"Holy sister, holy drummer" - Shlomo
(Every year in Los Angeles, California, Joy Krauthammer helps organize with Valley Beth Shalom Cantor Herschel Fox and Senior Rabbi Ed Feinstein, and separately with Rabbi/Cantor Monty Turner and (former) Rabbi Debra Orenstein of Makom Ohr Shalom [as part of Daniel Pearl World Music Days], Reb Shlomo Carlebach, zt'l, Yahrzeit Memorial Farbrengans, to remember the legacy of our beloved Rebbe. In addition to playing percussion with the finest tribute musicians, as she did with Reb Shlomo, Joy loves to share with the congregations, her personal stories of Reb Shlomo Carlebach.
Reb Shlomo Carlebach, zt’l held the key to our hearts and our spiritual being. It is with such great love, and great pain from the loss of Shlomo’s physical presence, that I share thoughts with the many thousands of Shlomo’s followers around the world.
The first chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook, taught that the Third Temple will only be built because of infinite love. It is this very love that has permeated the world of Reb Shlomo Carlebach, Chasidic master, Torah scholar, composer, musician, and storyteller, and he has been preparing us for Mashiach. Personal stories have come forth since Shlomo’s passing to the next world, of the major difference the made in the lives of Jews and non-Jews. The homeless people, the beggars, ones who are also characters in Shlomo’s stories, have cried out in the streets, "Our Rebbe has died."
Shlomo would go out to the parks at 2 AM and play music for his holy sisters and brothers. At scheduled concerts, Shlomo would not end his giving until 2 AM. I know because I had been in his Jerusalem audience until that hour, singing and dancing in ecstasy, and then taking a taxi back to the same Moriah hotel with Shlomo at 3 AM. (Another musician, guitarist singer Rabbi David Zeller, would push his baby in a carriage for the long walk.) Serving as Shlomo's percussionist in Los Angeles, I accompanied him until the wee hours on the stage (of synagogues, homes, a Jewish book store, a school, a club, a restaurant, a garden). Once, after we played fully for five magical hours, another musician said to me, "I haven’t worked this hard (even) for paid gigs."
"You will always be my drummer," Reb Shlomo said to me. I look forward to having Shlomo greet me at the Heavenly Gates and also at the Third Temple so that I can again drum for him, shake my multi-colored ribboned timbrel, and give Shlomo the "harmony" he requested from us. My neshama / soul awakened and ascended higher as I received Shlomo’s Divinely inspired music. Here with Joy, transformed, I send up music for all my holy sisters and brothers to rejoice. (Note: I continue to play Shlomo’s music at farbrengans, and many of the younger musicians never met Shlomo and are devotees.)
My dream, my vision to make music with Shlomo was actualized immediately after buying myself a drum in Israel and cymbals in Turkey. I had been inspired to play percussion while watching the co-founder of Shlomo’s Moshav Meor Modiin, Yankele Shames, playing ethnic metal ting shas while accompanying Shlomo in concert.
Having never met Shlomo personally, I had traveled to Jerusalem to find Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. I had 'received' a message that I needed to do this. Beshert / meant to be, the very day I arrived in Jerusalem, a banner high in the street proclaimed the upcoming concert; Jerusalem Theatre benefit performance for single parents. Wondrous awesome events happened to me beginning with that evening. I celebrated the next Shabbat with Shlomo and his chevra / spiritual community, davenen / praying at the Kotel alongside the mechitza / prayer gender separator, having Shabbat dinner in the Old City at Israelite, prepared by his Moshav, and learning late into the night. At that time, I didn’t understand why so many talmidim / students had become an entourage of groupies from America; I didn't understand who Shlomo was.
From cities across America, Shlomo would call me in Northridge, California. When I asked him what he was doing in some particular, off the beat town, he would answer, "A friend asked me to play for the inmates of this prison," or "for the patients in the hospital."
