While some are trying to hide women behind mechitzas, blur their pictures, and consign them to singing where only other women can hear, Shlomo Carlebach encouraged his daughter to sing even as a little girl of five. At fifteen she began performing with her father. Aware that some of his followers did not believe in listening to women, he would give fair warning. Recalling their last tour before his death, daughter Neshama says, “He would say if anyone has a problem with that, go out for five minutes and then come back,”.
After her father’s death she began singing out of grief and to comfort those who had followed her father. Eventually she found that the singing was her own mission too. She writes on her website:
My father always said that when we sing, it’s like we’re praying twice. When I am on stage I experience prayer in the deepest sense. In this crazy world, sadly enough, people often are too afraid to feel. We too terrified to open our souls to our deepest prayers, yet so broken at all we are missing inside. Somehow, when we don’t have the words to express all that we need, music says it for us. Music can somehow break our hearts and allow us to feel so whole all at the same time. This miracle is what I feel when I sing.
Neshama Carlebach sings a few concerts before women only audiences because some women feel more comfortable in all female audiences. However, most of her concerts are to mixed audiences. This has created controversy in certain orthodox circles (example), but she says she is comfortable with her decision to sing before mixed audiences. She told Ynet in 2006:
My father never told me not to sing for men. I’ll tell you exactly what he said. He said that if we lived in a time when every Jewish woman was lighting Shabbat candles and every Jewish woman felt that she had a voice to talk to G-d then women wouldn’t have to sing. But as long as there is even one woman in the world who feels disconnected and far from G-d, she thinks that she is limited and she thinks that she doesn’t have the same rights, the same opportunities, then, he said, my daughter has to sing. And he said this to me even before I thought this would be my career. I didn’t think what I was doing was so important, but then after my father died it became a part of my heart.
The song below, B’Shem HaShem was the song she sang on that last tour. According to lore, Shlomo Carlebach originally composed it as a lullaby for one of his daughters when she was young.
בשם השם אלוהי ישראל
מימיני מיכאל ומשמאלי גבריאל
ומלפני אוריאל ומאחורי רפאל
ועל ראשי, ועל ראשי, שכינת האל.
In the name of HaShem, God of Israel
Who is on the right of Michael and on the left of Gabriel
Who is in front of Uriel and behind Refael
And over my head, over my head, there’s the shechinah (presence) of God