Your article, “Carlebach’s Burning Desire To Heal” (Aug. 9) prompted this memory of Shlomo Carlebach’s uncle.
The word and name “Carlebach” always brings back vivid, sweet, and bittersweet memories to me of when I was a youngster growing up in Hamburg, Germany. In 1938, I was 11 when Rabbi Josef Carlebach was chief rabbi in Hamburg’s great Bornplatz synagogue where my parents took me with our family for Sabbath and holiday services. I was captivated by Rabbi Carlebach: his wonderful and outgoing personality and the twinkle in his eyes, especially when warmly greeting us children. I later learned that Rabbi Carlebach, besides his great Talmudic knowledge and insights, was also proficient in the world of arts and sciences, and had taught mathematics and physics in a teachers’ seminary in Jerusalem in the 1920s.
After Kristallnacht, in 1938, when synagogues were ransacked and deportation to concentration camps loomed, Rabbi Carlebach declined positions abroad and refused to leave his Hamburg congregation. Earlier, the rabbi’s brother, Rabbi Naftali Carlebach, came to New York with his family and his young son, Shlomo, later known as the “Singing Rabbi,” the subject of your article.
But Yosef Carlebach would not leave his congregation, and he accompanied one of the later transports to Riga, where he comforted his fellow Jews to the bitter end, as testified by the very few survivors.
A special place in Hamburg proudly carries the Carlebach name: It is the place where the great Bornplatz synagogue once stood, razed by the Nazis, now known as “Rabbi Yosef Carlebach Platz,” forever emblazoned with his name and as a legacy for future generations.