A Follow Up on Carlebach and The Abuse He Committed

Two years ago, following a “Carlebach Shabbos” at my former shul, I wrote an article in which I described the conflict I felt hearing Carlebach being praised for his selflessness and kindness, while simultaneously aware of allegations that he had molested women. I left the article open ended, simply giving my two sides, and left it open for my readers to responded. And boy, did they. The responses flooded in; comments, emails, Facebook messages, even some in-person responses. They came in heavy, heated, and varied. It’s been two years, and I’ve had time to reflect more on the subject, discuss it with more people, and gain some perspective on the issue. Furthermore, since then I’ve spoken to quite a number of his victims, three of whom left comments on my original post. I’d like to address a few things.

Right off the bat, people challenged me on the ethics of sharing an article alleging that someone who is dead and cannot defend himself committed abuse that has never been proven in court. Many people have claimed it’s simply lashon hara, and therefore refuse to even listen. Setting aside whether or not those same people are as careful about the laws of lashon hara when the person under discussion is not one of the spiritual idols, I’ll take it at face value.

It is lashon hara. But one of the exceptions to the prohibitions against speaking lashon hara is when there’s a to’eles, a purpose. Most notably, if there’s a general purpose in the community knowing, if it will prevent some harm, then it is permitted to speak lashon hara. The benefits of discussing Carlebach’s crimes are twofold. First, it sends a message to the community that abusers will have to pay, in one way or another for their crimes, that death is not an escape by which sexual abusers can dodge the repercussions of their crimes; that even if they can’t personally answer for their crimes in life, their legacies will in death. It’s a powerful message to send because there are so many victims out there whose stories are kept hidden by coercion and fear, because the people who keep those secrets are terrified of what their families, their communities might say or do to them if they dare come forward. The more stories are made public, the more people come forward, the more victims will feel safe and secure in coming forward and telling their stories, exposing their abusers, and pursuing justice against them.

Second, for decades Carlebach’s crimes were covered up. For decades, all his victims heard about him was constant praise bordering on deification, any criticism quashed, any attempt at bringing his crimes to light hushed and suppressed. It wasn’t just his followers either who were complicit. Perhaps they can be forgiven because they were blinded by his charisma and façade, but his right-hand men, his gabba’im were aware of the allegations, and actively suppressed the accusers. And for years all his victims heard were stories of Carlebach’s greatness, the constant praise of a man who could do no wrong, simultaneously invalidating their experiences and exalting the man who hurt them. They deserve to have their stories told, to have their experiences validated, and there are enough of them to constitute a to’eles harabim.

The next thing that bothered people about my article was the comparison to Bill Cosby, a man accused of drugging and raping over 50 women over the course of his life. How could I compare “Reb Shloime,” they asked, to a menuval like Bill Cosby? Carlebach doesn’t stand accused of drugging and raping anyone, just molesting them. And besides, he was a complicated man, everybody knew, nebach, he was probably lonely. It’s nothing like Cosby.

A few things. First, the article was written when the Cosby story was breaking. But more to the point, the comparison is not necessarily to the crimes committed (I’ll get to that in a bit, bear with me), but to the cultural significance of both accusations. Cosby wasn’t just some funny-man any more than Carlebach was just a singer. Both were leaders in their communities. Both had moral messages for their communities, and represented something so much bigger than just the art they each produced. Both were symbols of something greater. And both were accused of just about the most immoral thing a person can do: Violating, in such a heinous and personal fashion, the trust that people had in them and what they represented.

But more importantly, there’s a fundamental misunderstanding people about sexual assault. People assume that if the assault isn’t penetrative, that the trauma isn’t really anywhere near as severe as it would be if the assault were penetrative. Or that if the assault was penetrative, there’s a difference between penetration by a penis, a finger, or a foreign object. That somehow the violation, the trauma, is somehow lesser or more acceptable, or easier to forgive, or easier to do teshuva for simply because the law assigns penalties differently in each case. A sexual assault is a sexual assault, and it is the height of callousness to claim that just because the law needs to make gradated distinctions in penal code in order to actually have a functioning legal system, the trauma is any less severe. Whether penile or digital or with a foreign object, penetrative or non-penetrative, conscious or drugged, sexual assault is a massive violation of a person’s sovereignty over the only thing they really control: their body and their sexuality. Seeing it minimize it in the interest of making one group of people feel better that the guy they revere is not as bad as the guy another group reveres, is disgusting.

This past weekend, after sharing my article again this year in “honor” of Carlebach’s yahrtzeit, two women posted their stories as comments on the article. I’d like to share them below, because it leads me to my final point. The first is by a poster who used the name Shula.

