April 18, 2024
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The Music of a Nation: Remembering R’ Shlomo: A Multi-Shul Salute

Teaneck–“Reb Shlomo had a light. When he looked at you, even in a crowd ‘you felt seen,’ said Rabbi Yossel Friedman, initiator of the ad hoc Bergen County Reb Shlomo Legacy Committee. “When I think of the days of the Beit HaMikdash and the mitzvah to bring your basket of offerings three times a year so ‘your face could be seen by God,’ the Kohanim would take your basket, and look at you in a way that appeared like you were being seen by God Himself. This is the way I think of Shlomo, he had a little bit of that,” said Rabbi Yossel Friedman long-time friend and supporter of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z”l. “He gave you a sense that you counted, that you had purpose. He helped people change, he influenced them to redirect their lives.”

R’ Shlomo inspired a wounded nation post-Holocaust, with hundreds of fresh new melodic tunes arousing their dormant spirituality; with talk of universal unconditional love, unifying a people with mesmerizing Talmudic and Hasidic stories, reconnecting lost souls to God with his unexpected fervor and love for Torah. “It has to be so strong this Jewishness, that nothing in the world should move them to UnJewish them, yet on the other hand, they have to be connected to every human being in the world,” these are the words spoken and the message preached by R’ Shlomo. He was so committed to these ideas and to his methodology that he was alienated from his dynastic rabbinic roots yet continued traveling the world, having an impact on everyone he met, making music and doing outreach in his special musical way.

“I come from a yeshivish world, I was learned but it all seemed dull to me, I was searching for something and found it in the Village. I discovered Latin music and jazz, and it was exciting. One night I went to the Village Gate and R’ Shlomo was performing. It was unbelievable. He brought it all to life for me, he renewed my learning, shifted me in a way that changed my life,” said Rabbi Friedman. R’ Shlomo was performing globally, on college campuses, for Hillel, for Chabad, for diverse communities in Israel, Russia, Poland; both Jews and non-Jews in post-war torn Eastern Europe and all around the world, joyously singing, teaching and telling stories during a time of great emotional tumult and radical change listened to him. “He told stories in fantastical ways. You could imagine them alive; Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov in person,” said Friedman.

Post-Holocaust, the survivors were simply surviving, braving a brand new world. They were diminished, they were scattered, every Jew was affected, and there was unbelievable pain. Bursting onto the world stage were the new sounds of escalating frustration and the yearning cry for something more meaningful and soul-defining. Radical new music genres grew exponentially, mushrooming in popularity, the civil rights and the women’s liberation movements gained momentum,

“He breeched a world that was gone, tried to recreate it and create a world that never was. You didn’t have to go to him, he came to you, like a Maggid, he found you,” recalls Friedman. Among those alienated young Jews of the 60’s and 70’s he became known as the Rebel Rabbi. “Those kids knew nothing, the people he touched, even those like myself from the yeshiva He made a connection to them and for them, and to me in a way never done before. He gave them heart,” said Friedman.

This Shabbat, November 7th–8th and next, November 14, numerous area synagogues will host individual celebrations of Reb Shlomo’s songs, stories, and teachings, sponsored by the ‘Bergen County Reb Shlomo Legacy Committee’ and presented by each shul. The well anticipated main event will be held next Saturday night November 15th at Temple Emeth in Teaneck 6:30-11p.m. For more information: Rabbi Gerald Friedman–[email protected] OR Nancy Passow–[email protected]

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