Neshama Carlebach: Soul-singing rock ‘n’ roll

This week I read that Neshama Carlebach is one of the world’s leading Jewish entertainers. I never heard of her before she came to Tucson. I may have thought of Woody Allen as a Jewish entertainer; his primarily Jewish humor often defines his films. And there’s Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song. Funny stuff that happens to be Jewish, at least that’s how I see it.

Generally, I don’t think of entertainers as “Jewish entertainers.” That seems like Jew counting, which understandably is part of my job writing/editing for a Jewish newspaper (more on that later). But at the Arizona Jewish Post, we never want to overdo it: True Jew-counting is when there’s a major accident and we receive a story about how many Jews died, as if that made it news. Ick. Kinda like my view of entertainers — we’re all human beings — there’s no need to further identify them. That doesn’t cut it.

The Tucson Weekly highlights Carlebach’s Jewish soul music. “Singing is like praying twice,” her famous rabbi father/entertainer, Shlomo Carlebach, said. For me, singing is singing. And Nesahma rocks.

Carlebach performed with the Green Pastures Baptist Church Choir last night at Tucson’s Fox Theatre. (For Maine friends it’s an art deco Tucson landmark like the Criterion in Bar Harbor. It reopened a few years ago after a multi-million dollar renovation, so it doesn’t smell all moldy.)

At the New Orleans Jazz Festival back in the 90s, I spent a whole day in the gospel tent. I got so carried away — or lifted up, some may say — by the music that jumping up and shouting “praise the lord” seemed natural, although I had never done anything like that before. Was it praying or just appreciating the rockin’ music?

If you’ve read my previous posts I’m probably repeating myself, but sometimes I wonder how I landed in my third career at the Arizona Jewish Post, the center of  Tucson’s Jewish world. There may be more to it than I consciously realize.

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