Shlomo welcomed and did not refuse requests to bring light where there was darkness. One of the last major concerts Shlomo did here in Los Angeles was a benefit performance at Tatou nightclub in Beverly Hills, for the victims of the Northridge 1994 earthquake. Shlomo raised our consciousness, and we raised needed funds for the Jewish Federation Council. (See photos)
There was never time for proper public relations (and with my MBA, I mamash tried my best), yet there was always 'standing room only', something not even legal here in LA. I stayed overnight at a friend’s home yesterday, and looking out into her beautiful, serene, large trees filled garden, recalled how I had hoped to produce Shlomo's next summer concert in this peaceful location. I saw the spot radiating with soft light where I had earlier imagined Shlomo would be. That friend, Carol, would accompany Shlomo and I (his shlepper/chauffeur) on a grocery-shopping spree to get some healthy produce and juice at 3 AM following a concert in Pico-Robertson.
Shlomo, mamash, is everywhere. His presence has magnified since his death from a heart attack at the age of 69 on October 20, 1994 (while aboard a plane taxiing for take off from New York to his beloved family in Toronto.) The same day he had arrived from giving seven concerts in England. (His Lubavitch colleagues shared with me that he spent deep personal moments with them in London the day before he died.)
Shlomo traveled the globe tirelessly giving concerts so Jews could return to Judaism and discover their own religion’s spirituality. Two days before his death, I happily called to tell my dear rebbe that the Hillel students he wanted to reach out to in Los Angeles had finally decided on a Shabbaton date with him at UCLA.
Joy’s 2009 P.S. : Because that yearned for gig, mamash sadly did not happen, as a tikkun / fixing, I sponsored a big Reb Shlomo Shabbaton at University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) for the Hillel students where my daughter, Aviva Krauthammer, was active. The students were thrilled when the gevaldt Moshav Band arrived for their Shabbos and also the planned Malavah Malkah. They tie-dyed a mechitzah that morning, and the new Shlomo Minyan remained for years at Hillel, making a major difference in the students’ lives. Many made aliyah / moved to Israel. I still love, and everywhere I see the Moshav Band. See Moshav's Yehuda Solomon in photo below.
Reb Shlomo Carlebach, Aviva Krauthammer, Jered Friedland
© Joy Krauthammer
Reb Shlomo Carlebach's young chevre
Daughter Dari Carlebach, Aviva Krauthammer, Yehuda Solomon, Shlomo Katz, David Ozair
© Joy Krauthammer
Following his death, in Shlomo’s light in one week, I brought Shlomo’s music to a women’s Rosh Chodesh gathering, inviting them to play the many biblical percussion instruments I brought along; on Shabbat told Shlomo’s Chanukah stories to the Makom Ohr Shalom meditation congregation; sold dozens of my Shlomo framed photographs as a fund raiser for the Shlomo Carlebach Foundation; shared Shlomo’s teaching on the blessings, at Metivta--The Center For Jewish Wisdom; was invited to perform in concert tribute to Shlomo produced by the Orthodox Union; accompanied singer Sam Glazer in a memorial concert at the University of Judaism; assisted a film maker on Shlomo’s life, and helped plan a Shabbaton featuring Shlomo’s family. (I still have access to a concert video by Shira, that no one else has seen, and should be shown.)
Shlomo’s light continues as I listen to his music. I never thought a day would come that Shlomo would not be here. For his legacy, I am so glad that Darlene Rose and I make copies of Shlomo’s teachings for (now Rabbi]) Shlomo Katz, as he shares them around the world.
I am sorry that I did not accept Reb Shlomo’s invitation to go to Morocco with him when he played for the king and the Jewish community, nor back to Jerusalem where he was teaching, nor for a Chanukah celebration at his Manhattan shul, Congregation Kehillat Jacob, or to events in Monsey and other cities, always believing I would learn with him ‘another time.’
