Monday, February 5, 2007

Carlebach's Legacy

Shlomo Carlebach was a huge figure in Jewish music and in bringing less observant Jews back to a more spiritual and observant way of life.

He was also known, within many Jewish circles, as a serial molester and perhaps worse.

The best compilation of the weight of the evidence against him on these scores can be found here.

I overheard Monkeyboy's choir practicing a Carlebach song on Sunday night and it tied my stomach in knots. How to separate the man from his music?

(If you're Jewish, you know a lot of Carlebach music even if you don't recognize his name. His tunes for a number of traditional pieces of liturgy are so ubiquitous that people think them ancient when they're really half a century old or less.)

I decided I didn't know enough about the allegations, so I went hunting on the Internet. I found the article I've linked to above. I find it persuasive.

But it's from a pretty left-wing, feminist source, (Lilith magazine) so I figured I'd best take a look at Wikipedia.

I was shocked to find not a single word about these allegations.

Reading the "discussion" page for the entry, I found that whether or not to include these allegations in Carlebach's Wikipedia entry has been a topic of great disputation.

I've added my own views to the discussion.

I've also added a link to the Lilith article at the bottom of Carlebach's Wikipedia page.

I'll be curious to see if it stays there. I think I've made a reasonable argument on the discussion page, but we'll see if I've helped reach a consensus or just stirred up the controversy again.

How (or whether) I try to explain all this to a nine-year-old is a question I'll confront after this year's choir season is over.


Rachel said...

It is sad when someone so talented destroys whatever admiration and respect that he may have earned from his skill because he does something so heinous.
It is nearly impossible to separate the man and his incredible talent from the man being an accused pedophile.

laura b. said...

Wow, interesting stuff. I am generally unable to compartmentalize my respect or admiration for someone. Like, a genius composer who is also a child molester? All I see is the child molester part.

Migdalor Guy said...

It is a sad reality that the greater the yetzer tov, the greater the yetzer hara. Yes, the evidence of his wrongdoings is persuasive, but there is also more than ample evidence of his good-doing. He was known to spend hours with a troubled person when his schedule demanded he be elsewhere. He infused Judaism with a new spirit it had not seen since the days of the original hasidim.

Most of us who regularly use Reb Shlomo's music are well aware of the sordid aspects of his life. For the Jews to gain freedom from Egypt, it was necessary to see many Egyptians die. There is always a price for good.

It is equally possible that others whose music we revere had/have similar propensities. Like Reb Shlomo, they are no longer in this world. Like him, they cannot face their accusers-their justice will be meted out in heavenly courts. Let us leave the judgment up to those courts, and stop trying the dead in our own.

Reb Shlomo's music will and should be allowed to continue to inspire us for generations to come. Do not confuse the human being who was Reb Shlomo with that part of him that chanelled this gift from G"d to a needy Jewish public.

David in DC said...

I do not advocate dropping the music. For the reasons MG states.

I got a beautiful and touching note from Monkeyboy's choir director this morning. I said this to her:

Dear [choir director]:

No worries.

I do not plan to talk about this with [Monkeyboy in DC] until at least this summer, and maybe not ever.

And I would never, ever want my quirks to affect the choice of music for [the choir].

Let me repeat that, because "cut-and-paste" makes it so ridiculously easy to do: I would never, ever want my quirks to affect the choice of music for [the choir].

There are good reasons to continue to sing Carlebach tunes. You mention some [in your e-mail] and [Migdalor Guy] puts them well on my blog this morning.

I don't object to the inclusion of this song in the concert and I won't be any more uncomfortable hearing the choir - practicing or performing - than I am any other time I hear or sing a Carlebach tune. As your examples point out, he's ubiquitous.

But I believe the Lilith article. And I think there should be some reference to it on Wikipedia. I appear to have accomplished that.

I'm sorry if my post caused you distress. I appreciate your thoughtful response.

I'll finish where I started.

No worries, dear [choir director].



laughing said...

Last night I had a dream about a child molester.

Wonder why that happened?

Anonymous said...

Shalom my friends,

I am writing to you as a simple man trying to do everything that’s right for all, i myself had some bad thoughts about Reb Sholomo, but since I have listened to 1000's of hours of recordings from this great man's TORAH, all I can say is YOU be the judge, how can it be that a man that is up to no good speaks all the time about the MESSIAH and the HOLY TEMPLE to be built, that we are all waiting for so long.

The last thing i would hear is that MOSHIACH is coming tomorrow why is he crying and making songs all his life about the REDEMPTION of the Jews, when he is up to know good or doing evil.

IT JUST DOES NOT ADD UP!!! How can someone who produced 1000's of holy deep songs, sung throughout the world by Jews and non-Jews alike. how is this possible do you really want to say that he was bluffing all his life and we all know he didn’t even do it for the MONEY as he left ZERO he simply gave all away.

I simply ask the few people in this world who have a pure mind free from evil, to THINK is this possible and if you yes so he must get a GUINESS world record for being the biggest ACTOR and FAKE all his life... 69 years of he played to be a HOLY-MAN because a few unholy women have thought up some stories about him that NEVER CAME UP WHEN HE WAS ALIVE this lies are just surfacing now when they see that people just cant forget this HOLY man.

The reason that Rabbi Sholomo gets bad press even after he passed away is quite simple, as we all know that every holy thing must have opposition so there is always a choice for people to make, if not we would all BE ANGELS, so the evil must always go against the good as we see it on a daily basis.

And even our holy RABBI MOSHE rabeini had people who were against him, The man who gave us over the holy TORAH on mount SINAI, had people calling him all sorts of names for the same reason.

What remains to be said is that its amazing that we are such DUMMIES to believe that someone can produce such HOLY SONGS can LIVE A DOUBLE LIFE! its not possible it just can't work either your good or bad, and if someone is bad we would all know when he is around and not when he is not here DEFEND HIMSELF.

Kol Tuv

Rabbi M Safrin, Jerusalem

David in DC said...

Laughing: Sorry. I wish you sweeter dreams tonight

Rabbi Safrin: I regret causing you distress.

But I believe the reporting in the Lilith article and believe the women who were quoted there as victims.