Sunday, February 1, 2009

Shlomo Carlebach, sexual predator.

I have been meaning to post about this for some time.  A recent post over at Treppenwitz got me thinking about the subject again.  He posted the following question from one of his visitors:


I'm looking for a boisterous knit-kipa Carlebach-style minyan. My first choice would be to find one in Jerusalem but would be happy to find one somewhere else in Israel.

I live outside Netanya, but I would like to be able to pack up the family on occasion and take them to a more energetic, Carlebach-style minyan for Kabbalat Shabbat.

(Jerusalem is the first choice since it is a nice place to periodically go to spend a weekend but we could do this elsewhere as well.)

The closest place I have found is a shul in the Katomon neighborhood called Yakar (their "upstairs" minyan). It was certainly nice but not worth being the centerpiece of a weekend trip.

I'm sure that lots of strangers who read your blog turn to you for advice on issues that may not be of much interest to you. I'm sorry to be adding to that load and imposing on your time, but, if you know of a "boisterous knit-kipa Carlebach-style" minyan, I would greatly appreciate learning of it.

-A fan-
You see, here in Judea, it is almost impossible to find a synagogue where they don't incoperate Shlomo Carlebach songs into the prayers.  This drives me crazy because there is really quite a bit of evidence to suggest that the man was a sexual preditor.  A simple Google search for "Shlomo Carlebach" will lead you to many stories regarding this.  In case you are too lazy to look it up yourself here are a few links to start you out.  

This is besides several first hand stories that I have heard over the years from women who have been made to feel very uncomfortable when Shlomo singled them out of a crowd and kissed them and huged them (usually for to long or in a sexual way). Over the years when I have pointed this out to people, suggesting that perhaps they should think twice before singing his songs at their Shabbat table or telling stories about the 'Holy Reb Shlomo', I have gotten very negative responses.   Nobody seems to want to face the issue.  Lately, I have pretty much stopped bringing it up at all because I see that I get nowhere.

But today when I saw the post from David Bogner at Treppenwitz (a blog that I generally think is great), I couldn't help but leave a comment.  It went something like, "Don't bother trying to find a Carlebach minyan, he was a sex offender anyway."   I then linked to one of the many sites that discusses this issue.  

I was very surprised that David Bogner emailed me back to tell me that he had deleted my comment:
I have unpublished your comment.  Whether or not what you say is true (and I've seen no 'PROOF' of such a claim) he was responsible for bringing many people back to observant Judaism.  I am not about to allow my site to become a forum for destroying any of the good things he may have done in his lifetime simply because you want to draw attention to things that he was alleged to have done that were bad. I hope you can understand my rationale.
I wrote him back the following:
Most all sexual predators do "good things", that is how they build enough trust to be able to do what they do. It is a shame that so many people are willing to incorporate songs written by such an evil man into their worship of God.

I would also add that I know at least a half dozen people who came back to observant Judaism via Jews for Jesus or the Kabbalah Center.  That does not make those movements legitimate Judaism.  

Furthermore, the people who are observant as a result of Shlomo Carlebach have moved beyond him and his scene. Those who haven't, are hardly to be called 'Observant' because they are into things like mixed dancing, mingling of the sexes, smoking weed, free love, etc. etc. Hardly the what most consider 'Observant'.

I look forward to the day when good people like David Bogner will realize that Shlomo Carlebach is treif and doesn't belong in our shuls.

BTW if you want a davening that is Shlomo free, the only shuls that I have found so far that are usually entirely free of Shlomo songs are Chabad.


  1. Yes, Chabad put him in Cherem in the 50's. Most Yeshivish Minyanim won't sing his stuff either. Some will use his older pre-whacko stuff as that was the demarcation set by RMF in Iggrot Moshe.

  2. abe: Some will use his older pre-whacko stuff as that was the demarcation set by RMF in Iggrot Moshe.

    I had not been aware that R. Moshe had written a tshuva on this subject. Where is this in Igrot Moshe, exactly?