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Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (Hebrew: שלמה קרליבך) (known as Reb Shlomo to his followers) (January 14, 1925, Berlin—October 20, 1994, Canada) was a Jewish religious teacher, composer, and singer who was known as "The Singing Rabbi" during his lifetime. Although his roots lay in traditional Orthodox yeshivot, he branched out to create his own movement combining Hasidic-style warmth and personal interaction, public concerts, and song-filled synagogue services. At various times he lived in Manhattan, New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Moshav Mevo Modi'im, Israel.

Carlebach is considered by many to be the foremost Jewish religious songwriter in the second half of the 20th century. In a career that spanned 40 years, he recorded more than 25 albums that continue to have wide popularity and appeal. His influence also continues to this day in so-called "Carlebach minyanim" located in many cities around the globe.

Many of the bands today within the genre of Jewish Rock And Soul are greatly influenced by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's melodies and songs.

Carlebach was also considered a pioneer of the Baal teshuva movement ("returnees to Judaism"), encouraging disenchanted Jewish youth to re-embrace their heritage.


Shlomo Carlebach was descended from one of the oldest rabbinical dynasties in pre-Holocaust Germany. He was born in 1925 in Berlin, where his father, Rabbi Hartwig Naftali Carlebach (1889-1967), was an Orthodox rabbi. The family fled the Nazis in 1931 and lived in Baden bei Wien, Austria and by 1933 in Switzerland. Carlebach emigrated to Lithuania in 1938 where he studied at a yeshiva. In 1938 his father became the rabbi of Congregation Kehilath Jacob, a small synagogue on West 79th Street in New York City's Upper West Side. Carlebach came to New York in 1939 via Great Britain. He and his twin brother Eli Chaim took over the rabbinate of the synagogue after their father's death in 1967.

Carlebach studied at Yeshiva Torah Vodaas and Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn, New York, and Beth Medrash Gevoha in Lakewood, New Jersey. His aptitude for Torah study was recognized by great Torah scholars and teachers, among them Rabbi Shlomo Heiman, and the Rosh Yeshiva of Bais Medrash Gevoha, Rabbi Aharon Kotler. Rabbi Hutner, who gave Carlebach his Semicha, considered it a loss to the Torah world that he chose a career in musical Jewish outreach over one as a scholar and teacher. During his yeshiva studies, he was often asked to lead the services as a Hazzan.

Carlebach was a disciple of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the sixth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch. From 1951-1954, he worked as one of the first emissaries (shluchim) of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe.

In 1972, he married Elaine Neila Glick, a teacher. They had two daughters, Nedara (Dari) and Neshama. Neshama Carlebach is a songwriter and singer in her own right.

Music career

Carlebach began writing songs at the end of the 1950s, primarily based on verses from Tanakh set to his own music. Although he composed thousands of songs, he couldn't read musical notes. Many of his soulful renderings of Torah verses became standards in the wider Jewish community, including Am Yisrael Chai ("[The] Nation [of] Israel Lives"—composed on behalf of Soviet Jewry in the mid-1960s), Pischu Li ("Open For Me [The Gates of Righteousness]") and Barchi Nafshi ("May My Soul Bless God").

His public singing career began in Greenwich Village, where he met Bob Dylan and other folk singers.

He moved to Berkeley, California, for the 1966 Folk Festival. After his appearance, he decided to remain in the San Francisco Bay Area to reach out to what he called "lost Jewish souls"—runaways and drug-addicted youth. He opened a center called the House of Love and Prayer in Haight-Ashbury, where he reached out to disaffected youth with song and communal gatherings. He became known as "The Singing Rabbi." Through his music and his innate caring, many Jews feel that he "saved" thousands of Jewish youngsters and adults.

Some Carlebach melodies were entered in Israel's annual Hasidic Song Festival. [1]

In 1969, his song Veaher Enenu, sung by the Shlosharim won first prize. The Hasidic festivals were a yearly event that helped to popularize his music. He also produced albums with a more liturgical sound. Some of the musicians he worked with during this period added a psychedelic tinge and a wider range of backup instrumentation. During this period, Carlebach spent much of his time in Israel, living in Moshav Me'or Modi'im.

