Around 15-20 years ago in NYC, I wandered into a little shul on West 79th Street called the Carlbach and found a Jewish scene like none other. As a girl from the deep south, I had never experienced this kind of Judaism. It was spiritual, fun and uplifting. There was an old Rabbi who led the congregation, and he was the man himself. Shlomo Carlbach had an engaging presence that I will never forget. It introduced me to a new type of being Jewish and I remember running to that shul on many Saturday mornings for yet another dose. When he was there himself, it was like being on another orbit.
So, you can imagine my delight while sitting in a dark theater on Broadway watching the new play Soul Doctor, I was brought back to that time. My only complaint is that while he was alive and I was sitting in a room with him, I didn’t talk to him about his story. His history. Because it is more interesting than I ever imagined.
The real Shlomo Carlbach, and that is who the story is about, grew up in Vienna and came to America as a young boy. Daniel Wise, the story’s author, explains how he studied to follow in his father’s footsteps as an Orthodox Rabbi but found flaws in their type of praying. So he became the “Soul Doctor,” starting at Columbia University, introducing a new type of hippie Judaism, one with instruments and song. He traveled to San Francisco during the Summer of Love and created a movement, inspiring many unaffiliated, lost souls to observe religion in a new way and eventually took that movement around the world.
Along the way, he met Nina Simone, a singer who hadn’t quite made it yet, and their friendship is the subplot of this play. Bonding over their similarities the abuse endured in slavery and Nazism, they spent a lifetime learning about music and life from each other, and it was a fascinating friendship.
Having a personal connection story to the story certainly made it interesting but my mother, who came along, was enraptured and mesmerized by the music, dancing and story that she never knew. Eric Anderson, who plays Shlomo Carlbach, is pretty terrific and holds a presence almost similar to the man himself. I was surprised to hear that the actor isn’t Jewish in real life after the show, but he nonetheless embodied the soul of a great Rabbi. Amber Iman is equally as charming and brilliant as the famous soul singer and she is an integral part of the story which opens in 1972, at a concert in Vienna, where she introduces Carlbach as ‘my soul brother-from-another-mother.’
I’m thrilled to be giving away TWO tickets to Soul Doctor on Broadway!
To win, just comment below and let me know if you’ve ever the story about Shlomo Carlbach and Nina Simone.
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Winners will be selected randomly. This giveaway will end on Wednesday, August 28th at noon EST. Winner will be posted here, on the Culture Mom Facebook page and via email and will have 24 hours to accept their prize.
Disclosure: I was not compensated to write this post, however the tickets for the giveaway are sponsored by the production.