“I was a 15 year old Bais Yaakov girl, enthralled with his music. I was in seventh heaven when he offered me a ride home from a concert. The driver and another person sat in the front, and he sat with me in the back. When he put his arm around my shoulder I was stunned but delighted; and then his hand started massaging my breast. I was 15 and completely naive, had no idea what was happening, but somehow felt embarrassed and ashamed. I just continued to sit silently without moving. This continued until I was dropped off at my house. He told me to come to his hotel room the next morning, and I did! He hugged me very tightly, and I stood frozen, not really understanding what was happening. Then the car came to pick him up, and again I went with him in the car and he dropped me off at school. And I never said a word to anyone, never! I’m a grandmother today, and can still recall that feeling in the pit of my stomach, the confusion and feeling ashamed. I never spoke about this, ever. But all of these comments of denial make me feel I have to confirm that these things happened. He was 40 years old, I was 15. He was an experienced 40 year old man and I was a very naive 15 year old Bais Yaakov girl. In those days we never talked about sex. I had never even spoken to a boy! I didn’t associate him with ‘a boy’ – he was like a parent figure, he was old. But I felt it was something to be ashamed of.

Your article is extremely important – these are conflicts that we have to deal with in life, but if no one ever brings them up, then each person, in each generation, has to over and over again re-invent the wheel of faith. The struggle for faith is hard enough; when these issues are so wrapped in secrecy (and I’m one of those that kept the secret for 53 years!).”

The second was written by a woman who went by the name Jerusalemmom:

“Dear Shula-I had an almost identical story to yours…I was a religious high school girl. 16 years old. I went to his house for a class-his wife opened the door and told me to go downstairs to wait for him. I was the first person there. As I was looking at his incredible library of Judaica he came down-hair and beard wet from the shower. Before I could blink he was on me. One hand down my blouse, another up my dress. I froze in fear. I was so lucky that other people came minutes later for the class and I was “saved.” It has taken me close to 40 years to talk about it. Why bother? People who were his followers give answers like “I can’t believe that” -or “we don’t want to know.” Or “he’s dead and can’t defend himself.”

May g-d grant you peace of mind and may you heal completely. Enjoy your grandchildren and teach them to NEVER EVER let anyone touch them without their permission.”

What’s interesting about Jerusalemmom is that this is the second time she’s shared her story on my blog. The first time she was attacked by Natan Ophir, author of the Carlebach biography, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission, and Legacy who claimed she was lying. According to him, over the course of his research for his “500 page academic biography” about Carlebach, published in 2014, he had interviewed the women in the Lillith article I quoted in my article, and none of them had stood up to rigorous examination that met his academic standards. I soon found out why.

He started out by asking me to put him in touch with Jerusalemmom. I emailed her and explained to her that Carlebach’s biographer was interested in interviewing her about the claim she’d just made in my comments section for his upcoming biography. I also explained that I got the feeling he’d be adversarial. She asked me for time to think about it, and I went to sleep, expecting to have a response in the morning. The next morning I found a bunch of comments awaiting moderation attacking the veracity of what some unidentified user on my blog had to say in an unverifiable “calumny.” Post after post awaited me in the moderation queue, all of the same kind, along with a slew of emails to my personal account to boot. When Jerusalemmom found out what he was doing, she asked me to remove her comments from my blog, and not contact her again regarding this. I apologized, and removed her comments from the article.

A few days later, the article was posted in a popular feminist Facebook group. Instantly, women started messaging me about their abuse at the hands of Carlebach, and posting comments on the page. Within the hour, Natan Ophir, who just happened to be lurking in that group despite never having participated before, popped up and started attacking anyone in the thread with anything negative to say about Carlebach. He was quickly booted out of the group, not for the comments, but for private messaging several of the women who had left comments on that thread.

In the interest of “fairness,” he sent me the chapter of the book he was writing in Hebrew about Carlebach for review. He said he had included some stories about Carlebach’s “darker side,” which, after reading that chapter, to him meant the claims that he was having contact with women other than his wife. Nothing about the allegations of abuse. When I asked him about it, he claimed he couldn’t find anyone with a sufficiently credible story, despite having spoken to dozens of women about it, one of whom actually confronted him in that Facebook thread about distortions he had made in quoting her in his book.

This all took place in December-January 2014, 20 years after his death. Which leads me to my final point. The third thing people say when these allegations come up is, “Why didn’t these women come forward when it happened? Why are they waiting until he’s dead for twenty years to come forward?” Or, “Oh, it was probably a bunch of women who slept with a celebrity, woke up the next day with buyer’s remorse, and cried sexual assault. You know how it is.” And I’d like to address those claims, because they are worryingly relevant.

The women I spoke to were terrified to come forward publicly. Despite the fact that there’s very little in their lives that they have to lose by doing so at this point. They have families, they’re grandmothers now, for the most part, and they don’t have jobs that hang in the balance if they come out and tell their stories about Carlebach. But they do have to worry about people like Natan Ophir following them around harassing them. They do have to worry about the hatred that Carlebach’s followers seem to have in endless supply for people who have a different, more troubling story about their beloved leader. At this point, many of them feel that it’s just not worth fighting that battle.

