Remembering and Singing their own way

A Holocaust Remembrance Day event aims to connect the younger generation with the Shoah.

Yonatan Dror 370 (photo credit: Elad Zagman)
Yonatan Dror 370
(photo credit: Elad Zagman)
For the past three years, Yonatan Dror, Itai Tzur and Achiya Asher Cohen Alloro have been aiming to fill what they deem to be a void in our Holocaust Remembrance Day proceedings.
“This is a bit revolutionary and very different from what has been around over the years,” notes Tzur.
The “this” to which Tzur refers is the free, predominantly musical, event called Zochrim Vesharim (Remembering and Singing), which will take place at the Gerard Behar Center on Sunday. Judging by the interest trajectory since Zochrim Vesharim was first held, Tzur and his cohorts’ market niche-filling claim is well placed.
While music has been a mainstay of Holocaust Remembrance Day events from the word go, the Dror-Tzur-Alloro initiative offers a different way of delving into individual and communal remembrance.
“There are all sorts of alternative Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies, at places like Tmuna Theater, but there are no evenings of song like ours,” says Dror. “What is really different about what we do is that this is not a ceremony, it is like the IDF Remembrance Day poetry reading evenings.”
Presumably, Dror is referring more to the spirit and intent behind the Gerard Behar Center program rather than the actual onstage content, as Sunday’s Jerusalem event does not offer too much in the way of poetry.
The organizers describe Sunday’s show as “a memory for the third generation – a message for the generations,” and the educational/ informational element is front and center.
A rich musical lineup is in the offing for the Gerard Behar Center audience, featuring four stellar vocalists who will be providing their professional services for a knockdown fee, including David Lavi, who placed second in the 2011 A Star Is Born TV contest, and The Voice contestant Inbal Gershkowitz, as well as event co-organizer Dror and the only non- Jerusalemite singer on the roster veteran rock star Hemi Rodner. The singers will be backed by six instrumentalists overseen by Alloro, who doubles as pianist, and arranger and musical director of the show. In addition to the musical entertainment, singer, film director and TV reporter Sarah Beck and envelope-pushing religious educator Rabbi Benjamin Lau, who is the nephew of former chief rabbi and Holocaust survivor Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, will share some of their personal Holocaust connections with the audience. Add to that screenings of videoed interviews with several well-known Holocaust survivors, such as 82-year-old classical pianist Alex Tamir, and you could say the hundreds who are expected to flock to the Bezalel Street venue will enjoy a rich program.
“This is a very personal thing,” says Tzur about the show. “I would say the essence of it is communing with the memory of the Holocaust.”
Tzur feels that Zochrim Vesharim fills a gaping void in Holocaust Remembrance Day events in Israel.
“You have all these staid state ceremonies and all the same recycled songs and clips on TV and the things they hold at Yad Vashem, but they don’t speak to many people, especially the younger generation, the third generation,” he argues. “All that pathos does not manage to touch the places that we feel are important to bring out. In some way, all that only leads to people retreating into themselves, to connecting with what it means to them, but we wanted to talk about it.”
The facts back up Tzur et al’s approach. The organizers had no idea of the market appeal of the initial Zochrim Vesharim event, held in the Ramban Synagogue in the Old City, and were pleasantly sur-prised by the response, particularly as the program was devised in double-quick time.
“It was around Passover time, and we only had a few days to put the thing together,” Tzur recalls. “Seventy people turned up, and we all enjoyed the experience. They were songs that really meant something to us. The idea was not to take Holocaust songs per se but to take songs with particular themes with which we connect.”
All the Zochrim Vesharim organizers are musicians, and Dror says that the event was spawned by a need of his peer group for a different way of expressing what the Holocaust and Holocaust Remembrance Day mean to them.
“We used to hold these regular jam sessions and we got to talking about Holocaust Remembrance Day. We all agreed that we were fed up with watching the same old video clips and the same official ceremonies and that we wanted something that would speak to us, that would mean something to people of our age. We are the third generation, and we wanted to see how we deal with the memory and how we can convey that to others,” he says.
Dror and his colleagues are clearly answering niche demand.
“It wasn’t just us and a few pals coming along to do something together,” says Tzur. “The next year we contacted Menorah 8 [cultural center], which adjoins the Gerard Behar Center and has a capacity of 120, and over 450 people turned up. People sat on the stairs, on the stage, in the kitchen. The place was jampacked, and the atmosphere was great.”
Last year, Zochrim Vesharim moved into the far more capacious Gerard Behar Center, which was also overflowing, and the organizers expect a similarly enthusiastic public response on Sunday.
“It was very gratifying and moving to see how much people really need and want this kind of thing,” says Dror, adding that he hopes the event resounds far and wide on all many levels.
“When I was a student, I volunteered to help a Holocaust survivor with all sorts of things, including taking down his recollections and helping him find information on the Internet. I would like people all over the country to look for Holocaust survivors – it could be a relative or neighbor or maybe just someone they hear about – and listen to their stories. It is not about just recording their testimony, like they do for instance at Yad Vashem, it is about hearing their message and passing it on to other people.”
Admission to Zochrim Vesharim is free, but the organizers also use the event to raise funds for Amcha, an organization that provides Holocaust survivors with emotional and other forms of support. • Zochrim Vesharim takes place on Sunday at Gerard Bechar at 9 p.m.
(doors open at 8 p.m.)This year’s show will be broadcast live on Reshet Gimmel radio. For further information and tickets: 058-706-0600 and