He’s still mostly known for his music. Never mind that often it’s redone as a lullaby. It needs to be sung with fervor. In my humble opinion, if you can sit through the songs, it’s not the way Shlomo did it. And, it needs to be done together. It’s not a spectacle. It’s community singing.
He tried to revive the Jews after the Holocaust. He remembered and understood being a Jew is not a sad affair. You need to hug, sing, and dance to get out of death’s grip. In Shul, at home, in the street, everywhere. He began looking for Jews as an emissary of the unequaled Lubavitcher Rebbe.
He’s still called (in Israel) the singing, dancing rabbi. Yet, he was so much more than that. Talk to older people from all walks of life in Jerusalem, and they’ll tell you he was their friend. When you’re happy, it’s hard to hate.
He was one of the liberators of the Russian Jews. He always spoke very warmly of them. How holily they were standing there, outside, in the freezing rain, for hours, singing, Am Yisroeil Chai (The Jewish People is Alife), the only Jewish song they knew from illegally spread cassette tapes.
Most people know him for his love for all people. Although he was for Jews only marrying Jews, and Jews doing Judaism, he famously respected everyone (except people trying to turn Jews into Christians). ‘You must be so Jewish that nothing can un-Jew you.’ Frequently, he went out at night to befriend the homeless and give them some money.
His ‘dancing’ is now widely imitated. Few seem to know it comes from his chevre. It’s easy to learn. You put your arms around the people next to you (if they agree) and jump straight up repeatedly. (Coming down is built-in.)
Even less known is his fully original take on how to understand traditional Judaism. Judaism is told over from generation to generation. Not that we should just parrot what we’re told. We should tell it as we understand it.
The first year I started learning Shlomo’s explanation on the Torah portion of the week, I could follow it but could not tell it to others. They are such a step up from anything else I ever learned, a very deep thing to internalize and make into something of your own. Judaism is not to be mastered. It needs to master us. The second year around, I could retell his teachings.
Shlomo is teaching us that being a Jew doesn’t mean being religious in the Christian sense of the word (as I recently explained at length). Being a true Jew is an awareness, an attitude, a lifestyle. Shlomo’s rendition was all about love, connection, and closeness. As a twin, he learned extremely early in life that our natural state is to not be alone.
Years after he passed away, some very grave accusations were levied against him. I dealt with them in a separate blog post a couple of years ago, at length, delicately, sensitively, nuancedly, and—I hope—truthfully.
In case it needs any explaining, the Yahrtzeit is not a day of mourning—though we do see tears, even after so many years. But it is celebrated with song and dance, and stories from Shlomo and stories about Shlomo.
Every year at the gravesite, someone wishes me “Happy Yahrtzeit.” I bless you, and please bless me back that Reb Shlomo’s merit may stand with us.
About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, an almost daily blog contributor to the Times of Israel, and previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. *
As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit about what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and education contribute to his visions. *
If you don't know the Dutch, get an American peek behind the scenes here: https://youtu.be/QMPp6h6r72M *
To find less-recent posts on subject XXX among his over 1600 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: https://mmvanzuiden.wordpress.com/. *
Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. Yet, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people who don't deserve that. He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. *
Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust, and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. *
His most influential teachers (chronologically) are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. *
One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. *
He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. He loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, anti-elitism, anti-bigotry and supremacy, for Zionism, Intersectionality, and non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. *
He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. *
He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, empowering therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids non-violently. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's being a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. He lives with his library in Jerusalem. Feel free to contact him. *
His writing has been made possible by a (second-generation) Holocaust survivors' allowance from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. *
To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. *
His newest books you may find here: https://www.amazon.com/s?i=stripbooks&rh=p_27%3AMoshe-Mordechai%2FMaurits+van+Zuiden&s=relevancerank&text=Moshe-Mordechai%2FMaurits+van+Zuiden&ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1