But as to why they didn’t come forward sooner? They did. Or rather, they tried. Many of them tried to confront Carlebach about what he did, but when his gabba’im found out about why they wanted to talk to him, they made sure to keep them away. When his followers found out that someone was harboring such an accusation, they made sure to shut them out, and make it plain that they were no longer welcome. The legend they’d built in their minds and their hearts was too big and too fragile to fail. And the truth is it’s not unexpected. Carlebach, to so many, represents the very essence of their Judaism. For many he’s the very reason they have any connection at all, whether spiritual, cultural, or religious, to Judaism. For many, his message of love and acceptance, of connection to God rather than strict observance of a set of laws, of following the spirit to transcend the letter. Without him that message is lost, and without that message they lose their connection.

I feel for such people. I do. And that’s how we return to the original question: Is it possible to separate the art from the artist; the message from the man. Two years ago, when I wrote the article, I didn’t know the answer. But now, to me, the answer is clear. I’ve decided to let it all go. I no longer listen to or sing his music. I don’t feel personally that it’s appropriate to listen to the music and stories of a man whose art gave him the power and status he needed to get away with abusing so many women. I can’t honestly stand at the Amud and sing L’cha Dodi to any of Carlebach’s tunes and feel anything but dirty. I can’t tell myself that God wants my prayers when they come packaged in such poisoned melodies.

I don’t know if that’s the appropriate decision for everyone to make, but that’s the decision I’ve made. But whether people decide to keep listening to and singing his music, or they decide to let it go and find other sources of inspiration, the man and the artist have to die. The legend has to die. Perhaps the message and the music can live on, but not through him. Not through someone who hurt so many people. He doesn’t deserve our praise.


60 thoughts on “A Follow Up on Carlebach and The Abuse He Committed

  1. Thank you. Although I was then secular, I had many problems in my life, was – and still am, unfortunately – naive: and was raped, by a ‘friend’, and blamed myself for over thirty years…..I’m not in a good enough mindset to say much motre, other than I completely understand why a 15 year old(or indeed any age) girl/woman finds it difficult or impossible to “tell someone”.

    I just wanted to thank you.

  2. keren Hening says:

    Your article mirrors my conflict precisely. I am surrounded by Carlebach inyons & his music, but I cannot ifnore the pain his behaviour inflicted on young, naive girls whose trust was broken by this man.

  3. Rachel says:

    I honestly feel that if you are inspired to write and publish this, you have to look deeply and honestly into your own neshama and tell the world your greatest sins. I have a feeling that there is great darkness there. Please share publicly so we know where the author of this article is coming from so we can judge for ourselves the stories you are presenting and the manner in which you are presenting it. Thank you.

    • Really? That is nonsense. You should be ashamed of yourself, ¨Rachel.¨ I find it difficult to believe that is your real name, because I find it hard to believe a woman would write such a comment.

    • Chaim says:

      Rachel, this was the first real reply I read. It’s exactly as you said. It says in the Talmud “כל הפוסל במומר פוסל ” anyone that accuses someone else of a certain sin or bad deed, should check themselves first, bc it’s most likely they are talking about themselves.

      • So, to follow your logic, because “Rachel” wrote that she feels (in a manner not unlike a gypsy fortune teller) that Asher has great darkness in his soul, that is a sign that it is “Rachel” who really has the darkness? אין לדבר סוף.

    • Huh? Are you suggesting that any of this isn’t true? The only thing surprising about this article is that I thought it was common knowledge that he touched women inappropriately (to put it mildly!) I personally know of several people who were “touched” by him.

    • Carol Richman, RN, BSN says:

      You are naive if I understand what you said. Carlebach was a “perv” ! I luckily got away before he could touch me, because my “gut” told me I was in danger. I’m not a Bais Yaakov girl, but a Jewish woman over the age of 60, who has never told anyone about my gut feelings about Carlebach. He is not to be revered. He was a molester.

    • This is actually the mind set of somebody deeply in a cult. The followers of Scientology say the same thing when Ron Hubbard or Scientology is criticized “what are your crimes?”.

    • Kris says:

      You’re kidding? I find such drivel to be at once offensive and beyond absurd. We go out of our way to protect men who beat, rape, sexually harass and harm women. But you have taken it to a new depth. Hell might be the location of your screed.

    • Yanky says:

      Rachel, lets look at your reply. You allege that the writer has “great darkness” that you request be revealed, so you can judge whether you believe what is written. You base this accusation on a feeling. Do you realize how nutty that sounds?

  4. Jason Schwartzman says:

    I found this article disturbing but painfully real. I appreciate the agmat nefesh to do this. I also specifically appreciate the clarity to repost the two women.

    I am an admirer of Reb Shlomo. Books, Stories, Music. Never met him.
    I can understand that you don’t want to associate with anything of his after being exposed to this. I too don’t want exposure to certain groups because of abuse at their hands. At the same time I think it is worth noting that most Jewish (and yes even Torah groups) have some kind of issues (skeletons…) We have been in diaspora for a long time and really are good at picking up the trait from our neighbors… Hashem Yirachem.

