'Rock Star Rabbi' Hits Broadway

A new musical, titled Soul Doctor, which tells the story of the beloved Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, is opening Off-Broadway Aug. 13.

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Carlebach Memorial Concert
Carlebach Memorial Concert
Yoni Kempinski

A new musical, titled Soul Doctor, which tells the story of the beloved Orthodox rabbi and father of popular Jewish music, Shlomo Carlebach, is opening Off-Broadway Aug. 13.

Beginning with his childhood escape from Nazi Germany, Soul Doctor follows Rabbi Carlebach’s journey as he becomes a rabbinical prodigy in America and ultimately comes to be known as the “Rock Star Rabbi.”

By the 1960s, Rabbi Carlebach began writing a different kind of Jewish music that originally put him at odds with the mainstream orthodox community. Eventually, he recorded more than 25 albums and his music become part of the fabric of contemporary Jewish prayer.

“Soul Doctor begins and ends in Vienna at the 50th Anniversary of Kristallnacht with the aged Shlomo coming back to the city that has haunted his dreams his entire life,” Theatre Mania explains. “It was here, the musical tells us, that the young Shlomo was influenced by a beggar who insisted on singing even when the Nazis decreed that there would be no singing in the streets -- and is shot dead for his ‘crime.’ This moment will ultimately be the motivating force in Shlomo's life.”

Written and directed by Daniel Wise and choreographed by the Princess Grace award-winning choreographer Camille A. Brown, the show has music by Carlebach, lyrics by David Schechter, with additional music and arrangements by Nina Simone.

Rabbi Carlebach’s daughter, Neshama, who is herself a successful recording artist and performer of her father’s compositions, will be overseeing the entire production of the show.

“My main motivation in wanting to see this happen is so that the truth about who my father was can come out in the world,” Neshama said. “My family and I are saddened by the untruths that are told. People try to make him into a superhuman person, and it’s easy to do that when someone is no longer in the world.”

“The most beautiful thing about him was his realness. He wasn’t an angel. Although he was very angelic. He was a real human being. He worked hard to become who he was, and sometimes he was treated badly. Sometimes there was a lot of sorrow, sometimes a lot of laughter. He died giving his heart to everybody,” Neshama added.