≡ Menu

Shlomo Carlebach is the most respected frum sex abuser

carlbeach shabbatIt seems that the world proved the title for me on Facebook. I put that up as a status update and for the next day, people hashed it out, but the conclusion was what I originally wrote.  Although people seek to deny, debate about whether it’s right to talk about dead people in such ways, or try to cover up the bad with the good, the conclusion was that he’s pretty darned respected and it crosses all hashkafic boundaries. It wasn’t merely the Orthodox defending the Orthodox, there were perfectly reasonable irreligious folks trying to say things like “but he was such an inspiration” and “we don’t accuse people who can’t defend themselves”. I found it all terribly interesting, because no matter what you believe, there are dozens of documented cases with names. I grew up in the Carlebach Shul and we all knew about the sexual impropriety, we just ignored it, it seems there’s a whole world of people who wish to ignore such things and I think it’s crime to ignore abuse for it’s a very real issue in our community.

If you were to do a case study on the responses of people to someone who they are inspired by that gets caught doing something inappropriate, you should head over to the Facebook post, because the ignorance is truly amazing. People simply don’t want to believe it and they will make up excuses as to why we shouldn’t be discussing such things. Just because someone was inspirational and has passed on, doesn’t mean it’s not fair game to use them to further the cause of helping victims of sexual abuse. In my opinion, it doesn’t discount their good. A few months ago, some big Jewish philanthropist in New York died, they closed down the Belt Parkway for his funeral (he was that big a deal) but he had done some pretty scandalous things. Those scandals don’t discount the tzedaka he gave, nor do Reb Sholomo’s escapades with women and young girls discount his music, inspiration, and the thousands of souls he touched through his movement. It still doesn’t mean we should deny the wrong doing, there are plenty of great people who’ve done some shitty things. Just look at Dovid Hamelech if you want to someone viewed as a great man who did some really cruddy things in his lifetime.

Of course, I got some hate mail about being a douche and getting a new hobby, unfortunately those people don’t realize that the only way to keep me in business is to get hate mail. The difference between me and true Carlebach haters is that I love his music, the stories, and am very fond of childhood years at the Carelbach shul (did you know he was mesader kedushin for my parents) but that doesn’t mean we can’t look critically at him and use him as an example of the classic response to sex abusers, which seems to be denial. I used to think that denial of sex abuse was merely an ultra-religious “shove it under the rug” kind of thing, but once again I’m wrong. The responses to the Carlebach status featured responses of denial from across the religious spectrum. It wasn’t just the “religious people’ willing to deny and try to cover up his acts through the telling of all the good.

It appears that denial of sex abuse happens across the board, people who wish not to believe will go on in denial. Then there are those who wish to talk about the good, rather then the bad. I know dozens of families who became frum through Reb Shlomo, I sing his songs in the woods, I love his stories, but this doesn’t mean I can’t acknowledge the bad. Death may wash away the sins, but it doesn’t mean someone cannot be spoken about. Dozens of people tried the whole “he’s dead and can’t respond” but if we talked about things that way, dozens of folks with evil sides would go unspoken about.

By talking about the past we learn about the future, besides there are probably dozens of people who are now being inspired by Reb Shlomo because they decided to google him. At least he stayed frum and didn’t go off the derech like his daughter…oh and I’m not talking about womanizing and getting nooky, I’m talking about pedophilia.

I can forgive the man for everything besides the 4 hour kabalas shabbos that many shuls now do whenever they have a Carlebach shabbos…

Here are some of the responses on Facebook:

The dead cannot defend themselves. Is it allowed to make such comments about Reb Shlomo?

These accusations are not new and each time an army of defenders of Shlomos name will come out of the woodwork to defend his name … JUST WATCH .

Who are we to judge others??? We are all sinners. Each and every one of us. Especially those talking Lisbon horah for the sake of having their 10 seconds of fame. Reb Shlomo only hugged those that needed it. He respected woman who did not need hugs. I grew up in his shul. I know!!!! Others you mention for sex abuse I agree.

Heshy I suggest you delete this post .

The ladies seduced him.