    Whatever the decision, personal it is, and no one has a right to judge. I wish I personally (although I am male) could reach out and hug and cry with all the abused. It is painful and heart-wrenching to hear.

  5. Jason Schwartzman says:

    I found this article disturbing but painfully real. I appreciate the agmat nefesh to do this. I also specifically appreciate the clarity to repost the two women.

    I am an admirer of Reb Shlomo. Books, Stories, Music. Never met him.
    I can understand that you don’t want to associate with anything of his after being exposed to this. I too don’t want exposure to certain groups because of abuse at their hands. At the same time I think it is worth noting that most Jewish (and yes even Torah groups) have some kind of issues (skeletons…) We have been in diaspora for a long time and really are good at picking up the trait from our neighbors… Hashem Yirachem.

    Whatever the decision, personal it is, and no one has a right to judge. I wish I personally (although I am male) could reach out and hug and cry with all the abused. It is painful and heart-wrenching to hear.

  6. Ezra Wise says:

    Please post details about the date and place of the abuse, so that they been collected and verified rather than being anonymous stories of leshon hara.

    • THIS HAS TO STOP says:

      Do you honestly think people will come forward with their name? Especially in the religious world where you are judged and looked down apoun besides for creating issues for siblings and children to find their shiddiuch……

  7. Yishai Beckow says:

    Hi there. This info was new to me. And I had a feminist scholar for a mom, who was critical of him, but didn’t mention abuse and would have had she known about it. I don’t follow him at all, for a variety of reasons, one of them being her critique of his actions, but another being his seeming irrelevance to my life, spiritual or otherwise.

    Just to be clear about what I’m saying, I’ve worked with abuse and torture victims since the mid ’90s in both the secular world and the Ortho one. I am also an abuse survivor myself. I don’t like abuse and am not justifying abuse.

    Also, lashon ha’rah is malicious gossip which is TRUE. Aren’t they actually saying “it is rechilus?” Rechilus is untrue slander. I am not saying you are engaged in rechilus, but simply that this would be the accusation by Frum individuals, I’d think. Lashon ha’rah is often used “idiomatically,” which is what I assume you are pointing out.

    Ok, on with my question. How can someone who wishes to be fair minded and to know what actually happened do so when none of this went to court (assuming court was any better than personal statements, often not true in sexual assault cases). I am not just “zeroing out” the issue. But it is really easy to make accusations, and much harder to show anything that went wrong. I would like to know what really happened, but how can we in this case?

    With Mr. Cosby, does 50 accusations make 1 of them true? Believing this is a fallacy of appeal to popularity and thus useless as an “argument.” E.g. “If Cosby is charged with 50 assaults, at least one of them must be true.” Nahrshkeit. so why didn’t Carlebach get charged? Why are we trying this case in the court of public opinion? And why 40 years after the fact?

    If he is a stinker, I agree it is not rechilus, but productive lashon ha’rah.

    If I knew he was a rapist I would be very willing to post this or similar articles. Please understand I am not attacking the women mentioned, their credibility or actions. I just want to know why this is not something that got resolved decades ago, and why no charges were laid (at least that you mention). In other words, I do not want to post slander about a decent person. If he is not a decent person, it is not slander and is productive as well.

    Thanks, and hope I have not offended anyone.

    • Ezra says:

      His people kept it out of court just like Rabbis and others have tried to do recently be saying “we can take care of it internally”.

    • Kris says:

      Going to court isn’t the litmus test. I have three words for you O J Simpson.

      In fact high courts have reminded-a trial isn’t a search for truth; rather what the People can prove and what the Defence can disprove. As for lashon ha’rah…while I respect religious tradition ( up to a point) it is irrelevant. Unfortunately, because Orthodoxy is insular and morbidly patriarchal it is understandable that women were terrified to come forward to accuse a cultural icon like Carlebach. I remember when speaking truth about male intimate violence and child sexual assault in Lubavitch communities was also off limits. All that does is excuse men, whist pathologising women. Enough already. Time to deal and do so with compassion… for the survivors.

  8. sara bedein says:

    To Yishai Beckow: Why wasn’t this resolved decades ago? Same reason Bill Cosby’s accusers did not come forward decades ago. The shame and humiliation to come forward about such abuse is hard enough in this day and age when sexual harassment is actually a crime but decades ago there was little awareness about sexual harassment and there wasn’t much one could do about it.

  9. Temima Shulman says:

    Only one journalist doubted Marilyn van Derbur story of invest by her father, a predator of great proportion.Gene Amole, wrote in the Rocky Mountain news: her father is dead so we don’t know the truth. Van Derbur addresses and shares much of the sentiment you share about why people wait to tell. It’s worth reading her book. She is a trailblazer on the subject.
    It is hard for followers not to see him as less than the compassionate person he presented himself to be.
    Denial still runs very deep in our frum community.
    I commend you for your article.

