Lakewood, NJ – Mrs. Dina Storch composed her first English song at age 14. Since then she’s composed more than 450 songs, including “There’s a Place in My Mind” (about Yerushalayim), “Bird of Hope,” “Someday”, “Crack Of Dawn” and “Daddy Dear” (both sung by Mordechai Ben David).
The Storch family moved from Cleveland to Lakewood in 2000, where Rabbi Storch now serves as the menahel of Yeshivas Nesivos Ohr and Mrs. Storch is the music teacher in Bnos Yaakov and Bais Tova elementary schools. For the past twenty-nine summers, Mrs. Storch has also served as the musical director in Camp Bnos, composing all the camp, play, and cantata songs.
For many of us, singing your songs brings a feeling of utter sweetness, joy, and melting into the music. How and when did you write your first song?
Mrs. Storch: I wrote my first song, about a boy pleading to reunite with his father, when I was in ninth grade. Until then I hadn’t been much of a writer. In elementary school I excelled at math more than writing. Then, in ninth grade, we had an English teacher, Mrs. Ady Frankel, who started a literary club with a few of us. She stirred our brains and encouraged us to write.
She would tell us, “Close your eyes. Clear everything out of your head.” Then she would say, “Now open your eyes and write.”
I had always been musical and played my guitar and accordion (given to me by my uncle, Reb Yom Tov Ehrlich, z”l). Once, after reading literature poems in class, I decided to put tunes to them. I started putting tunes to all the poems in my literature book. Later on, I was left with tunes, and slowly I started putting pesukim to them.
My father, Reb Shmuel Kaluszyner, z”l, definitely influenced me in my songwriting. Just growing up in his home I was very accustomed to expressing myself. He was a Novardok baal mussar, and he painted ‘word pictures’ when he spoke.
How did songwriting affect your growing years?
Mrs. Storch: It was a great outlet for me as a teenager. I would close my bedroom door, take out my guitar and express myself. I was groping with the same frustrations as other teenagers, but I had a way to express myself.
Rebbetzin Tina Juravel, my ninth grade historiah teacher, once pointed out something interesting. She said that when people are watching a play and it gets to a sad part, they may burst out laughing. We’re afraid to lose ourselves in tears, so instead we escape through laughter. As I was growing up, I always felt safe to express my innermost feelings in song.
One of your best-known songs is “Someday.” How is it that Mordechai Ben David came to use it as one of his signature songs?
Mrs. Storch: In 1977, during my first year in Bais Yaakov of Boro Park Seminary, I composed the song “Someday” for our play, called “Double Identity.” Several months later, I received a call from Rabbi Golding of JEP asking if I had a song he could use for a tape JEP would be producing. (At the end of each summer, they culled Color War songs from the different camps and produced a tape.) I gave him “Someday,” which he then had Mordechai Ben David perform for the recording.
What kind of concrete steps do you engage in when writing a song?
Mrs. Storch: First I write one line of words. I start to sing that one line and develop a pattern or beat. I then continue to write the song according to that beat. I have the picture of a piano keyboard in my head, and I write down which keys form the beat as I sing it. Sometimes I’ll call my husband for help with finding an appropriate passuk for the song, and he’ll print me a page of all the pesukim with the word or idea I’m looking for.
There’s also the impromptu method. When I feel inspired by an experience, I jot it down and put it in my pocketbook. At some point, sometimes years later, I’ll write a song from those notes.
The song Daddy Dear composed By Mrs. Storch, and sung in a 1998 cassette by MBD
When during the year do you start working on making up the theme song for camp?
Mrs. Storch: I have an unspoken agreement that Rebbetzin Shonnie Perr (director of Camp Bnos) calls me the week after Pesach, at which point most of the plans for camp have been arranged. Rebbetzin Perr tells me the camp theme for the upcoming summer and gives me about fifteen to twenty pesukim she will be using in the theme throughout the summer. She has the entire summer mapped out like a lesson plan. It’s pretty amazing.
The camp song I compose is light, without any pesukim in it. Every Friday night, when she speaks to the camp, Rebbetzin Perr centers her speech on one idea and refers to one line in the theme song.