Post says” sex abuser”. Reb Shlomo had a fun life. We all want fun.

I’ve investigated it for years and it’s all a bunch of false accusations this is the most righteous person in our generation and all the Admorim or Ravs in any camp in the last hundred years comes close to what he was and did for all of us you just have no idea as many didn’t and don’t and will only know when they start reading his teachings and that doesn’t mean that because of that it’s okay for him to do things-They just did not happen and none of the people who make up these false stories are normal people I’ve investigated thoroughly

Nothing wrong with loving some ladies!! No one is all perfect anyways as long as its not a kid I don’t care any ladies were adults and responsible for whatever they do. 
we are all human and if I have 10 faults but manage to do one thing very well and affect (not touch) people’s lives in a very meaningful way then thats what I should be remembered for
my good deeds shouldn’t be erased because I have a few bad lapses in judgement in my private life

Jus because you are getting a lot of nooky doesn’t mean it’s abuse. It’s called getting lucky

Even if the accusations are true that he was a ladies man, a womanizer is not an abuser. I don’t understand how you could lump him into the same categories as anal rapists in the mikvah. Shameful post, Heshy.

There are accusations of child sexual assault

I wonder is the accusation that he actually sexually abused people? or that he just slept with his female admirers? There is a big difference between the two.

I think you can drop Satire from the name of your site, Frum people are pure satire, reading the comments on your wall is a joy.

Heshy Fried, if you have no evidence whatsoever about someone other than people yapping, which has a tendency to become a bunch of crap, but you post what may actually just be malicious slander, then psychologically speaking, you’re most probably a child molester. Wait, come to think of it, didn’t I hear that you are. I guess, according to your logic, you’re fair game & everybody should post that you’re a child molester; or am I missing something?

wait, what about King David? to be fair, if he lived in our days i’m pretty sure he would have gotten the same complaints. powerful people = big egos = can lead to lots of touching. its wrong. 
i don’t believe the stuff about Carlebach and underage stuff, but based on the numerous complaints of late-night calls and impromptu touching, i assume there is some truth to that. its bad, and i’m pissed that he hurt his positive message by either doing some of this or even allowing the perception that such claims would be believed. but his message can still be respected even if he did things wrong, maybe like King David.

The butthurt in the comments is so strong. Frum people really don’t accept realities, hm?

If nothing positive can come out of this then this post is now on my ignore list whatever is true or not about Shlomo lots of positive came out of his life which is felt to this day …..I will now move on .

Why is it that when a Rabbi does something bad, some of you close your ears and go “lalala!”. That’s not an appropriate excuse. You sound like people who claim icecream is good even though there is a huge cockroach in it, you pretend it isn’t there so you acknowledge the icecream only. And that’s how stupid some of you sound if you are being serious and not sarcastic.

The good things that people do/did don’t invalidate the bad things that they do/didt and vice versa.

good for you for posting this. The hypocrisy of shrugging off RSC’s abuse but expressing zero tolerance for those who did similar things is staggering. Nobody WANTS to sully his memory. We all love his music and message. But we can’t just paper over what he did to dozens of young women. Why is he held to a different standard? Why do we often call someone like Kolko a “monster” but make excuses so Shlomo can continue to be the teddy bear we remember?

interesting that you all decided to smear the man post mortem. I wonder what that does to your own profile before the “man”

For the folks above who are simply unaware, this is not about affairs he may have had with adult women. It’s about his fondling and groping of young girls, often in their early teens. This is not fabrication – there is ample and credible testimony from many now-grown women about their experiences when they were as young as 12 years old. These are not new allegations, they’ve been known for years. They first came out in a big way not long before the first Edah conference in 1999, and I remember it being referenced by a plenary speaker. There was a loud gasp from the room when she mentioned it, but no one accused her of making it up.