  10. Metal Man says:

    I respectfully disagree on one aspect. That is separating the art from the artist. There are many musicians out there who were frankly horrible people, and were especially horrible to woman, e.g. the rolling stones. But their music is still enjoyable. While I do think people need to shy from Reb Shlomo being a “holy person,” I don’t think it would be realistic to ask everyone to stop listening/singing his music, since it is everywhere at this point.

  11. Just so everyone is well aware of my policy on comment moderation. I have no issue with people disagreeing with me, calling me a liar, saying I make stuff up for attention. You’re all entitled to your opinions, and I’m happy to make them public. What I absolutely will not tolerate are comments personally attacking survivors who were brave enough to share their stories. Your comments will not be allowed through.

  12. micha says:

    I spent five years in New York City, where Shlomo spent more time than anywhere else, and was very close to him, and to all the people around him. When he would go to Israel for two months in the summer, he left me (twice) as the substitute rabbi, living in his apartment above the shul. Of course I loved him and love him very much, but also consider myself a truthful person. I have no way of knowing whether the two stories told are true or not. And if they are, they are serious accusations. And despite the fact that he was the most loving and generous person I have ever met, and a healer of great power, that does not mean that he was not flawed, nor would I make excuses for his flaws. But something in this article does strike me as patently untrue, just a falsehood, and thus for me also calls some of the articles basic assumptions into question. “But as to why they didn’t come forward sooner? They did. Or rather, they tried. Many of them tried to confront Carlebach about what he did, but when his gabba’im found out about why they wanted to talk to him, they made sure to keep them away. When his followers found out that someone was harboring such an accusation, they made sure to shut them out, and make it plain that they were no longer welcome.” This is utter nonsense. There were no “gabbayim”. Shlomo was surrounded constantly by many kinds of people, including disturbed people, and they all had access to him. There was no one deciding who could be close or far. The whole point of the scene was that everyone was accepted, taken in, loved, included. The Shlomo hevre scene was totally anarchic. The whole idea that someone could not gain access, could not accuse, was shut up or shut out or told to leave–with the exception of Jews for Jesus who were not honest about being missionaries–is totally not consonant with the whole feeling and scene around Shlomo. Anyone who tried to say something had the floor. Everyone had access. There were no gabbayim shielding Shlomo. I vouch for this 100 % as will anyone who was there.

  13. Jeff Schulsinger says:

    I agree with, Micha! I got to spend a lot of time with him and was lucky enough to sing with him on stage in LA. He was always welcome in our home and spent hours talking with family, friends, and guests. Including Erv Rubin and most of the JDL from the LA area. He was and forever will be loved and missed!

  14. Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz says:

    I disagree strongly, and Avi, I am very surprised at your statement, “there’s been much too much smoke here for too long for it to mean anything but fire”. It is meaningless and is basically passing a judgement when evidence cannot be found. I don’t know the proofs that were brought against Reb Shlomo, but then again, neither does the author of this article. His claims of this being “le’toelet” are inaccurate. You cannot accuse one man in public without proof in order to protect the community from other people committing that crime. That is lashon hara without toelet, and in this case, it is trial by media. Yes, sexual abuse is a horrid crime that goes unreported. But a very insidious side of this crime is that any accusation harms the accused, even after he is exonerated. Making an accusation public is wrong and it does nothing to help the victims. Adraba. And the author;’s reason for comparing Reb Shlomo to Bill Cosby sounds lame and even the author admits it reeks of sensationalism. This is simply wrong.

  15. Ezra Wise says:

    Micha is right. There were no “gabbaim” around Shlomo. Perhaps there were some people like his wife who tried at times to “protect” him from devoting his time, energy and patience to all who came to his door, e.g. the homeless from nearby Riverside Drive. But Shlomo believed that he should love every human being, the ugly and the beautiful, the young and the old, and he liberally distributed thousands of hugs to all. In retrospect, these hugs are at the base of what has been posted here by Asher Lovy.

  16. Very interesting and important article. Thank you for writing it and suffering its consequences.

    What do you think about those who still want to maintain a good picture in their hearts about their star? How should we deal them? Is there anything valuable in trying to confront them the truth? Personally, I have a good friend who is a very nice guy and he is quite enthusiastic about Carlebach. He was a regular visitor in his shul when he was still around. Should I try to ask him tactfully what does he think about these things?