Tell us about the new album you are working on. When is it due to be released?
Mrs. Storch: This is something I should have done a long time ago. When I moved to Lakewood, I started meeting old choir members from the Camp Bnos cantatas. When my husband opened his yeshivah, I had the idea of performing “Nostalgia Night” as a fund-raiser for the yeshivah. It was a performance of many of my songs, by any women who wished to join.
Performers usually knew about one-third of the songs. We included songs from the 70s, 80s, 90s – and some that were never heard before. The only thing that all the singers had in common was that they loved to sing.
We made three performances for three consecutive years. This album, to be called after my song “There’s a Place in My Mind,” includes the songs from the first Nostalgia Night, which will be sung by several popular male Jewish singers. Some of the songs included are “Yerushalayim,” “Power of a Prayer,” and “Be Proud That You’re a Jew.” I’m calling the project “Project STEP,” which stands for “Storch Educational Entertainment Production.”
What else is included in this project?
Mrs. Storch: I have a tefillah tape for children’s schools that is a wonderful tool to teach children to bentch and daven using the correct havarah. I specifically want to thank Rebbetzin (Heiman) Nadav for tuning me into to the importance of davening with the correct havarah. I also have a booklet of short scripts for elementary school plays.
What do you feel is the key ingredient to focus on when composing a song?
Mrs. Storch: My uncle, Reb Yom Tov Ehrlich, z”l, taught me that to write a good song, the listener has to be able to “see” something in front of him while he’s listening. For example, with the song “Be Proud That You’re a Jew,” I was trying to convey a feeling of the Jewish People as a whole throughout the ages. Only when the song tells “of a chain that is longer than long” and “every bead on this strand,” do you feel the unity of Klal Yisrael.
When I wrote a song about “Ani Ma’amin,” I was trying to portray the concept of belief. When the listener hears and then pictures in his mind’s eye “with the ani ma’amin that they cried,” and “people gave up their lives for this,” then the listener is with you. An artist needs 3-D to make a picture look real. I’m also painting a picture for the listener.
One last question, though I wish we could keep on going! Do you have any advice for people who feel that “there’s a place in their mind” that would compose a song, but don’t know where to begin?
Mrs. Storch: Get a blank bound book (not a spiral). This way you’ll feel like you’re writing in a book. I call my book a “nothing book.” When you think of something you want to write, don’t lose it. Run to the book and jot it down.
Or you can write it on a paper and write it over into the book after you’ve perfected it. Then come back to it whenever you feel ready to embellish your previous work.
her songs are beutiful I must say
Mrs. Storch has written the most beautiful songs over the years. Thanks for your contribution to Jewish Music. Just one point: The song Daddy Dear was not written by Dina Storch. (Maybe the lyrics were but definitely not the melody). Daddy Dear is a secular song from years ago. You can find it if you search for it. The original lyrics delude me now. Additionally, the song was used in a Jewish recording before MBD recorded it. About 25 years ago (or maybe more) there was a children’s tape named “Avi and the Chipmunks,” and on that album there was a song “Avi Dear,” which is the same song as MBD’s Daddy Dear. I’d love to hear people’s comments on this. “Bird of Hope” What a Song!!!!
Yes, we women contributed a lot to all aspects of jewish life. Starting in the biblical time until today, it’s time we stop being ignored and separated.
We miss her in cleveland:( an extraordinary talent…
The best Jewish music composer was Reb Shlomo Carlebach. If you look at Jewish music today you can obviously see that the music is loud and fast and some were taken from non Jewish songs, especially some of the songs they play at chasunas. The music we have today we can call Hebrew music, hebrew words with a pop-rock and roll theme.
Keep it up Dina! You were always great at everything you did. In school she was relentless, whatever she put her hand or heart to she did. In fifth grade we had to make up songs for each of the makos. She came up with one after the other.
What an excellent, uplifting story!
Thank you Rebitzen Storch! We look forward to the CD.
Fascinating read, thanks, but I think you are confusing the difference between composing music and composing lyrics. If you could clarify which were songs composed and which were lyrics. (I know she didn’t compose Daddy Dear, all though she probably write the LYRICS to it.)
astounding how she repeatedly attributes the credit for her accomplishments to the positive influences which inspired her.
that in my opinion is the secret and reason tfor her success.
realize how great your mentors and coaches are and LISTEN to them!!!