Rebecca Lieberman, you may not want the allegations to be true. None of us did. But there’s little question that they are true.

personally I think there is no more cowardly act that making accusations against a dead man

uri, perhaps it does, if the allegations are true. I wonder though, why everyone waited to seek this “help” until the man could not defend himself? me thinks it rather suspicious on part of alleged “victims” seriously, Dude, I hate abusers, seriously hate them. I also hate injustice. seems to me, this post mortem witch hunt reeks of opportunitstic one sided, hearsay based motives

Linda, speak with some of the victims and you’ll hear about how some of them did try to confront him before he passed away. Also, if you read up a bit on clergy abuse you’ll see that allegations often emerge after the abuser has passed because of the power dynamic involved in the confrontation and the effect that has on the survivor.

Yes, Linda, like Yaakov says, some of the women did try to confront him while he was alive but because of the power dynamic they were not successful in resolving anything.

I don’t know the answer but the reality is that now…it is between Rabbi Shlomo and Hashem. Debating it does not change it. If true, it does not lesson what he did do for the Jewish community but it shows the man was human. If false, it is wrong for us to be talking about it as he cannot defend himself. I see no reason for the point of debating it.

There is something called a statute of limitations. For many victims of sexual abuse by the time they are able to deal with the trauma the statue has run out. I mean if it is difficult to confront clerical abuse from a teacher in yeshiva imagine how much more difficult it is to confront when the person is an icon in the Jewish world.

People are asking why this is helpful. It is helpful to support the victims in their healing, and to educate and look to ways to protect children, young people and others, and to create ethical boundaries to prevent this sort of abuse from continuing.

Rav Moshe Feinstein ossured his music because of the allegations of sexual abuse. So, if Rav Feinstein believed it enough to ossur one mans music, I’ll take it as fact

It is really important to be aware of the side effects of the torah and derech of any gadol, and the work of the later generations is to offset all the problems bound up in traditional making of the Holy wonderful. It is worth knowing all the downsides of what a holy warrior did and does, because they are so bound up in the story of whatever they were doing that was awesome. Part of the greatness of Shlomo is/was the hope of overcoming the fear of loving/feeling/enjoying wrong. In the hopes of trying to find that, without a tradition of how to bridge it all safely, abuse happened and one of the best virtues of Shlomo, over the assholier of abusive rabbis, is how much he didn’t self-righteously deny what hurt people, as much as beg for understanding and sensitivity for the massive infinitude of human need. Curious and endlessly invested in and hopeful for what innovative sensetivity the attempt to build new bridges and awesomer temples demands, Shlomo is beloved because his abuses were the side effects of genuinely trying to make life, love, and Torah the fully expressed wonderful, to the point of not always noticing quickly enough what was too much for the other, especially (and maybe only) when they themselves didn’t have a language for making it clear even to themselves until it was too late, and violated feelings abounded…as opposed to ASSHOLES who just abuse authority, claim divine mandate, and make their victims feel guilty in the hopes of silencing them. It’s really a very different model, you see.

i really don’t care what he did in his personal life – I love his teachings and music – can’t we leave it at that?

Neshama C. wrote an important piece this week about becoming Reform and shying away from her Orthodox heritage… and now the “attack” on her father/upringing on your blog… you are a puplit for the man!

you are a douchebag for posting this. why in the world would you say that?

ask my mom about her experience with Shlomo sometime.

Furthermore, Saruk, & the rest of you ostensibly concerned about the welfare of supposed victims from several decades ago. Do you think so lowly of them that you think that they couldn’t locate each other & publicly proclaim that they were abused & specifically in what way. This thread makes me believe that some girls he hugged didn’t know he would do that & they felt abused or something at the time, but not that he touched girls sexually or something.

Find out more on 4torah.com


{ 27 comments… add one }
  • FactsRule December 20, 2013, 9:39 AM

    The problem with this is that you state, “…there are dozens of documented cases with names.” Yet, this is what’s called hearsay. Where is this documentation, Heshy?
    And, I’ve never been a fan of Carlebach.

