Malka Levine

Light Unto the Nations?

Fireworks over Tel Aviv celebrating Israel's 68th Independence Day, May 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Fireworks over Tel Aviv celebrating Israel's 68th Independence Day, May 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

From my research, interviews of his victims, and the feedback I’ve received since I started blogging on this topic, the projected actual number of adolescents and women Shlomo Carlebach sexually molested or harassed would astonish you.

One is too many!

I read the following comment below from Yehoshua Zepeda a few weeks ago. It’s been on my mind.

“The Jews are the one and only light to the nations and the exclusive priestly nation with the Divine right and responsibility to guide the nations (including all Christians) in the proper way to serve Hashem.”

Due to our level of exposure to Torah, I would like to think that Orthodox Jewry, especially its rabbis, views itself as most responsible to teach and be examples of morality to immediate community and to the world. To this end, synagogues and batei medrash (study halls) would certainly house or at least only condone moral conduct.

Yet, the reality is that for decades, rabbinic leadership and individual rabbis have been approached, numerous times directly by victims of Shlomo Carlebach, and told with various wording that it is triggering for victims that Carlebach tunes are used in synagogue. I am referring to rabbis as including the many who are aware of the effects of sexual abuse and harassment on victims, including that many victims have PTSD and CPTSD. Yet they continue to allow Carlebach tunes or mention of his name in synagogue.

Contrast this to the example of morality set by many Israeli municipalities this year in revoking the long-held tradition of fireworks on Israel’s Independence Day, so as not to trigger people with PTSD.

As reported in The Times of Israel article by Nathan Jeffay,  “…fireworks are a traditional high point in traditional proceedings, but this year, many municipalities scrapped them. The State also made a change, for the main national ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, using what organizers called ‘quiet pyrotechnics’ instead of the regular noisy display. In Tel Aviv, where the Declaration of Independence took place back in 1948, this year cafes and bars were packed, and street parties abounded, but there were no fireworks.”

Kol hakavod (kudos) to these municipalities.

Should we not expect our rabbis to be at least as religious as these municipalities?

To all synagogue rabbis, if you have not taken the lead in ceasing the use of Shlomo Carlebach tunes in prayer services or mention of his name at your synagogue, you are acting and leading immorally. You are not living up to your responsibility to be a light unto the nations, or to your community.

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