Shortly before Shlomo’s death, his last phone call to me (to give my husband, Marcel, z’l, a blesSing for a refuah shleimah / complete healing) Shlomo was apologetic for his not calling earlier. He had been unable to call because his daughters, ages seventeen and twenty, visiting him on the Moshav, he said, had used the phone at all hours. I am so thankful that my seventeen-year old daughter, Aviva, met Shlomo, and our family spent last Pesach (his last Pesach) with Shlomo and his family.
I am grateful for the kind words Shlomo said to me in front of the B'nei David-Judea congregation* Pico-Robertson congregation during his last Los Angeles Shabbaton, Parshat Pekudei, March 1994, as he gave me the name "Tzohara", adding it to Gila Rena, my name, now as he called me, "Double Joy and Light". The Tzohar is the window of light at the top of Noah's ark. The Tzohar is mystically known to be made of sapphire, a radiant light. *(That LA chevra is now the Happy Minyan which we founded, thanks to Stu Wax and David Sacks, after Shlomo’s death.) It was during that LA visit that Reb Shlomo made the musical video to celebrate Shabbat for the patients at Cedar's Sinai Medical Center.
When not teaching, Shlomo was on the phone making his next day’s plane reservations, or returning calls to his "precious beautiful friends" around the world. Concerts were known to begin on "Shlomo time." I discovered what that meant as I served as his personal chauffeur. Arriving at Shlomo's hotel with speakers, amplifiers and microphones in my car (generously loaned to me by LA’s drummer Jeff Stern who had traveled to Russia with Shlomo) to pick up Shlomo with his guitar and many old heavy books at the appointed time to go out for dinner before a concert, I had to wait while Shlomo called his "sweetest loves," soul mate Neilah, and their two daughters, Nedarah (Dari) and Neshamah. If it wasn’t too late and we still had time for dinner (rarely), after being stopped and greeted by everyone driving by in the restaurant parking lot, and then at the tables, Shlomo would return to the nearest phone to call his children again to ask about their homework and tell them how much he loved them.
Shlomo told us all that he loved us. "You’re the greatest" and "You’re the best." He loved G*d’s children, Torah and Israel.
Sometimes running late (because of freeway congestion), we had kosher chicken sandwiches and soup delivered to the concert site, and ate them cold when the evening finished. Occasionally I would take Shlomo for Yemenite malawahs, or grocery shopping late at night so he could eat in his hotel room. No other human being could have functioned at such a high level, as Shlomo did, without regularity in their days and nights.
One evening we ate at Mrs. Adler’s (Steven Spielberg’s mother) dairy restaurant. She was feeling extra proud because her son’s movie, "Schindler’s List", had just been released. Shlomo gave her a gift of his music tapes, and she played them on the speakers during dinner, and Mrs. Spielberg and I danced joyously in the aisle to Shlomo’s music. Shlomo wanted us all to dance and be joyous. If you called his telephone in New York, you would be greeted with the message, "May you be blessed with parnose double, double Shabbos and double joy." I recorded that message and played it over and over again.
The people in the parking lots would endearingly call out of their car windows, "Shloimele, remember when we met twenty-two years ago?" and Shlomo remembered, even their names. "We met at Mt. Sinai," he sometimes replied. His career as G*d’s messenger spanned over forty years from the time the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, zt'l, in 1949 assigned Shlomo as traveling emissary to pair off as shluchim / messengers with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, to bring college kids back to Judaism (as well as lost Holocaust souls). (Note: These facts have now been wonderfully updated by others. There are so many available new stories and videos.)
In 1958, Shlomo bought himself a guitar, began playing, visiting coffee houses in Greenwich Village, and met Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and others who guided him. Shlomo composed thousands of soulful melodies that blended traditional Chasidic folk music with contemporary styles and which are now found on over thirty albums and in three songbooks, more than any other Jewish liturgical song-writer of the 20th century. We sing Shlomo’s negunim / wordless melodies and songs at simchas, synagogues, tables, rallies, military bases, camps, colleges, conventions and concerts. We do not even know or remember that Shlomo was the vessel for this music which he channeled from G*d and Heaven, and manifested, maybe a hundred negunim a day.
