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You Never Know cover photo

You Never Know 2008


Distributed by Alden Films, Box 449, Clarksburg, NJ 08510; 732.462.3522
Produced by Daniel Paran Production
Directed by Boaz Shachak
DVD, color, 88 min.

Jr. High - Adult
Jewish Studies, Music, Religious Studies

Date Entered: 07/02/2010

Reviewed by Barbara J. Walter, Longmont Public Library, Longmont, CO

An affectionate portrait of the foremost Jewish religious songwriter of our time, Shlomo Carlebach (1925-1994). Without narration or chronological structure, the film flits from New York to Jerusalem to San Francisco and back. At every stop director Boaz Shachak allows interviews with a diverse lot - from festival musicians to Talmudic scholars—to convey the global impact of Rabbi Carlebach’s mission through music.

Known as the “Singing Rabbi,” Carlebach was a Holocaust survivor and a brilliant student of Torah. Attracted to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, he became an emissary of the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, who saw in Carlebach’s giftedness in music a means of reaching out to disaffected young Jews on college campuses.

Carlebach’s musical mission was wildly successful, but his unorthodox methods of allowing young men and women to sing together in worship, for example, caused a rift with the Rebbe and they parted ways. Rabbi Carlebach recorded 25 albums over a 40-year career as a singer-songwriter, and his songs revolutionized Jewish worship in both traditional and liberal congregations.

It becomes clear over the course of an hour of interviews that Shlomo Carlebach is loved for his compositions: prayers and scripture set to traditional-style tunes that speak to the heart, profound in their simplicity. But what shines through is the Rabbi’s great heart for others, his ability to reach out with compassion to all.

The film is of high technical quality, appropriate for libraries supporting religious studies programs, music, synagogue and church libraries. In Hebrew and English, with English subtitles, the sound track includes many of Rabbi Carlebach’s songs, sung by him and other performers.