A glimpse at The Shofar Man

The Shofar Man has been quite a character online for a number of years.  His motto: “The Shofar Man is more than a business, it’s a calling!” I believe him on that. He seems to have a lot of energy and enthusiasm, both for shofars and selling shofars.

The Shofar Man

The Shofar Man, a.k.a. Jim Barbarossa, outside the White House in 2015

The Shofar Man, a.k.a. Jim Barbarossa, got his start with shofars 20 years ago, on a trip to Eretz Yisrael. Like many tourists, he bought a large Yemenite shofar, and then, “[to his] surprise, G-d spoke to him to blow the Shofar as He would lead him.” A few months later his wife had a dream that she was pregnant and Jim blew a shofar to help her in delivery. On a trip to Africa Jim “blew the Shofar as G-d directed, and deliverances, healings, and miracles followed.”

He now sells an enormous range of different types of shofars. Many of them are certainly not kosher and it would be much more accurate to describe them as horns, not shofars.

A number of remarks listed on The Shofar Man website sound quite peculiar.

  • “All Shofar [sic] are imported directly from Israel.” This makes little sense, since a large number of the type of horns he sells are not available in Israel and certainly none of the shofar makers there has anything to do with them.
  • “Do yourself a favor and do not purchase a Shofar until you have personally heard our exceptional sounding Shofars for yourself.  If you call (219) 250-2187, The Shofar Man will personally sound an exceptional sounding Shofar.” That’s a nice offer, but it doesn’t seem to fit in with his return policy: “Because of health reasons, we have a no return policy on all Shofars…Would you want to purchase a Shofar that someone else bought and used (spit in), then returned?”
  • “I have come to the conclusion that all Shofars have an odor to them and it is just the nature of a Shofar.” That’s certainly true, but elsewhere on his website he sells a supposedly “Odor Free Shofar.”

If you ask me, it doesn’t make much sense to buy a shofar from an Arab wheeler-dealer in the Old City of Jerusalem, or from a guy out in Indiana — especially since his prices seem exorbitant. I would stick with a traditional shofar from the Land of Israel. Here are a few kosher shofar sellers I know:

  1. HaSofer – They really specialize in mezuzahs and tefillin, but they have a decent shofar selection.
  2. Jericho Shofar – A unique shofar dealer that allows you to see each individual shofar they sell.
  3. Kol Shofar – Mostly ram’s horn shofars made by Shimon Keinon, a veteran shofar maker in the Golan Heights.