Her uncle Yom tov Ehrlich would lift up the spirits of my zeide, bube and other refugees during the war years in Samarkand Uzbekistan.
What a zechus!
About a thousand years ago, when I was a little girl, my older sister in Camp Bnos used to talk about Dina endlessly! Keep it up ’til 120 years.
Not only beautiful songs but a beautiful person!
I still remember the songs from my sixth grade graduation play in Hebrew Academy of Cleveland and how Mrs. Storch used to teach them to us! I wish her all the best in the future!
Rebetzin Storch is living proof that Orthodox Judaism has a strong and open place for women, not just as poorly paid Bais Yakov teachers. BH the creativity of women such as Rebetzin Storch is accepted and encouraged. Eat your hearts out Jewish feminists.
I have spent 11 summers in camp bnos and i must say that Dina Storch is definitly part of my wonderfull summer memories. I was lucky to be in many of her choirs and work with her too, and i must say that i have NEVER met anyone with such talent AND humility its a combination that you do not see too often. Dina’s songs have made me laugh and cry. may she continue to bring true jewish music into the world untill 120.
Everyone, please don’t respond to #3 . You’re obviously giving her the attention she was looking for to begin with. Learn to ignore people like that and not give her any credibility to her “arguments”.
I remember mrs. storch doing our high school productions in cleveland. she had these amazing songs, and the girls, with their beautiful voices, gave such light and heart to her music. there was one song called ‘sara’ that always brings tears to my eyes.
Deena I remember you vaguely from the good old days, you were a promising talent even way back then! Lots of Hatzlacha!
Dina amush, you just brought back heart warming memories of all my wonderful summers spent in Camp Bnos – although it’s gonna be 10 years since I left camp, it’s seems like yesterday that I was in your choirs – be it contata or some play or another. I really enjoyed every minute of it! If I’d be living in Lakewood now, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’d join your choir groups – now that’s what I call a healthy outlet for women! Ad Meiah V’esrim Shanah! An old fan of yours!
I also write a lo of music. I am not sure who can help me produce it. I have been writng and playing music since I was 7. I am a female.
I also wrote a song for my camp girl when I was a counselor. I am hoping I can make it a career but I don’t know where to go. The frum community is dominated by male musicians not females. Can anyone hep me please?
let the good times roll
I empathize with the fellow who was disillusioned upon finding out that “Daddy Dear” is a goyish song. I had almost the same reaction the first time I heard the original, especially because the subject is the same as well as most of the lyrics. Obviously, a lot of our so-called “fast music” is copied, but when a so-called “slow hartzig” song like “Daddy Dear” isn’t even original, it hurts a little more. I don’t think this fellow is crazy, and I know other people who have completely closed the book and given up on contemporary Jewish music.
Daddy dear is one of over 450 songs of hers. It is an amazing song, regarless of the fact that the tune did come from a non jewish artist, the words are hers. the point of it was not to make up a song and pretend its 100% original. the point was to take a very moving song and recreate it so that jewish people can get something out of it. this is not a fight about who wrote what, it’s the fact that she brought it to the jewish world, and made it that much more inspiring. to the guy who said that fact made him get into secular music: BIG DEAL. first of all, you can try to convince yourself that that was the reason, second of all, so what? nobody cares if you went and listend to secualr music. it’s not that big of a deal. honestly. what, are you trying to make yourself sound all dramatic and stuff? “A year I was fully into seventies rock and and i got a guitar.” a whole year passed and you still couldnt get over it? wow, that’s what i call an idiiot. but anyways, dina storch’s songs are the most real songs i’ve heard in my life. Honest and real. She is my role model. i’ve watched her make up songs, i’ve watched her sing her songs, i’ve watched her teach her songs. She is an amazing woman.
where can i get the lyrics in print for R’ Y. T. Ehrlich’s song “The Torah and the other nations”? i would like to learn it, but have trouble picking up a lot of the words from the Yiddish Gems Vol 1.