Shlomo would whisper, "When you sing you are one inch closer to the Tree of Life." "Music is really a heavenly thing, it comes down from Heaven." "There is a little tear in every song. Don’t wipe it off; it is my gift to you, " revealed Shlomo.
Shlomo’s whistling was angelic. Words to Shlomo’s melodies are from prayers, Psalms, Torah, Talmud, the Prophets, Chasidus, celebrations and Jewish mysticism. Among them are, "Am Yisrael Chai," "L’Man Achai V’Reyai,"" Esau Einai"," Od Y’Shoma," "Borchi Nafshi," "V’haer Enenu, " and "Nachamu Ami," (Shlomo gave that tape to me.) His "favorite gevalt negun" "Yerushalayim," (U-vau Ha Ovdim"" and "Return Again" were created in the Catskill Mountains during Shlomo’s first Shabbaton the the summer of 1974, only weeks before Neshamaleh was born, Shlomo shared with me.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov believed that "Through dancing you awaken joy," and "Through holy music you can come to the level of prophecy. For the essence of D’vekut / cleaving with G*d is through melody."
The Baal Shem Tov believed that "Through music you can reach joy and d’vekut with the Infinite One." These beliefs Shlomo epitomized as he taught us through his actions. Shlomo taught that, "Our feet can take you where your mind can’t go," and to "Dance your way into the Book of Life."
During the traumatic days of Israel’s 1967 and 1973 wars, Shlomo’s music was a source of inspiration and consolation to the soldiers and public. His last recorded cassette tape, "Return", is "dedicated to the missing Israeli soldiers."
Known affectionately as HaRabbi HaRoked / the Dancing Rabbi, Shlomo has been a living legend in the U.S., Europe, Israel, Poland, and Russia. In the streets and in the concert halls, I watched as Shlomo was greeted, and as he greeted us with winkling wide eyes, a smile open arms, and embrace and a kiss on the forehead, inviting us to join him, gathering in HaShem’s Sparks of Light. You could feel his beard (held neatly in place with barely visible bobbie pins, and feel the soft white curls of hair. Walking with him to shul in Jerusalem, I listened as requests were made for Shlomo to visit parents, elderly and ill people in their homes and hotels. Unable to write on Shabbat, Shlomo memorized phone numbers of the elderly and the troubled, to call them after Shabbat. He would take little scraps of papers (kvitels) out of his pockets and call.
The first time I walked slowly, alone with Shlomo from Jerusalem’s Moriah hotel, miles to a little shul where he was being honored (and he stood and greeted personally every person at the door), people of all denominations came from all intersections, from all all corners of the earth to say, "Good Shabbos, Shlomo." I had never seen anything like this and I exclaimed, "You’re the Pied Piper." Shlomo responded to me, "You’re the Pied, and I’m the Piper."
Shlomo always made you feel good and special. Shlomo made you feel loved because Shlomo unconditionally loved each one of us, thousands of us in every city. It was Shekhina’s love that Shlomo brought down to us. Shlomo very deeply felt the pain that we suffered, the hurt, the lonely, the lost, the anguished, the alienated. Shlomo compassionately brought untold numbers of people out of their affliction to a healing place of light, love, faith and courage.
Born in Germany in 1925 (12 Tevet), and a Torah prodigy at age five, and later at the renowned New Jersey Lakewood Yeshivah, he has been considered also the greatest Jewish musician of our century. I would see my own Chabad rabbis at Shlomo’s concerts at the L.A. Gondola restaurant. Shlomo brought us love of Torah through his music, his profound teachings, his story telling of Tzadikim / righteous ones, the Baal Shem Tov, holy water carriers, beggars, and Rebbe Nachman’s Breslover stories. Shlomo’s Stories was recently published. Shlomo took us with him on journeys to the "secrets of the deepest depths," to the highest heights. He didn’t only take us individually, but as One. I have seen these words engraved on Shlomo’s Jerusalem kever. (See photo below.)
