The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Sunday, March 21, 2004

More on Carlebach Minaynim

On Friday, BloginDM commented on my piece earlier in the day concerning Neginah's "Choral Carlebach Friday Night Davening Experience". We agree that bringing in special ba'eli tefilah to 'perform' a Carlebach davening (in shuls where this type of davening is not the norm) can actually create a mockery of the davening.

DM cited to some earlier posts in which he discussed his views on Carlebach Minyanim. I'm largely in agreement but I have a few other thoughts.

1. I agree that bringing in special ba'alei tefilah to places where Carlebach davening is not the norm (to the contrary; the goal of many of these places is to get through the Friday night davening as quickly as possible) can be embarassing. I attended a Carlebach Minyan last year at a large local minyan featuring Elli Kranzler (about whom, more later) that was painful to watch. The olam was SO not into it; when they finally got up to do a rikud (dance) it was so forced and unnatural it was goofy. I felt bad for Elli who was trying so hard to get the kehillah into it with very little success.

2. On the other hand, you have to give the benefit of the doubt to the lay leadership or Rabbi (in the case I just mentioned, it was the lay leadership; the Rabbi was totally not into it and contributed to the icy reception by not even getting up to dance) for trying to introduce some spirituality into an otherwise cold and uninspiring davening. Unfortunately, this method rarely works.

3. What can work is when shuls bring in ba'alei tefilah to do Carlebach minyanim for a select subsection of the shul, particularly the teen minyan. For example, Chaim Dovid did a Carlebach Shabbos at this very same shul that was targeted to the teen minyan. It was a fantastic success and they invited him back. Even though the teens are reluctant at first to get into it, most of them break through their own 'cool' defenses and ultimately participate. While it might seem a stretch, I believe that a Shabbos like this can have a lasting effect on a number of the kids that participate (whereas adults are generally too set in their ways and too cynical).

4. As DM suggested, what also works is when these ba'alei tefilah come to shuls that are either full-time Carlebach minyanim or pre-disposed. My shul, which is not a Carlebach minyan but usually does L'cha Dodi to a Carlebach niggun and is, in general, very into singing, has had Chaim Dovid, Elli Kranzler, Ben Zion Solomon, Aron Razel, Shlomo Katz and Eitan Katz. Each time it was a special davening. It wasn't viewed as a show; rather as an opportunity to be led by someone who really has the 'nusach' down and could really add to the davening.

5. I suspect that having these Carlebach Shabbosos out of town is very different. It has been my experience that many people in smaller Jewish communities thirst for anything special. I don't really know what I'm talking about on this point and maybe someone else has a better insight.

6. I can't speak to the other Americans who do this gig (the Carlebach chevra from Eretz Yisrael are in a different class) but Elli Kranzler is a very holy Jew who has the most angelic voice I've ever heard and whose only goal is to inspire Jews with his tefilah. If Elli's davening doesn't move and inspire you (like those unfortunate specators I referred to above) it is very sad.

Finally, I don't know whether DM ever followed up on the whole concept of moving away from traditional nusachs. One of the complaints I get from some of the kalta litvaks in my shul when we do Carlebach is that it is improper to move away from traditional nusach. Any thoughts?


Post a Comment

<< Home