  17. Moshe Carlebach says:

    All of the people who took their time to write these speculations are a minority of a minority. Most every single Jew holds him in a regard much like the Rebbe. Ask the average Jew in Brooklyn or anyone else about him, they will light up and thank you for mentioning him. The simple fact is, everyone who I have met all around the world has only praise for him. He did more for modern Judaism than anyone else, arguably. We cannot begin to even call them ‘victims’. That is just plain slander. We can call them claimants, after all that is what they are. The simple fact is, is that none of you who are analyzing this stuff hold any physical piece of evidence. You have no clout in that regard. I suppose this is expected, every important person has at least hundreds of claims like those just because they are powerful. Somebody as influential to modern Judaism as him could never, ever be able to do anything like that. It’s disrespectful to his family. It’s also disrespectful to yourself, because your mama, tate, friends, everyone else, they are going to doubt your claims deep down in their heart, and probably never trust you again. You are exiling yourself by making such mountainous claims about anybody.

    • Eli Willner says:

      I have no knowledge regarding the charges discussed in the article so I’m not going to address them, but I have two comments of my own. First, as others have already pointed out, the author’s claim of “to’eles” is pretty flimsy and I suggest he consult someone authoritative before repeating the kinds of negative comments he made in this article. If it’s really not to’eles the author is putting himself on very thin ice.

      Second, Moshe Carlebach remarks that “Most every single Jew holds him in a regard much like the Rebbe”. The fact is that in Chaim Berlin, in Lakewood and in Chabad, the three communities he was primarily associated with before he went “independent” – as well as in most of the rest of the Chareidi world – his name has been anathema for about 50 years. Shluchei tzibur were not allowed to use his niggunim in their davening, and still aren’t.

      While I doubt that the incidents (or calumny, take your choice) reported here were known at that time, it was and is pretty common knowledge by then that Shlomo Carlebach had already crossed the halachic line and was continuing to move in the wrong direction. Chazal predicted millennia ago what the likely outcome of that was going to be.

      Moshe Carlebach, if you really aren’t aware of this, you need to take your head out of the sand.

    • How do you get physical proof of someone putting their hands down your t-shirt decades ago? I’m not saying the accusations are true, I wasn’t there, but it doesn’t matter how influential a person is, it doesn’t mean they didn’t do anything wrong.

    • Er no. I know quite a few people, including my mother, who have told me first-hand as to his behaviour. Touching a girl’s breast and putting your hand up her skirt is halachically not permitted unless she is your wife. I love his music, but he misbehaved from a young age with girls and women. I have no idea how or why anybody defends him.

  18. Joyce butler says:

    He was much worse than Bill Cosby because he was a Rabbi. I also had a very bad experience with him, but I was old enough to tell him what I thought of him. The man didn’t know or respect “no”. I visualize the angels kicking his ass back and forth through the heavens. The Carlebach groupies male and female sicken me because they know, and ignore the issue. He will pay in the heavenly court, I have let go a long time ago, he doesn’t deserve any psychic energy wasted on him. It’s conflicting because he did have the musical genious.

  19. Bonnie says:

    Thank you for posting this. I have been aware of the abuse allegations, never read this in detail.

    I absolutely agree with and understand your feeling about using his melodies. I can no longer listen to Bill Cosby’s humor, I can no longer watch a Woody Allen movie and separate the art from the abuser. As a woman it pains and appalls me that we need over 20 accusers to come forward before the broader community even takes these allegations seriously.

    My family also has had experience with abuse at the hands of a religious figure in our community, abuse which was only given surface acknowledgement, and the person was retained in the community for years in a position of teaching and religious leadership within his shul, even though the show had been fully informed of what happened.
    Again, thank you

  20. Pete says:

    It saddens me that a man blessed with a gift for music, who found a way to share and inspire so many people was so flawed. I am old enough to be one of those young girls who idolized him and way back then I had two friends who he molested. It is not lashon hara.. it is a truth that was there long ago but at the time young innocent girls did not know what to do, other than avoid being alone with him.

    • Judaic Sage says:

      Wow. That’ a strong claim, that you had two friends that were molested… If you can only find the means to show us all that you’re information is reliable, that would be a game changer! A heavy load now rests on your shoulders, in return for your comment. Please do everyone a huge favor, and try to find a way to make this information apparent to us all. Thank you.

  21. fromCali says:

    Reb Shlomo hugged and caressed everyone. Maybe he was too affectionate sometimes. Only G-d knows the true scene. A hug can feel sexual and uncomfortable to people who are not affectionate like that themselves. Whatever happened with whomever refua shalema and teshuva shalema for everyone on both sides of the pictures. We all make mistakes in this human world of ours and we all have the opportunity to fix these mistakes. I know a story of Reb Shlomo doing teshuva in the airplane ride right before he left this world. He spread a ton of light to millions of Jews. No one can take that away from him. Plus Reb. Shlomo’s music was for sure divinely inspired in order to help us dispersed Jews reconnect to our roots. G-d wants us to sing and connect to Him. This article ended with a weird comment about not listening to his music??? but It is important to look at the greater picture of why G-d put Reb Shlomo in so many odd scenarios…. so he could reach those sparks…. via his music.

