Last night was the annual Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). (Here is Wikipedia on Yom Hashoah and here is another relevant site and here is my 2005 post.)
I've been singing for this event every year since the mid-1980s. Organized by Yiddish professor Sheva Zucker and biology professor Ron Grunwald among others, the committee features a holocaust survivor each year who relates his or her personal war experience. Members of the community light candles for friends and family murdered by the Nazis.
Tonight I sang Mayn Shvester Khaye, an incredibly gorgeous poem by Binem Heller set to music by Chava Alberstein. Sheva's daughter, a student in 6th grade, sang "Tsum Besern Morgn" (To a Better Morning) and she slayed me. What a pure, intense voice she has, and her Yiddish accent is very good, too, as one might expect. This dark, beautiful child, slim and haunting, gives a face to the many children who died in the concentration camps and never had a chance to grow up.
Watching extremely elderly members of our Jewish community struggling up to the bimah to light commemorative candles, I feel a shiver, stronger each year, seeing our eyewitnesses dwindle and fail.
Our speaker was Esther Gutman Lederman, who has written of her experiences in a memoir called "Outlasting Hitler's Armies." I couldn't find it on the internet, perhaps it hasn't been published yet. Esther and her boyfriend, as teenagers, hid in the woods without food for days and were then sheltered in a house behind a secret wall for 22 months.
Well, all that emotion didn't keep me down for long. On the way home, still dressed in my concert duds, I was hungry and stopped at Subway for a sandwich; the only customer in the place was Carl Jones, a great picker whom I met long ago when Joe Newberry (who has the best pipes in the Triangle) brought him along to play for the Solstice Extravaganza. You can download a free mp3 of Joe and Carl, with Andy Cahan, singing "In the Bleak Midwinter," here.
Carl is a real down-home kind of guy, so I experienced a little culture shock there in the Subway after the Holocaust Memorial service... but his down-home attitude certainly cheered me up! We talked a bit about our kids, happy that we've passed bits of ourselves along to the next generation - his daughter is singing and playing Cajun music, my son has an international music radio show at Wesleyan - "Around the World with DJ Zed." In a sober synchrony, while I was singing at our service, Zed was at Wesleyan's service, signed up for a half-hour of reading the names of the dead.
And there's Melina, of course, blogging here with me! She'll be taking over when I go to Seattle next week...
Anyway, sitting there at Subway, both a bit more grizzled than we were when we last met, teaching at Pinewoods Camp, Carl and I allowed as how we're glad our hands still work.
This morning, friends, I was woken up by a bat in my bedroom! How did it get here? Is it an early arrival, preparing for this year's maternal colony? I opened my balcony door, dived back in bed, and waited for the bouncing around to stop. I think it's gone now.
My last thought for now is - our president is an idiot. I'm afraid I'm going to be put on a security blacklist for saying so - but how can his answer to high oil prices be to stop putting oil in the Strategic Reserves? "There, I've fixed it." Or how can politicians think "rolling back" gas taxes is a fix? These responses remind me of that excellent bumper sticker: "The Lottery Is a Tax on People Who Are Bad At Math."
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