Sabbath songs have graced the tables of Jewish families for as long as the Jewish families have existed. But an explosion of Jewish music has occurred over the last few decades. There are multiple reasons for this, but the main reason for this is the huge impact of one person on the Jewish music scene – Shlomo Carlebach.
In the late 1950’s, Shlomo Carlebach was a Rabbinic student in a Yeshiva in Brooklyn, NY. He came from an illustrious Rabbinic German family, and showed many gifts in his study of the Talmud. But he felt that he had a calling that was different than the run-of-the-mill Rabbinic students of the time. He began using his guitar to turn on young searching souls with simple tunes that he created. He saw the assimilation trends and was bothered that there was a lack of spirit in Jewish life. He was focused mainly on the non-Religious Jewish youth. But very quickly, his popularity spread to many Religious youth also.
Carlebach created tens of songs that have become popular over the decades of his musical creations. But there are two musical projects that stand out as perhaps the most popular musical creations of Shlomo Carlebach. One creation is his Sabbath in the Heavens tape/CD. To this day, there are hundreds of synagogues all over the world that sing his tunes on Sabbath – in prayer and in the home. But the song that made the greatest impact on a dormant Jewish community is “Am Yisrael Chai” – The Nation of Israel Lives. He created a song that was simple enough for people who did not speak any Hebrew, but who could identify with the message. The community was the Soviet Jewish community. There were at least 2 million Jews behind the Iron Curtain who were experiencing a spiritual revival. Carlebach’s song became the rallying cry for so many of them to sing and be proud of their heritage.