For many years, Pinny Einhorn had a reputation for being upbeat and energetic. As soon as he stepped out on stage, the audience expected that something electric was about to happen, and they were never disappointed. He was flooded with invitations to perform and was booked months in advance, but this extroverted side of his nature was a façade. Inside, Pinny was actually quite reflective and often felt empty.
Indeed, the songs on his latest album, Bamistarim, are clearly different from those on his first album, which were much more upbeat and rhythmic. This time around, his songs have a totally different vibe. His singing is much calmer. While Pinny is excited about opening his heart to his fans, he is curious about how the public will react to the slightly different direction he has taken.
Pinny Einhorn is 34 years old. He is married and has three daughters. We are sitting in the living room of his new house in the Givat Zeev neighborhood of Jerusalem. When I had asked him where he would like to meet, he replied, “A place where I can concentrate and express myself as well as possible.” Naturally, his own home was the optimal location.
“I was very fortunate to buy this house,” he mentions just before we start the interview. “I was living in a rental apartment not far from here, but the owner decided to sell it and I didn’t know what to do. I started looking around, but I couldn’t find anything. Just as our lease was up, my wife found this house, and I really love it. It’s big, it’s in great condition and I love the neighborhood. It’s good for my soul.”
Both of Pinny’s parents were born and bred in Brooklyn. Like many other young couples, they lived in Eretz Yisrael for a while after they got married, but then Pinny’s father got a job offer in Chicago. They moved there, and that’s where Pinny was born.
“At first my father taught in Tiferes Tzvi, a Litvishe cheder, and then in the chasidishe Veitzener Cheder. He was very successful in chinuch and eventually became the menahel. I lived in Chicago until I was 12 years old, and my father was actually my first-grade rebbi. It made me feel special. All of my relatives on both sides lived in Boro Park, Monsey and Lakewood.”
“What was it like growing up in Chicago?” I inquire.
“It was very nice. We lived in a big, spacious corner house on a big lot. When you live in an expansive place, it allows your soul to expand. I don’t remember anything bad about Chicago. In fact, I think my parents never did as well financially after that.”
When Pinny was 12, the family moved to Israel and settled in the Geulah neighborhood of Jerusalem.
“It was the exact opposite of Chicago. I wasn’t used to living in such crowded conditions. At first we lived in a one-room apartment. Then we moved closer to Meah Shearim, to an apartment that was slightly bigger. Over the next two years we moved at least three or four more times, until we finally moved to Panim Meiros Street, where I lived until I got married.”
Pinny is the second of ten siblings and the oldest boy.
“I’ve seen several videos of you singing with your brothers. Are they also in the music business?”
“My whole family is musical, but no one else does it professionally,” he replies. “Some of my best childhood memories are of all of us singing at the Shabbos table as kids. I was the conductor, and my brothers were the choir. I sort of always knew that I wanted to go into music as a career.”
“Do you still sing with them when you get together?”
“Sure, but not as often as before. Our favorites are the songs from our childhood—Yigal Calek, Avraham Fried, Ben Zion Shenker and a lot of Bobover niggunim. As the conductor, I would tell everyone else what to sing and how to sing. I remember one Shabbos going over to the window to close it. I looked down and saw a group of about 20 people standing on the sidewalk listening to us. We were really pretty good. I’ve sung in so many different settings—in a choir, as a soloist, at brissim, sheva brachos and weddings—but nothing has ever approached the joy I felt as a kid singing with my family.”
Unfortunately, his childhood was not without its challenges.
“One day when I was four years old, I woke up in the morning and saw my hair on the pillow. I had a full head of shiny black hair, and 50 percent of it had fallen out overnight. Another night passed, and most of the rest of my hair had fallen out. Within two days I was totally bald. It was a turning point in my life.
“My mother had no idea what was going on, and when she saw me, she just started crying. We started going to different doctors, but no one could really do anything to help me. They explained that I was suffering from alopecia areata, a condition where the immune system attacks the hair follicles. The hair loss can be temporary or permanent. It wasn’t painful or anything, but there was nothing to be done medically.
“From then on, I was ‘other.’ Different. Wherever I went, people clucked their tongues and pitied me. We once went to Disneyland on a family vacation. There was a very long line waiting to get into one of the attractions, but when everyone saw me, they let me go first. I became a big nebach. Part of the inner work I’ve been doing for years is to stop thinking of myself like that.”
“They probably thought you had cancer.”
“Probably. In those days, not many people suffered from alopecia, and most people had never heard of it. These days, for whatever reason, it’s a lot more common, so there’s less of a stigma. There are also support groups and organizations for sufferers. When I lived in Chicago the kids would bully me, but they had also known me since childhood, so it wasn’t as bad. The bullying got much worse when we arrived in Israel.
“I remember standing at the door to the classroom on the first day of school with the menahel. Before we walked in, I heard the rebbi say to the kids in Yiddish, ‘We have a new boy in our class, and he looks different. I am asking you to treat him with respect.’ The door opened, and half the class burst out laughing when they saw me. After that, my mother convinced me that I had to start wearing a wig. We went to a well-known hairdresser who fitted me with a special wig that was supposed to look as natural as possible. I ended up wearing it for a few years, but in retrospect I think it was a mistake.”
“Because it was very itchy, and it bothered me a lot. I should have accepted how I looked and made peace with it. If people didn’t like me, that was their problem. But it took me many years to get to that stage. Interestingly, when my hair started to grow back when I was 18, I shaved it off at first because I’d already gotten used to my appearance.”
“Are you the only one in the family with alopecia?”
“No. I have another brother and sister who also suffer from the condition to various degrees. There’s a theory that it’s triggered by severe stress.”
“Did you grow up in a stressful environment?”
“No, but when I was a child, I suffered from a trauma.”
“Did you go for therapy?”
“I went for a lot of different kinds of treatments. Thanks to therapy, I can now recall everything almost from the day I was born. Some people think that if your brain has blocked out certain events, it might not be a good idea to go back there, but I don’t agree. I wanted a better life, and the only way to do that was to explore my subconscious to try to solve some of the problems. I didn’t want to be a nebach anymore. Being a nebach isn’t fun, and it doesn’t help you in any way.”
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