While I commend The Jewish Week and writer Ted Merwin for showing how the Broadway play “Soul Doctor” continues to popularize the spiritual and loving message of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (“Carlebach’s Burning Desire To Heal, Aug. 9), the article also perpetuates some inaccuracies that must be clarified.
Though Merwin describes Reb Shlomo as seeking to preach “to all humanity,” the rabbi always expressed himself in the context of Jewish texts and experience. The uniqueness and appeal of Reb Shlomo was that he genuinely embraced the use of chasidic and yeshivish sources that express both a universal, loving philosophy and a particularistic, mystical one.
Also, I was misquoted — and it is factually wrong — to state that Reb Shlomo “never led services” at his shul. As everyone who ever attended the Carlebach shul knows, Reb Shlomo most definitely led the services at his shul.
The world’s continuing appetite for Reb Shlomo’s music and teachings is evident. However, the conversations that are actually “swirling around the show” are not, as Merwin suggests, dominated by allegations of sexual harassment. The treatment of Reb Shlomo’s personal life and the lack of nuance and proportion in Merwin’s story are disturbing and irresponsible. The accusations, the refutations and the related discussions are well known and well documented by now. The question for The Jewish Week is whether, in an article about the play and of the public’s obvious craving for Reb Shlomo’s message and teaching, five paragraphs should be devoted to a cut-and-paste pastiche of recycled charges.
If anything is “swirling around the show” it is the questions that ask what is it about Reb Shlomo’s impact and message that makes us respond as we do, even making him viable on Broadway?
Finally, the comparison of Reb Shlomo’s behavior to mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner was gratuitous and extreme. It was an unchallenged statement from one individual. In addition, it is shocking and upsetting to me that Merwin juxtaposed my words about Shlomo, that “he wasn’t an angel,” to appear as if I was responding to the comment about Weiner. That is not the case and is unfair to frame it that way.
Reb Shlomo, citing the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of chasidism, taught the importance of speaking positively of others. It exemplified his own life and is one we can all learn from as we seek to build a better world.
Rabbi Sam Intrator
The writer was Rabbi Carlebach’s longtime assistant and succeeded him as rabbi of the Carlebach Shul in New York. He is currently rabbi of the Carlebach Minyan in Miami Beach, Fla.
I read the first two parts of Stewart Ain’s series, “Long Island Synagogue Wars,” with interest. Unfortunately, there is one part of the Long Island story that he did not tell: There are a number of strong “established” synagogues on Long Island that continue to offer engaging, innovative and meaningful Jewish communal life.
While I certainly applaud the efforts of smaller synagogues to increase membership numbers that have dwindled, the larger established synagogues in the area, like Midway Jewish Center, North Shore Synagogue, Plainview Jewish Center and Temple Chaverim, that continue to serve the Jewish community with well maintained facilities, dynamic clergy teams, cutting edge schools and excellent offerings for young and mature alike.
Rabbi Jonathan L. Hecht
Temple Chaverim, Plainview, L.I.