House of Love and Prayer

Earlier this week I attended a musical biography of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach at the JCC of Manhattan called “The House of Love and Prayer.” Rabbi Carlebach is one of the most influential people in the Jewish community, especially in the area of Jewish music. The crowd at the performance was comprised of mainly a small, insider crowd of primarily older adults. This was more a result of the producing organization - The National Yiddish Folksbiene - than anything else. I must admit that I am (and have been since I first saw him at a concert at Hebrew University in Jerusalem when I was just 16 years old) a big fan of Carlebach music and liturgy that is davenned (prayed) in the Carlebach style.

Although Rabbi Carlebach’s life didn’t seem to turn out exactly as he planned it, and his work evolved organically—much to the chagrin of his teachers—he was truly an amazing outreach worker. His message was simple: love everyone. If someone is distant or rebellious and you have trouble reaching them, the message gets stronger: love them even more. What better theme for outreach could there be? Rabbi Carlebach’s credo is precisely what I tell parents who seek out my advice once they have learned that their adult child has chosen a life partner from a different religious tradition. To the question of “What should I do?” I answer, “Love them even more.”

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