Even before his death, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach was, at best, controversial. Many people loved his music and some congregations organized "Carlebach minyans" that emphasized spirituality through music. But my rav, Rabbi Gedaliah Anemer, refused to allow any minyan to refer to Carlebach. Another rav, Rabbi Rod Glowgower told me 25 years ago, that he was reluctant to grant shul membership to a female convert of "Reb Shlomo." And Rav Moshe Feinstein reportedly wrote an opinion critical of him. Since his death, women have come out with explicit reports that Carlebach was a sexual predator. See this and this. In light of the public allegations, have there been any bans on his music or rabbinic acts such as conversions?

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    @msh210 In short, various sex abuse allegations.
    – Double AA
    Feb 10, 2013 at 5:34
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    Lashon Hara? Motzei Shem Rah? What's the point of this?
    – Yehoshua
    Feb 10, 2013 at 13:21
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    @Yehoshua the point is to find out if it is forbidden to listen to his music or if anyone he converted is not actually Jewish
    – Double AA
    Feb 10, 2013 at 16:08
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    What @DoubleAA said. This question and its answers should not deal with the allegations; that's not for us. But they're already public and they could have consequences, which is what this question is about. (Does an unproven allegation create a safek, for instance?) Feb 10, 2013 at 16:28
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    @yoel It certainly isn't only about lashon hora as it is clearly also about learning about possible issurim regarding the music. Exaggeration isn't going to help your case.
    – Double AA
    Feb 10, 2013 at 23:45

1 Answer 1


Bruce, may you live and be well to 120, but I'm reminded here of someone's definition of a "Jewish question": someone gets up and makes a big statement, then just raises the pitch at the very end so it sounds like a question.

I don't know what you mean by "predator", I don't know what the allegations are, I don't care. Let's talk theory here. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein described a certain individual, and sets out the following concepts:

If someone actively rejected the basic tenets of Orthodox Judaism (or publicly violated the Sabbath while staring the rabbi in the eye, or worshipped idols), then we would invalidate a Torah scroll he wrote. Rabbi Feinstein says this is limited to the realm of religious objects. We are perfectly allowed to use -- and refer to by name -- Von Neumann computer architecture, or the Salk vaccine, or the like; regardless of how much of Judaism John Von Neumann or Jonas Salk knew or kept. (Concept is Feinstein, examples are mine.) Rabbi Feinstein writes that the music played at Jewish weddings is not an inherrently ritual object, hence it's merely inadvisable, not prohibited, to play music composed by a heretic at a Jewish wedding.

If, however, an individual in theory believes in everything, but succumbs to various vices, then in other aspects of halacha they are not invalidated. The subject of Rabbi Feinstein's responsum falls under this category, hence his music is perfectly permissible at weddings, even for the very pious.

From reading this I would gather that new allegations would not "invalidate" the music.

Now if we believe that an individual truly victimized many people and by acknowledging him we will cause anguish to the victims, or give our community a black eye as it appears we condone horrible behavior, then that's a question of between-man-and-fellow-man. You'd have to know the particulars of the case. I know of a synagogue with a retired rabbi who was later convicted of serious offenses; the synagogue struggled with whether to remove every trace of his name from every letterhead and plaque. These are tough questions, but they're matters of nuance. There's no open-and-shut mishnah brurah on this.

As for conversions performed, again one would have to know the particulars of each case performed. The Talmud describes how a man served as High Priest of the Temple for decades and decades before leaving the path of mainstream Judaism. Humans are complicated; if G-d wanted simple, reliable creatures, He had plenty of angels! If a rabbi on the panel had rejected Orthodox theology at the time of the conversion, that's one story. If he struggled with personal demons, that's not so simple. Rabbi Hershel Schachter recalls hearing of Jewish couple who sought to retroactively dissolve their marriage, rather than divorce, so she could marry a Cohen. The argument was that one of the rabbis witnessing their wedding later checked into rehab for sex addiction and had been seeing women-of-ill-repute on a regular basis. (G-d have mercy!) Besides other, more-gaping holes in their argument, Rabbi Schachter wasn't sure if that would be enough to invalidate the ceremony. (Though the bar is higher for "rabbinic judges" than for witnesses.)

As for adopting someone's teachings, well Rambam says we accept truth from wherever its source. If someone tells me "Pizza Yehopitz is the tastiest pie in town" (let's assume the kashrut is unquestioned), I'm welcome to try it regardless of that fellow's morals. Certainly one should weigh the totality of a person's teachings and deeds before adopting all their teachings as a raisson d'etre, but that should be nothing new.

  • Thank you for the kind of thoughtful answer I was hoping for. But I have a question: There have been examples in recent years where sages have "banned" Jewish singers,like Lipa Schmeltzer, from using secular melodies in their performances (I'm not sure that ban is still in place, however). Would that apply to "non-Orthodox" Jewish song writers, even if they wrote their music to be liturgical? Feb 11, 2013 at 15:30
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    The above Igros takes a nuts-and-bolts approach; if we simply applied it, we'd conclude that rock-and-roll composed by a shomer shabbos would be not prohibited by the concepts set forth there (there may be other issues, I don't know how Rav Moshe felt), while a stirring traditional melody composed by someone who denied the Divine origin of the Torah would be "inadvisable for a Torah scholar's wedding. With something like the concert there are other issues at play, such as secular influence and the moods conveyed by the music.
    – Shalom
    Feb 11, 2013 at 17:04
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    It's buried in the comments above, but I'll reproduce the citation for R' Moshe's responsum again since it's so central to your answer: Igros Moshe, Even HaEzer Vol. 1, § 96.
    – Fred
    Feb 13, 2013 at 3:31

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