  22. Alan says:

    I’m sorry. I am having trouble believing that women who were extremely religious when they were teens and in their twenties would share these occurrences unless they were deeply disturbed by something that really happened. It just goes against common sense. These are not opportunists who are seeking monetary reparations, fame, or trying to slander him. The majority of them continue to identify as Orthodox or observant. They feel molested, their innocence compromised by a rabbi who misused his power over them. It was deeply troubling to them. Shlomo’s influence on how we daven, sing, and celebrate is unparalleled. However, this too was his legacy. He was not a saint.

  23. Jewish Person says:

    The main thing here is our Torah, which says to judge a person favorably. It says if we want G-d to not focus on our shortcomings, we should not focus on the shortcomings of others. However, having said that, I think it’s important to acknowledge that some women have made serious claims of suffering. It’s also important to hear them out, help them get assistance (counseling, support) and daven for them. I myself have been very troubled by these claims. But here is the most crucial part, in my opinion. Even if these claims are true, we cannot just erase the man’s contribution to Israel and all the souls he helped return. I know for some this seems impossible or even unethical. I can understand such sentiments as I struggle with what I have read as well. I think the challenge here is this: to simultaneously respect those who have made claims, help them, and actively help anyone who has suffered such; and at the same time not disdain or dismiss the contributions Shlomo Carlebach has made to the people of Israel.

  24. Asher says:

    I must speak to you re Reb Shlomo .I know the subject for over 20 years .to sum up it’s absolute lies .
    Just as yosef in mitsrayim had the allegations which he sat in a cell for 12 years all documented and widely reported in all the papers and in the palace .so was moshe Rabeinu accuses of adultery by very many and so was king David by the Sanhedrin .
    And now you acusing and believing the blashfamy on Reb Shlomo ?
    Allow me to talk to you .

    These sort of lies as true as it may seem has been going on right through history .
    And you may be guilty of a terrible crime that can never be forgiven and undone
    Be aware .
    I promise you with out doubt that if you don’t heed my warning terrible retribution will befall you and your family .Mark my words .
    You may assume inosance but now that I have warned you just pull the brakes and speak to me to receive a more in depth understanding.
    Asher +972546130777

  25. don says:

    Why is Asher threatening – Poor victims who have suffered innocently, Carlebach was like Eisov great in his mind but filthy in his deeds!

  26. micha says:

    Having spent many hundreds and even thousands of hours with Shlomo, I know that you are at worst a liar and at best very sloppy in your fact-finding. You write there, in that first story, that women tried to approach Shlomo but that somehow his “handlers” kept people away. Shlomo had no handlers and was nothing if not 100% accessible, especially to someone in pain.Really to anyone, as anyone who hung with Shlomo knows. Now in this story you imply that you only compared Shlomo to Cosby in your first piece because “Cosby story was just breaking” i.e. you did not know the extent of the accusations against Cosby. So why do you again make this juxtaposition? And then you serve up two stories by women who will not reveal their identity. Is there no such thing anymore as due process? We are supposed to accept every accusation as fact just because you say it is so, you have been so loose with facts? The truth is important, very important in this process, because lives and reputations are at stake. You are the equivalent of a lynch-mob.

  27. Anon says:

    Asher, I admire so much about what you’re doing – you are brave and smart and I am proud of you as a Jew. You are bringing good to the concentric circles of your world – to your loved ones in your immediate circle, to the Jewish community with articles like this, and to the broader world with your advocacy work. I love your writing and your work and I take strength from it. Yasher koach.
    Which is not to say I agree with you on everything. In particular, this statement: “A sexual assault is a sexual assault.” Surely that can’t be true. If it were, then it must also be true that the consequences are also equal – trauma is trauma, and punishment is punishment. But we know that the traumas suffered from two different incidents of sexual assault are different based on many different factors – not just what was done, but also who the victim is, how old they are, and much more. Context matters. And therefore the punishment by necessity must vary, not just judicial but also communal and personal.
    Why do I think this matters? Because most everything else you say is so spot on. To ignore or elide these necessary nuances weakens everything else you are trying to do. The question of consequences is an important one. Though it may feel like you are arguing from a position of great clarity, it’s only because you’re ignoring the very challenging gray areas that exist. Abuse is not abuse. Abuse exists on a spectrum, and the answers about what to do at different points on that spectrum are not easy to find.