  • Shira December 20, 2013, 9:42 AM

    I was one of those girls he hugged and kissed and I certainly did not expect it. I was 12 years old, although I looked a lot younger and raised religious. He came to my city and did a small concert for some of his devoted fans at someone’s house and I happened to tag along with my friend and her parents. He filled the room with the cloying smell of his cologne and I just remember him telling everyone that children couldn’t be kissed enough. Even if you kissed them every second of every day, it still wasn’t enough. On his way out he passed by me, leaned over and hugged me and kissed the top of my head. It was very uncomfortable and I certainly wasn’t happy about it, but I wasn’t traumatized for life. He invaded my personal space without permission and bypassed the rules of religious as well as regular social norms. In general, children should be asked permission before they are touched, especially by strangers. So that was my experience with the great Shlomo Carlbach. Despite that unpleasant experience, I do love a lot of his songs – he was a brilliant composer.

    • A Skeptical Yidden December 20, 2013, 12:13 PM

      While I have zero doubt you view that interaction as unpleasant and were
      most assuredly very uncomfortable with it…its clearly not rape or sexual
      abuse of a minor. I had one and only one interaction with Rabbi Carlebach
      MANY years ago when he was a guest of a schul in Rhode Island that I also
      happened to be at for Shabbos. At the time, I was in the middle of a serious
      crisis in faith. I was not frum (and still am not) and I had seriously thought
      about abandoning Judaism for something else.

      Someone (one of his yeshiva students from Monsey who was also there)
      told him about me and this guy, who did not know me at all, spent
      over an hour listening to me, hearing me and he was not inappropriate or
      judgemental in the least. I found his advice to be profound as simple as it
      was and I would go so far as to say this advice may have saved my life.

      And I also saw him hugging and kissing adult women and children in what
      I would call a “paternalistic way.” He also hugged me and shook my hand
      (an adult male). I would not call any of what I saw as abuse or rape.

      Some people were probably startled and given the context that most from
      women (adult or child) have it drilled into their heads that it is a sin for
      a male who is not there brother/father/husband to so much as touch their
      hands I can see why some might be “offended” by R’ Carlebach.

      This does not mean that he never abused anyone or his position as a Jewish
      authority figure. But it also does not mean that he did either.

      It’s very difficult to prosecute those of blessed memory.

      This is why its absolutely critical, no matter how difficult some may say
      it can be, for people to speak up about these types of matters as soon
      as possible.

      • camnini October 21, 2014, 7:03 PM

        My experience was much like Shira’s above. I was twelve. He came and did a concert in our town. I loved the music and his energy. He visited our day school. He put his arm around me, called me a shayna meidele and squeezed my breast. I knew this was creepy, shrugged off his arm, and kept far away from him the rest of the day. I hadn’t thought about it in years, but read an article in the nineties. Mine experience was direct- not hearsay, not second-hand. I think the music has value, but I wish my shul wouldn’t give him the kavod of calling Kabbalat Shabbat, Carlebach Shabbat once a month.

        • Natan21 October 21, 2014, 8:20 PM

          Might you agree to speak to me directly? I am trying to find a woman who has an experience that can be documented to see if there is any substantial evidence of wrongdoing. Was this “sexual abuse”? Or was it merely a social hug that you disliked or found inappropriate? If you feel it was “criminal” and could have been prosecuted in court, I would like to know the place, date and circumstances. Are you certain that the term he used was “shayna meidele”? Did you know Yiddish then? Do you think that he had a malicious intent?

          • camnini October 26, 2014, 4:10 PM

            I did know Yiddish then. I’m a school psychologist and I would deem it to be inappropriate sexual contact. It was very brief, and I was savvy enough to get away, but he did cup and fondle my breast. I could give you the place and year- not the date. I’m not a lawyer, but it’s clearly not legally okay. Oy, malicious intent? I couldn’t read his mind. I did not sense malice. I felt creepiness. I might be willing to talk with you directly.

            • Dr. Natan Ophir October 26, 2014, 4:52 PM

              Dear Camnini, Should you like to speak directly, please write to CarlebachBook@gmail.com. Your story sounds very similar to Robin Goldberg’s story as described in Lilith. She was also 12, remembers something like “holy maidele”, and felt it was an inappropriate hug because of the way her breast was touched. Robin was in Harrisburg.

  • Mimi December 20, 2013, 9:44 AM

    I posted this on the facebook thread, but I’m posting it again here because I think it’s an important point to make. In response to the comment:

    “I wonder is the accusation that he actually sexually abused people? or that he just slept with his female admirers? There is a big difference between the two.”

