe’s blessing helped us once before; it will help us again.”
This was 1992. It was no longer possible to see the Rebbe in a private audience, but it was possible to receive a dollar for charity and a blessing every Sunday.
When my turn came, the Rebbe gave me a blessing and told me not to worry; everything would turn out well. His exact words were, “G‑d willing, you will hear good news soon. You will go from strength to strength.”
And that is exactly what happened. In fact, the outcome was nothing short of a miracle, which never happened before or after—it was a one-time only occurrence.
I got the part. And not only that – Playbill featured the announcement that for religious reasons, Dudu Fisher would not be playing the part of Jean Valjean on Friday nights and during Saturday matinees.
They called me “the Sandy Koufax of the theater”—referring to great Jewish baseball player who refused to participate in the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.
Personally, I consider it one of the biggest achievements of my life. When I leave this earth, I hope that people will remember me for this—that I would not violate Shabbat, and that I showed it was possible to make it in the world without compromising one’s beliefs.
But most of all, I am ever so grateful to the Rebbe for helping me to get this message across to the Jewish world at large.
From Chabad.org – by Dudu Fisher
Dudu Fisher – Born: Nov 18, 1951- Dudu Fisher is married and is a proud father of three. He was interviewed by JEM in July of 2015.
To view Dudu Fisher receiving the Rebbe’s blessing see JEM videos for Sunday, March 24, 1991, at 1:28 p.m. – 9th of Nissan, 5751. Also available on YouTube
Transcript: Rebbe to Dudu Fisher: “Brocho vehatzlocho. Besuros Tovos.….. May Gd Almighty bless you to have good news and much success. And to go from strength to strength in all matters of Yiddishkeit.” Dudu then asked for a blessing for his parents and the Rebbe gave a blessing for his parents and a dollar for each of them and said, “This is for each of your parents, and they should each have a kosheren un freilichen Pesach. Besuros tovos.”
The son of a Holocaust survivor (his father), Dudu (David) Fisher was born in Petach Tikvah, Israel. Fisher served in the Israel Defense Forces, fighting in the Yom Kippur War. After his discharge he studied at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music, becoming the cantor at Tel Aviv’s Great Synagogue. Fisher has also served as cantor in South Africa, the Catskill Mountains, and notably, the New York Synagogue.
Fisher starred as Jean Valjean in the musical, Les Misérables, but never on Friday night or Saturday shows, as he is an Orthodox Jew. Fisher performed for England’s Queen Elizabeth II, President Bill and Senator Hilary Clinton, the Thai royal family, and orchestras around the world, including the Israeli Philharmonic and the London Symphony. Fisher was the first cantor permitted to perform in the Soviet Union before perestroika and is the voice of Moses in the Hebrew version of Prince of Egypt. Dudu Fisher has been performing his solo show “Jerusalem” to sold-out audiences in Branson, Missouri (the Ozarks) every November (before covid). Dudu says: “The message of Jerusalem is a message of peace and tolerance, a message of love and beauty and light, the opposite of what people see today in the news.”