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BWW Exclusive: Rabbi Dr. Natan Ophir on SOUL DOCTOR- The Time is Now

The new off-Broadway production of Soul Doctor, created by Daniel S. Wise, David Schechter, and Shlomo Carlebach and directed and choreographed by Mindy Cooper, is currently in previews at the Actors Temple Theatre, 339 West 47th Street. Opening night is set for Sunday, December 14.

Below, BroadwayWorld brings you an exclusive article by Rabbi Dr. Natan Ophir (Offenbacher), author of the definitive biography, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission, and Legacy, Urim Publications, Jerusalem, 2014.

In Our Time of Unrest....The Time is Now

In 1989 Yusef Hawkins, a black teenager, had been murdered by a white gang in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. The gang members received light sentences and riots ensued. Two years later, also in Brooklyn, a 7-year old black child, Gavin Cato, was killed in Crown Heights by a car from the motorcade of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. This time, there were furious protests targeting Jews. By the time the rioting had ended, 152 police officers and 38 civilians were injured, property damage from looting, fire and theft was estimated at $1 million. Sound familiar?

The community responded. On Sunday, May 30, 1993, the Afro-American folk singer Richie Havens and his good friend Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach starred together in a free six-hour concert at the Medgar Evers College amphitheater in Crown Heights. It was billed as "the first-ever League of Neighbors Unity Concert," and sponsored by a coalition of groups and interfaith organizations dedicated to improving intergroup relations.

"The most important thing today every person has to do is cleanse

their hearts from anger. And the only way of getting rid of anger is

when you fill your heart with a lot of joy".

- Shlomo Carlebach

"Black young people were dancing to Jewish melodies, and vice versa.

The distinction of who the music belonged to went away."

- Richie Havens

SOUL DOCTOR is the spirited musical production about Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. It not only dramatizes his life as a Rabbi who travelled the world healing souls through his message of love and compassion, but it also provides timely insight into his unusual forays in interracial understanding. On this note, the production explores the relationship between Shlomo and Nina Simone, the legendary jazz singer and civil rights activist who first introduced Shlomo to gospel music. Together their music became an important voice of social change.

For a glimpse into the life and drama of the most unorthodox Orthodox Rabbi of the 20th century, go see SOUL DOCTOR at the Actors Temple Theatre. In a time of racial anger, SOUL DOCTOR shows how music, joy, and love can be melded together to engender empathy and mutual understanding during these difficult times.

As Reb Shlomo often sang, "Ki Va Moed"...The Time has come. The Time is now.

Dr. Natan Ophir (Offenbacher)

Soul Doctor takes the audience on an exhilarating musical journey and explores the dramatic life of a cultural icon set in the transformative era of the Love generation. It tells the fascinating story of the father of popular Jewish music, Shlomo Carlebach, and his unlikely friendship with Nina Simone, the high priestess of Soul. A modern-day troubadour, Shlomo ignited the spirit of millions around the world with his soul-stirring melodies, transformative storytelling and boundless love.

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