    There is no difference between the two. If you just see him as a musician, maybe, but I think we would all agree that he was more than that. He was a Rabbi and a teacher. You can’t give consent to someone you see as your Rabbi or teacher and it is therefore, abuse.

    Thanks for this post Heshy. I’ve struggled with this myself. It’s important to speak out against sexual abuse, and clearly not an easy thing to do.

    • OfftheDwannaB December 20, 2013, 10:56 AM

      So grown women can’t say no to a rabbi ? Hmm I’ve been going about this all wrong.

      • Mimi December 20, 2013, 11:05 AM

        No, it’s not real consent if it’s someone that you see as so holy and spiritual and you’ve adopted as your teacher. It goes something like, “If the Rabbi says it’s right for me to have sex with him, then how can that be wrong? Everything he does is for God. He’s so holy. I guess I have to go along with it even if I don’t feel comfortable”.

        It can be extremely traumatic. Being “grown” doesn’t have anything to do with it. It’s why therapists who engage in sexual relationships with their clients lose their licenses and it doesn’t matter whether the client completely threw themselves at the therapist.

        • OfftheDwannaB December 23, 2013, 2:10 AM

          I can hear that. I’m not a woman so I don’t know if it’s true but I can hear it. Definitely for men it’s different. There’s no way I’d just agree if a rabbi/swami etc. made a move on me even if I was super into his cult. I’d just know, as an adult, he’s obviously hitting on me. This is fucked up.
          Now, if it was a woman, I might do it with her, but it would likely be consensual unless she’s nasty so it blurs the lines.

  • Non-fan. December 20, 2013, 10:00 AM

    This gives me a forum to point out one thing that I can never say in public because everyone argues with me.

    Shlomo Carlebach was NOT, as the last poster said “a brilliant composer.”

    He was a very limited composer, who composed simple songs using the same few chords and same limited playing ability.

    His songs may be catchy and popular, but musically they suck.

    • G*3 December 20, 2013, 11:05 AM

      That’s why his songs are catchy and popular. They’re simple and easy to sing.

    • Matthew December 22, 2013, 1:10 PM

      You must love Dream Theater.

  • zach December 20, 2013, 10:30 AM

    “Lisbon horah”? Does that only apply to someone living in Portugal?

    As for Carlebach, people should also remember that he often made very hungry people suffer for hours until they could eat because of his interminably long kabbalat shabbos singing!

  • FactsRule December 20, 2013, 10:38 AM

    Mimi, I don’t agree with you that a woman who chooses to sleep with some popular musician is the same as, for example, “Mr Clinton persuaded Mrs Broaddrick to have coffee with him in her hotel room during a conference of nursing home administrators in 1978. She alleges that he then forced her on to the bed, where he held her down, bit her lips and raped her.”
    Non Fan, Since first hearing Carlebach in the 70’s, I agree. I’d been exposed to music of all sorts my first 16 years of life as a secular American. My mom was an opera singer. Classical, The Partridge Family, Hard Rock, Country, Progressive Jazz, you name it. I totally agree with you about Carlebach, but also about most Jewish music; it’s all simple. Chassidush music in particular is so repetitive & sounds alike. When I use to live in Monsey, NY or Brooklyn & went to a store where it was playing, I’d thank God I didn’t work there & have to listen all day to the same song.

  • Moishe December 20, 2013, 10:49 AM

    Shira, I disagree with you that fawning over & having consensual sex with a man is at all like, for example, “The newspaper reports that Mr Clinton persuaded Mrs Broaddrick to have coffee with him in her hotel room during a conference of nursing home administrators in 1978. She alleges that he then forced her on to the bed, where he held her down, bit her lips and raped her.”
    If any of these women said no, were forced anyway, fine, they were raped & they should have reported it.
    I hope you enjoy the following as it really does a great job of covering this issue!

  • milhouse trabajo December 20, 2013, 11:29 AM

    So glad u took my point re King David!

