Grapevine: Music and memory

FAMILY AND friends of Hila Bezaleli are planning to honor her memory with a mega benefit-concert.

Hila Bezaleli 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Hila Bezaleli 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
■ FAMILY AND friends of Hila Bezaleli, the 20-year-old soldier from Mevaseret Zion who was killed during Independence Day rehearsals on Mount Herzl when rigging erected for the occasion collapsed, killing her and injuring four other soldiers, are planning to honor her memory with a mega concert, all the proceeds of which will go to Elem, an organization that helps youth at risk. Bezaleli, a medical officer who dreamed of becoming a physician, cared passionately about humanity and Elem, because of the work it does, was very close to her heart.
Bezaleli was known for helping the less fortunate in all spheres – not just the street kids who eventually found their way to Elem. She also devoted time and energy to mentally and/or physically challenged children. Organizers of the memorial concert have already approached her favorite singers Shlomo Artzi, Aviv Gefen, Raz Shmueli and Rona Keinan, and are planning to call on other big names from the entertainment industry. They are also trying to arrange for the concert to be held at the Caesarea amphitheater, and failing that may opt for Sultan’s Pool.
■ SHE WAS petite but dynamic – a born teacher who deserved a large chunk of the credit for the revival of Jewish life in Poland. Joy Rochwarger-Balsam, a cancer victim who died at age 37 in New York in May 2004 and is buried in Israel, had initially gone to Poland more than a decade earlier under the auspices of the Lauder Foundation to teach Poles who were discovering their Jewish identities something of what Judaism is about. Later as both a student and a teacher in Jerusalem, she went back many times under other auspices, to teach Jews who wanted to learn something of their religious and historic heritage. It was their thirst for Jewish knowledge that spurred her to return again and again and to travel by train across the length and breadth of Poland to find small clusters of Jews to whom she reached out and who became part of her extended family. Their mutual affection and devotion could be seen at weekend seminars that she conducted. No one witnessing the totality of the Shabbat observance replete with prayers, Shabbat songs around the table, traditional Shabbat food and discussions on the Torah portion of the week and other Jewish topics would believe that the overwhelming majority of the participants were newcomers to the Jewish experience. Some had always known they were Jewish but had never practiced their religion. Others had only recently discovered their Jewish roots. Not all were halachically Jewish, but Joy Rochwarger continued to teach them and to accept them at her seminars even though she herself was Orthodox. As a result, several of the people whose Judaism was clouded by a halachic question mark traveled to the United States for Orthodox conversions and are now leading full Jewish lives in Poland, Israel and America.
Matan, together with the Rochwarger and Balsam families, will host a memorial tribute to Joy Rochwarger-Balsam at the Feigenson Synagogue in Beit Shemesh on Monday, May 14 at 8 p.m. The speaker will be Professor Moshe Halevi Spero, professor of psychoanalytic psychotherapy at Bar-Ilan University and senior clinical psychologist at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, who will deliver a lecture in English on whether there is real evidence in Talmudic-Midrashic texts for what psychoanalysts call the unconscious. For directions to the venue call 052-556-0127.
■ SOME PEOPLE say it with flowers; the Jerusalem Cantors Choir likes to say it with music – especially in cities and towns where there were once vibrant Jewish communities. Following its memorable participation in the Lewandowski Festival last December in Berlin, the JCC on May 10 flew to Ukraine for a series of concerts in different parts of the country. The choir has a rich repertoire of cantorial music, Yiddish favorites and popular Israeli songs. Led by choirmaster Binyamin Glickman and manager Yair Plesser, the choir will tour Zhytomyr, Dnieper, Petrovsk, Kharkov, Odessa and Kiev. Of all its recitals, the most festive will be in Kiev where it will participate in a huge happening for the Kiev Jewish community during the daytime and in the evening will present a gala concert within the framework of Kiev’s Jerusalem Day celebrations.