By: Shoshy Ciment and Benjamin Koslowe  | 

Mysterious Bagpiper Shares His Music and Convictions with the Wilf Campus

On Tuesday, November 14, an unidentified man sporting a red and black bandana, a black sweater, and jeans began playing the bagpipes on the 185th street plaza on the Wilf campus just after 12:00 and continued for close to an hour, disrupting seder and classes and piquing interest from the student body. The man, now identified as a Verizon Wireless employee named “Jerry” (“Gevaryah” in Hebrew), showed up again today during his lunch break, drawing an even larger crowd.

Holding a leather-coated Hebrew/English JPS Tanach in one hand, Jerry appears to be trying to inspire the students of Yeshiva University. “By me playing, I’m trying to show you my heart,” he said. “A lot of times we try to hide that. Man looks outwards, but Hashem looks at the heart. But wisdom has to guide the heart.”

Today Jerry, who styles himself with a braided beard and bushy ponytail, began bagpiping again at roughly 12:05. From around 12:30 to 1:00, Jerry, a self-described “pipe major for the police band” (though “not a police officer”), stood by the intersection of 185th street and Amsterdam Avenue and, briefly laying down his wind instrument, spoke with a crowd of students. The lunchtime crowd was in flux and consistently numbered around 10-15 students. Jerry had students read yellow-highlighted English-translated verses, mainly from Sefer Yirmiyahu, in his Tanach, after which he would profess life lessons to those listening.

Jerry quoted Yirmiyahu 20:9 several times. He exegeted, “Hashem is an impassioned God. You don’t realize it. Everything that you feel, He feels it more.” He offered similarly enigmatic words of wisdom regarding fire- and passion-themed verses from Bemidbar, Devarim, and Shir Hashirim. He emphasized the need to “put [immorality] to death,” to have “courage and faith,” and to “keep your mind steadfast.”

The presence of the mysterious bagpipe man drew varied reactions from Yeshiva University students and faculty.

“He's definitely different from what you see everyday on the YU campus,” remarked Yonah Stromer, a third-year Yeshiva College student majoring in Psychology. “Most people here just try inspiring people with niggunim that they sing or play on guitar and they may or may not succeed -- he could probably hold a crowd of NCSYers at attention with his bagpipes and the way he really makes eye contact with you.”

“It somehow seemed appropriate for the discussion of the theology of the Book of Esther to be interrupted by a quirky person playing the bagpipes alone,” considered Professor Aaron J. Koller, an Associate Professor of Bible at Yeshiva College who was teaching when today’s tunes commenced. “It was a good exercise in finding meaning in the apparently random.”

Jerry plans to come to the Wilf campus every day to spread his message with music and conversation. “I can’t hold it in anymore,” Jerry told, describing what compelled him yesterday to begin playing the pipes near YU. “I’ve waited long enough, and I won’t stop until I finish my purpose.”

“That’s why I’m here,” Jerry explained. “Each of us has a purpose. The script is written, the movie’s playing out. Find your role. Stick to the script.”