I could feel the Oneness, the essence of our souls together, mamash, a visible great golden Divine Light filling the room, of all the people at teachings with Shlomo present, in the Los Angeles home of his dearest friends, Rebbetzin Liliane and Rabbi Joshua Ritchie, MD (graduate of the House of Love and Prayer and co-founder of Shlomo’s Moshav Meor Modiin), and at the Jerusalem home of loving friends, Rebbetzin Emuna Witt (now HaLevi) and Rabbi Yehoshua Witt.
What I observed those evenings, in intimate settings with overflow crowds, was how Shlomo turned-on and encouraged others to tell holy Jewish stories. At home in Israel, and performing at the Russian Center, Shlomo invited the immigrant Russian singers in the audience to join him on stage. He gave us wisdom, strength, laughter, and joy. He shared the light with all of us "Holy sisters and brothers" so that we could share out learnings and our truths "from the really deepest places."
When people comment on my "smiling, shining face," it is because they recognize the blesSing of Shekhina shining out of me, which Shlomo bestowed upon all of us, telling us to "open our hearts, Friends...This is really deep."
Shlomo taught us about peace, hope and brotherhood and called himself, "Brother, Me." I felt this at a Jerusalem concert, sitting next to a male Chasid who was wearing a kapoteh / long black coat and a shtreimel / large fur hat. Any place else, the man would have moved away to another seat. One day in Jerusalem, a Chasid waved to me from across the street. Realizing the man recognized me from being with Shlomo, I understood this unifying impact would not have occurred without Reb Shlomo’s influence of brotherhood, to "love one another and bring the whole world two million miles closer to redemption."
People whom I did not yet know showed me kindness in Jerusalem by meeting me at bus lines and picking me up in cars to take me to teacher of Torah, meditation and drums, and inviting me for Shabbat. (Thank you dear purple souls sister (Rebbetzin) Ruthie and Rabbi Yaacov Fogelman, and Sara Rigler and others of blessed memory.) Only after these experiences did I again meet these helpful souls at a Shlomo concert, time and time again discovering the connection; It made sense, they were all Shlomo’s chevre, hundreds of thousands of Jews whom he had deeply touched, so that they could "open the gates."
Shlomo’s disciples / talmidim and groupies (whom he had "met at Mount Sinai"), include hippies from the 'sixties' (and their children), artists, Torah scholars, yeshiva girls and boys, spiritual seekers, journalists, musical admirerers, Soviet Jews, beggars, and stricken mourners, including me.
At his funeral, Satmar Chasidim stood next to bikers in studded leather jackets along with New Agers and old agers and us Baby Boomers. At the entrance to Jerusalem at Har HaMenuchot, the eulogy was delivered with love by The Chief Rabbi of Israel, HaRav Yisrael Meir Lau, to give honor to HaRav Shlomo Carlebach, " ...a soul from the world of nobility and purity, the world of awe, of melody and of intimacy with the Divine. A soul the likes of which is only seen once in many generations."
Months before Reb Shlomo unexpectedly died, at Jewish Renewal Retreats all summer 1994, at Elat Chayyim-The Woodstock Center for Healing and Renewal and at the National Havurah Summer Institute, I would hear sessions begin and dinners end with a Shlomo nigun to center us. Summer 1993, at a Reb Zalman, Kallah concert in Berkeley (near where in 1967 to save souls, Reb Shlomo founded the House of Love and Prayer in Haight-Ashbury), Shlomo’s music was being performed by others. I heard a woman call out, "Shlomo would be so proud of us, we are dancing and he is not even here."
HaRav Shlomo Carlebach, "the Dancing Rabbi", has left us his beautiful, sweetest, melodious, deep, humanistic and joyous legacy. Shlomo, zt'l, is here; we sing and dance, and I smile knowing my soul has been blessed having known Shlomo.
With Love and BlesSings,
Enjoy more photos.
Please ask permission from me and give proper photo credit © if you want to use photos.
For Reb Shlomo music video links, see below following photos.