Michael Unterberg
A guy in Efrat

Owing the Boss

As the rumors build and the campaign continues, Israeli Bruce Springsteen fans are getting excited by the possibility of his tour arriving in the Promised Land. Some doubt that he will show up, because of his liberal political leanings. But who knows? Stranger things have happened. And sure, I’d love it if he came. But whether he does or not, I already owe him a lot. In this, I am hardly unique, as The Boss gives his listeners much more than just entertainment. (although he certainly does that) I’ll mention a few debts that I owe, and you can let me know if any strike a chord in you.

Where to start? Would I have made aliya without inspirational songs like Born to Run, or Working on a Dream? I’m fairly certain that the answer to that is “yes”. But they sure were helpful along the way. It was a pretty long process for my family, and there were (and are) so many obstacles along the way. While suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous bureaucracy, often feeling that we were going one step up and two steps back, Bruce’s messages of striving for greater things rallied and empowered us. Coming from a working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, much of the South Jersey cast of characters in Springsteen’s songs have always seemed familiar to me. It was really “cats like us” who were striving to get to a better place, and that was inspirational.

My father passed away 26 years ago, when I was 18. It is still hard for me to process the loss, and I suppose that my tendency to keep those feelings bottled up is not unusual. Bruce’s Walk Like a Man (from the underrated album Tunnel of Love) always moves me so deeply. I have to be cautious to find the right time and place to listen to it, as I will inevitably end up sobbing uncontrollably. These occasional mini-catharses may not be life changing, but I do appreciate them a great deal.

During the 1999 E-Street Reunion tour, Bruce intermittently played refrains of Curtis Mayfield’s It’s Alright to Have a Good Time. Beyond the pure joy of a Bruce concert, there was the thrill of the reunion of the E-Street line up. But somehow, Bruce kept explicitly giving us permission to fully enjoy ourselves, and that elevated the experience beyond measure. If it only transformed that night, it would have paid me back for the ticket many times over. But I found that for weeks, if not months, afterward, the Boss’ orders from that night helped me through some hard times.

These are really just a few examples. My point is that while many artists can entertain, it is rare to have one who can inspire, move and heal us. Would I love for Bruce to bring his magic here? Again, sure. But my primary concern is that like Johnny 99 and the narrator from Atlantic City, I have debts that no honest man could pay.

Thanks, Boss.

About the Author
Rabbi Michael Unterberg is an Israel Educator. He is a very proud father and grandfather, and lives in Efrat.