  • A Skeptical Yidden December 20, 2013, 11:59 AM

    I don’t know whether Rabbi Carlebach was an abuser/molester or if he is merely
    being smeared. What I do know is that he should not be pilloried without a
    chance to defend himself – something he can’t do now. It’s obviously easier to
    make accusations – whether they are true or false – about a person posthumously.
    My perspective on this – which I acknowledge is not the only perspective or
    absolutely the correct one for all situations – is that Carlebach lived a long life.
    If he was a serial predator as some make him out to be, then all those decades
    when he was raping kids, how come we never heard a thing about it?

    The only truth here Heshy is we will never really know the truth about Rabbi
    Carlebach. The dead can’t admit guilt or say tashlich. What we do know is
    that forever after, there will be an “asterisk” so to speak after his name.

    I am not sure how I feel about that or if that’s fair. Then again there is no
    guarantee life is fair. Just hard.

    • Seriously? December 22, 2013, 7:28 PM

      He can be accused by those who claim he abused them.

      I have no doubt of the veracity of their claims. Far, far, far too much smoke from women who have no reason to lie.

  • Paula December 20, 2013, 3:21 PM

    Agreed, Heshy. It’s shameful how Carlebach somehow gets “a pass” as an abuser. No mention of this in the Forward’s recent article about “this great man’s” daughter’s leap to Reform.

  • Oliver December 21, 2013, 12:03 PM

    This is all news to me, probably as he is not such a big figure over here (England). I must say, his Friday night tunes, and the happy clappy bimah slapping and stamping that goes with it, drive me up the wall.

  • aliza t December 22, 2013, 4:04 AM

    I think that we should discriminate between hugging/kissing young girls like an overly touchy grandpa and being an abuser! the lines have become too blurred recently in my opinion. I was hugged and kissed as a kid and I wouldn’t consider that abused!

  • Rafi L December 22, 2013, 4:07 AM

    Q: Why was the extended Carlebach-Style Kabbalat Shabbat service invented?
    A: So that men could also be abused.

  • Yaakov December 22, 2013, 7:42 AM

    Heshy you have put out an idea many of our minds cannot comprehend. You have challenged the black-and-white view of this world that our brains retreat to safety in. The fences surrounding our comfort zone have been demolished by your portrayal of the “grey” areas in life, where good and bad co-exist together and do not cancel each other out, where I can still be a servant of God although my actions are not “up to par” yet, and where I can accept some of the teachings of a sage without having to blindly accept everything he says. For those fenced in their entire life, the thought of freedom is so so scary. Anything will be done or believed to maintain this simple and easy perspective on life.
    Alas, life does not follow the rules our brains so desperately wish to be true, and wishing only leads to a delusion that perhaps it is true, but reality remains the same. But this reality, many times, is too much for our minds to bear. So much effort and years of work have been put into constructing this fence of the highest security, making it almost impenetrable. The safety and comfort provided by this seemingly high-security, yet paper-thin fence, quell any attempts to show the one self-jailed inside their fence, any other outlook on the outside. Because venturing even a peek outside this self-imposed lockdown offers the opportunity for unimaginable changes. The brain will be bent and twisted in ways never yet experienced, as all that was carefully maintained before, crumbles in the face of reality.

  • Natan Ophir December 26, 2013, 10:44 PM

    These questions and many more about Reb Shlomo have been discussed in the new and comprehensive biography, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission, and Legacy published by Urim Publications. see http://www.CarlebachBook.com, For a video about the book see http://bit.ly/1daHhaB
    For the facebook page see: http://www.facebook.com/thecarlebachbook.

  • Inspired by Shlomo October 22, 2014, 12:22 AM

    Carlebach was not a rabbi in the sense that he was a pious or righteous man, he wasn’t somebody perfect who worked on himself and made himself holy. The thing that he has was that he was a very spiritual man and was able to convey his full spiritual feeling through songs. This is no different than Bob Marley, who also had the ability to convey through his singling very powerful spiritual feelings. And so hearing him inspired and brought a person to a higher place. So what is the big deal that he was’t perfect, the main thing is that he meant no harm and wasn’t evil.

Leave a Comment