  28. Pingback: Why We Must Acknowledge Carlebach’s Sexual Abuses - The Commentator

  29. Judaic Sage says:

    “What does this all come down to?”
    The goal in mind, for what I’m about to write is, that after reading everything that was written and commented until this point, the sincere seeker of the subject matter’s truth should have all the honest arguments, and their counter-arguments and eventually the outcomes set down in front of her/him, in a clear and productive manner. That is what I will try to do.
    Guidelines: I will be writing beginning with an “accusation, and the response, response, response, and so on…” each being advanced from either of two positions. One going by the label of “Anti-Shlomo” and the other by the label “Pro-Shlomo”. Each of these positions will be narrated as indiviudals, possessing no personal knowledge of their own, rather only knowledge they picked up from other people discussing this topic. Now let’s get down to business
    Accusation by Anti-Shlomo: “My argument is very simple. There are a lot of Women out there that witness to having been molested by Shlomo Carlebach. The logical approach would be to believe them, rather than assume they’re all lying. I’m just being straightforward and honest. You on the other hand! What do you have to say for yourself?!
    Response by Pro-Shlomo: “I say that since there is no valid evidence (at least presented to the public) concerning any of the personal claims about Shlomo Carlebach, that should lead us to assume he was innocent rather than guilty.”
    Anti-Shlomo’s responds, “So what?! That in no way weakens the credibility of the Women’s claims! I mean seriously! Should we have expected Shlomo Carlebach to have, when experiencing a sudden sexual urge, quickly call over the “Camera Man”, and say “Hey! In the future they’ll want evidence, so video me touching this girl. Alright?!” No!!! That’s stupidity! So obviously the claim is not weakened at all”
    Pro-Shlomo then responds: “Fine, so the claims of his abuse are not weakened at all. I’m okay with that. But now I say the same back to you. “So What!?” We may not have any proof against the claims, but we don’t have any proof to them! At the end of the day they’re just claims, and we don’t “know” if they’re true. If they are true, then of course, there’s no question that it’s very sad that people aren’t aware of their truth. It’s actually depressing to think about all the victims so many years later, still feeling so hurt and misunderstood by the masses. That’s all if they’re true. However If they are false, then it’s a tragedy that the claims were ever popularized! Wo to those who have spread the false claims. But listen to me. Forget all emotional pulls and biases for a moment, because in reality there’s no denying, that neither of us really know if the claims are true! Just trusting all the “testimony” is called irrationality. There’s a reason why a court of law wouldn’t just accept women’s testimony blindly, and this is all besides for the fact that really, all the claims against Shlomo are hidden in the shadows, and it’s hard to really say anything with certainty about the sources of these claims. so therefore I say with all logic on my side, that the closest we can get to knowing the truth, is our acknowledgment of our lack of clarity in the matter. Therefore we must retract from calling anybody out, no matter the claims against them. This way we will be safe and secure, knowing we did the right thing.”
    Anti-Shlomo now responds: ” I have to say you do have a good point there, with what you’re saying. However I beg to differ on a certain aspect of your calculation. You argued that since after all said and done we don’t know if the claims are true, we should just leave it alone, and treat all sides with respect. That may sound nice and fluffy and all, but it is not true. You are leaving out a major truth, and that is that there is something called speculation. Yes speculation may be a very risky path to take, just because of the fact that it can easily lead to complex problems of all sorts including but not limited to philosophical questions, psychological questions, and statistical questions. All which can very often be left without a definite answer. But even so, it is very possible that we will come out after all the speculation (no matter how long it will take), with a pretty good clarity, on what the truth probably is. Understanding this, if we take a look at the widespread popularity and disagreement over the matter, we realize that it is our duty, to take upon ourselves the task of speculation. However you are right, that until a reliable conclusion is made, one who is technically unsure of the truth should refrain, from looking at either position in a derogatory way.”
    Pro-Everyone: “Okay. This has been a constructive discussion! Thank you!
    Pro-Everyone “Yes indeed and thank you! Have a wonderful day.
    Pro-Everyone “You too. Goodbye.
    Now that the discussion has ended I hope the reader has taken the message to heart, and I wish him/her luck on walking the correct path to the truth., and of course needless to say, yet most important, you should beg G-D to shed light on the issue, and help you.
    Before I end, I’d just like to throw out what I see as a couple important points, in terms of “speculation”.
    1) With all good cause in mind, it was nevertheless no doubt, a conscious veering away from traditional halacha, committed by Shlomo Carlebach, in his beginning to allow himself to make affectionate physical contact with women, and for as long as he did this, it can arguably be a pointer in the direction of him having actually committed the sexual abuse.
    2) Shlomo Carlebach, no matter how well meaning, was definitely a person with an unusual lack of boundaries. He spent a very large amount of his life just chilling with people, men and women alike. According to these lines, I wouldn’t be very shocked to learn that over the many years of his well meaning travel of the world to spread light, Shlomo in numerous incidents, was put into a situation where it was very hard to hold himself back, and he stumbled and upsettingly committed an act of sexual assault. Again this is all speculation of course, but if it were true what I just wrote, You should understand that I’m not proposing that Shlomo was innocent, on the contrary he deserves to be severely punished for the pain he caused girls. Rather what I’m trying to say is that it shouldn’t have to make him into a villain. Rather He can be looked at as an overall good person, who will be severely punished for some very bad choices he made.
    Dear Reader, after reading this lengthy article (too long to be a comment), I hope you will at least walk away having internalized one thing, to give everything honest and thorough thought, and if to lazy to do so, to not give any opinion at all.
    Thanx for reading.

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