Carlebach's songs were characterized by relatively short melodies and traditional lyrics. His catchy new tunes were easy to learn and became part of the prayer service in many American synagogues.[1]

On his return to New York City, Carlebach became known for his stories and hasidic teachings. As part of his performances he spoke of inspirational subjects, rooted in hasidism and Kabbalah. Some of his teachings have been published by his students and appear alongside his recorded songs. Carlebach spread the teachings of Chabad, Breslov, and popularized the writings of, among others, the Rebbe Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Ishbitz, and Rebbe Kalonymus Kalman Shapira of Piasetzno.

Legacy and Influence

According to Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, Carlebach "changed the expectations of the prayer experience from decorous and somber to uplifting and ecstatic as he captivated generations with elemental melodies and stories of miraculous human saintliness, modesty and unselfishness. " [2]

Before he died, a book called The Singing Rabbi, by Martin Avery, a Canadian author, was published by Oberon Press. The title story, written in the style of magical realism, describes Carlebach.

In the years since his death, Carlebach music has been embraced by many faiths as universally accepted spiritual music. Carlebach songs and niggunim (tunes) can be heard today in synagogues, churches, gospel choirs, and temples worldwide. Carlebach has also inspired many musical groups who followed him, including Moshav Band, Soulfarm, Reva L'Sheva, Naftali Abramson, Kol Yaakov and others.

A musical written about his life by Daniel Wise was performed at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in 2008. A documentary film about directed by Boaz Shahak, "You Never Know," was released at the Jerusalem Film Festival that same year.


Carlebach's approach towards kiruv was often tinged with controversy:

"He operated outside traditional Jewish structures in style and substance, and spoke about God and His love in a way that could make other rabbis uncomfortable."[3]

He was also accused of sexual harassment.[4] After his death, Lilith Magazine, a Jewish feminist publication, catalogued allegations of sexual impropriety against him. Specific, named accusers are quoted in this article, as well as unnamed sources and Jewish communal leaders with knowledge of the allegations.[5] The publication of these allegations has proven controversial, lodged, as they were, at a time Carlebach was not in a position to respond to his accusers.[6][7][8]



Ruach Weekend 1992 Part 1 Shlomo Carlebach & Dovid Zeller

Carlebach died of a heart attack on a flight to Canada. A popular myth had him seated next to the Skverer Rebbe or his gabbai, with the duo singing the Rebbe's favorite melody, Chasdei Hashem ki lo Samnu ["G-d's lovingkindness does not end"]. In truth, Carlebach was seated next to another observant Jew who recognized him. Prior to takeoff, but after the two had chatted for a few minutes, Carlebach suffered his fatal heart attack. His seatmate immediately informed the flight crew. Carlebach was evacuated to hospital, where he was declared dead.

Video and audio links


Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach Audios


  • Haneshama Lach [Songs of My Soul] - 1959
  • Barchi Nafshi [Sing My Heart] - 1960
  • Shlomo Carlebach Live - 1961
  • Wake Up World (Rare) - 1962
  • At The Village Gate - 1963
  • In The Palace Of The King - 1965
  • I Heard the Wall Singing [2 vol.] - 1968
  • Days Are Coming - 1973
  • Uvnei Yerushalayim [6 Million in Heaven - 3 Million in Hell] - 1970s
  • Am Yisrael Chai - 1973
  • Let There Be Peace [Live in Vienna] (Rare) - 1973
  • V'Ha'eir Eineinu - 1970s
  • Yisrael B'tach BaShem - 1973-4
  • Ani Maamin (Hisoriri) - 1970s
  • Live in Tel-Aviv [Heichal HaTarbut] - 1976
  • Nachamu Ami - 1983
  • Shvochin Asader - 1988
  • Carlebach in Jerusalem [Al Eileh] - 1980s
  • Live in Concert for the Jews of Russia - 1980s
  • Even Ma'asu HaBonim - 1990s
  • Shlomo Sings with the Children Of Israel - 1990
  • Shabbos with Shlomo - 1992

See also


External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Shlomo Carlebach (musician). The list of authors can be seen in the page history.
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