© (2006) Name withheld upon request
The next time you think about going to a "Carlebach Minyon", or anything named after him, please remember this story. Please forward it to every rabbi you know.
Let's stop making this man into a tzaddik (saint)!
My ex was a Reb Shlomo Carlebach groupie. She had come from Boston to New York in order to study Judaism, and especially to be near Carlebach. I met her at a class, we dated and were married on May, 1976. Carlebach co-officiated at the wedding with my rabbi. Having myself worked in "kiruv" I had a very high opinion of the man, and chalked up his hugging and kissing of women to his self sacrificing for the sake of others.
About a week and a half after our wedding, my wife told me that Shlomo Carlebach was running a retreat before his departure for Israel for the summer. She told me that she "must be there" and I accompanied her. I was surprised to see violations of Halachah not connected to kiruv. When I mentioned this to my wife, I was shocked to hear her say "I know all about Shlomo's sins, and I pray every day that I may be a Kappara (atonement, a surrogate receiver of punishment) for his sins! Please don't talk about it, because words have power."
I asked her if there was anything romantic between them, at which she replied with longing "We both know I'm not what he needs."
Shlomo Carlebach went off to Israel, and the summer passed happily. September came, Shlomo Carlebach returned, and she began disappearing one night a week to attend his lecture-concerts which he held at the B'nai Jeshurun synagogue in Manhattan (at the time, I was serving as rabbi in "location removed").
In October, we learned that my wife was expecting. She told Carlebach of my disapproval of his actions. He told her "Get out fast." My wife left me a few days later. This was 5 days after finding out that she was carrying our child.
I sought out Shlomo Carlebach and confronted him about telling a married woman, and expectant mother, to "get out fast." His wife, Ne'ila, began to berate me indignantly, saying "How dare you? My husband is such a tzaddik, when he dies the angels will carry him to heaven!
Carlebach then smiled, and said to me "who are you? You're a rabbi in a Conservative Synagogue!"
When my wife asked me for money, I asked her why she didn't go to Carlebach for it. She said "He's never there when you need him."
She often said "I'm 95% Shlomo, and when he looks into my eyes I'm 100% Shlomo." This quote had the judge and court stenographer in stitches at the divorce proceedings, but to me it was no joke: it spelled out cult.
After the divorce she moved in with another Carlebach groupie who was married with 4 children. He soon divorced his wife and married my ex.
These events were well known in New York frum circles, I began to get numerous calls of support from sympathetic strangers. Among them, were many calls from people, both men and women, who had had similar experiences.
A noteworthy point, among his groupies "holy" was synonymous with "feels good." Unlike many others, my story has a happy ending. I remarried about a year later. My second wife and I are very happy, and have been blessed with seven wonderful children.
My daughter from my first marriage grew up being told that her mother had to run away, since I "Hate kids, and wanted her to have an abortion." Two and a half years ago she found my website, contacted me to find out the truth (her step father was also taken in by the abortion story).
We are now, thank G-d, very close. As a child, her mother took her to see Shlomo Carlebach, where she was very turned off by the things she saw. It pains me greatly that I was denied by this ego maniac the basic right to live my life with my chosen wife and my firstborn child. My children all grew up in the shadow of these events. Carlebach songs were never allowed in our home.
Whenever I go to a wedding or other Simcha where his songs are played, I am saddened. I am sad for my daughter who grew up without her father, I am sad for my ex who was so used and abused by this man's mile high ego, I am sad for all the unhappiness he left in his wake for so many people. I am sad that this evil man is now considered a tzaddik by so many.
P.S. Some of the people who called me at the time told me that there were actually warrants out for Shlomo Carlebach's arrest in several states for alienation of affection (not a crime in New York, but a felony in many states). I never checked this out, but you may want to.
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