Singer Neshama Carlebach Nixes Gig at Messianic Congregation

By Laurie Heifetz

Published February 17, 2006, issue of February 17, 2006.
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Devoted groupies of singer Neshama Carlebach may want to revise their schedules: She is abandoning her plans to perform at a messianic Jewish congregation in New York.

The Orthodox performer — daughter of the late Hasidic-hippie “Singing Rabbi” Shlomo Carlebach — had been scheduled to perform at a Purim concert next month at Congregation Beth El of Manhattan, which describes itself as observing “Two-Testament Judaism.” When asked to discuss her decision to perform at Beth El, Carlebach informed the Forward that she was pulling out of the gig.

“I was invited to sing for Congregation Beth El of Manhattan, a congregation of messianic Jews, on March 12, 2006,” Carlebach wrote in an e-mail to the Forward. “Naively, I had no idea what their ultimate goal and mission was when I first accepted this invitation. Now that I have become aware of what this organization represents, I will be canceling my appearance.”

Carlebach added: “I absolutely believe in One God, and live and breathe for my own Orthodox Judaism. While I respect the ideologies and rights of all people, I feel it to be my own religious and spiritual imperative not to participate with a group that is in direct conflict with my own beliefs and way of life.”

Calls to Beth El from the Forward were not returned.

In an interview, Carlebach attributed the initial decision to do the show to her general desire to reach out to diverse audiences and her ignorance about messianic groups, which seek to convince Jews that they should embrace Jesus as the messiah.

Carlebach said that, like her father, she considers it a “gift” to

sing for people. “I want to be able to do it anywhere,” she said. “I sing for interfaith groups all the time. I’ve done events for Christians and many other religious groups.”

Still, in the end, she concluded that performing at the Messianic venue would send the wrong message. “The reason that I’m not going is because I don’t want people to get sucked into something because they think that I endorse it,” she said.

On the Internet, at least one Messianist was promoting the concert as an ideal opportunity to recruit Jews. And, after a Friday night event February 10 at an Orthodox congregation, Park East Synagogue, two members of Beth El were seen boasting of Carlebach’s scheduled appearance. They mentioned it to the evening’s guest speaker: “Shrek 2” screenwriter David Weiss, who grew up Reform, converted to Christianity and then became an Orthodox Jew.

The March 12 concert had been listed on Carlebach’s Web site for about six weeks. But in recent days, the singer said, she suddenly received about 200 e-mails, most of them asking her not to go through with the concert.

“What I love about my father is that he was so inclusive, but he never told anyone to change,” Carlebach added. “And I think that’s the part of me even beyond anything else that has such a hard time with what [Messianic groups] do.”






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