On two evenings during the winter and spring of 1995, The Wholesale Klezmer Band performed a special concert of Yiddish music. Funds raised by the "Concert for Bosnia" were sent to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee for non-sectarian relief work in Bosnia and Rwanda. Some of the material in this program was written specifically for the concert. Other songs and stories which were already part of our repertoire fit right in with what we wanted our music to say for this occasion.
In June, 1996 we will be performing essentially the same material in a "Concert for Peace and Reconciliation" at the Conference on Judaism in Rural New England. The theme of the conference is to be peace and reconciliation among Jews, a response to the conflicts that led to and emerged from the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzkhak Rabin. (We were scheduled to perform one of the songs in this program, "Avrom Tate" at a reception that was to follow Rabin's speech at the General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations last November, and which was cancelled following the assassination.)
The Wholesale Klezmer Band has now completed a recording of this concert, which was released under the title, "Tfile far a tsebrokhene velt," "Prayer for a Broken World" late this spring. We would like to present this material to as many audiences as possible, and welcome inquiries. We would like our music to support continued relief efforts by Jewish organizaitons in Bosnia and Rwanda, and work towards peace, reconciliation and justice by the organizations of your choice. The Wholesale Klezmer Band can offer helpful advice for any group that would like to plan and organize such concerts.
The text of the program booklet from the original "Concert for Bosnia" appears below. Included are the complete texts of some of the songs. A pdf copy of the CD booklet can be downloaded at www.ganeydn.com/pdf/OYF-004-Tfile-booklet.pdf
Prayer for a Broken World
"In my opinion, Bosnia-Herzegovina was a country where people belonged to different ethnic groups and adhered to different religions. They were living together and set an example of a created civil coexistence, cooperation, and mutual enrichment. To my mind, what was an issue in Bosnia-Herzegovina was not so much a comflict among the individual groups, but rather a conflict between the principle of civil coexistence and the principle of ethnic superiority, ethnic purity, and pure nationalism.
"Three groups are fighting each other there, and the world has been negotiating with them. However, there is a fourth group. This is the one consisting of people who do not want any war; they just want to live together as citizens. Nobody has been negotiating with them. Nobody has been talking with them, because they don't have guns.
"It is depressing to see the behavior of the democratic world; there is a tendency to agree to the division of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This amounts to a denial of the very values underlying the democratic world. This is particularly true of Europe, where it means a denial of the very principle on which European integration is based. Precise and perfect ethnic group border lines in that country would have to go across every village, every family, and every person."
President of the Czech Republic
September 30, 1994
Kolo dance from Bosnia..........instrumental
Avrom Tate..........words & music by Yosl Kurland
Dremlen Feyglekh..........a lullabye from the Holocaust
Der Yidisher Soldat in di Trentshes..........instrumental
Tsurik fun der milkhome aheym..........instrumental
The Spear and the Needle..........Poem by Alexander Shteynbarg,
..........translated from Yiddish by Yosl Kurland
The Magic Ring/Bosnian tune..........story/instrumental
Kadsheynu..........Sabbath morning prayer
A Tfile far Bosnia..........words & music by Yosl Kurland
Hineni..........instrumental, music by Sherry Mayrent
The Chassidic Kaddish (from the conclusion of Ne'ilah)..........
..........traditional prayer, music by Yossele Rosenblatt
· Intermission ·
The second half of the program will begin with Havdala, the traditional prayer that separates sacred time from normal time, and proceed to Wholesale's usual blend of lively freylekh dance tunes and Yiddish folk and vaudeville songs.
Prayer for Bosnia (the title has since been changed to Tfile far a tsebrokhene velt, (Prayer for a Broken World) because its meaning applies to more than one place where the world needs to be repaired) was written in response to the question of how G-d can permit atrocities to happen, such as the Holocaust during the Nazi era, and genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda today.
I once read an interview with Isaac Bashevis Singer in which he said that perhaps G-d is a little G-d, not as powerful as we imagine, not powerful enough to stop evil. This thought actually dovetails with a traditional kabbalistic Jewish concept of " tikkun olam"-the idea that we are partners with G-d in the creation and perfection of the world, that by fulfilling G-d's commandments, we participate in the repair of the imperfect and uncompleted world that G-d created. So how does G-d permit atrocities? In my way of thinking, G-d doesn't. But denying permission to commit atrocities doesn't prevent people from committing atrocities. The only way G-d can stop evil is by commanding us to stop evil, and evil will be stopped only if we listen and do something about it.
This prayer, in Yiddish mixed with loshn koydesh, (the sacred tongue, or Hebrew), can have several meanings read into it. First, it is a mocking picture of G-d (something that can perhaps be lovingly done only in Yiddish) as "Father", who is ironically, too busy making things, or too powerless, to look after his children's real needs. Second, it is a deep appreciation of the beauty of creation, even while the enjoyment of that beauty is marred for us by the existence of atrocities (a reminder that the former Yugoslavia is an extraordinarily beautiful land.) And finally, the acceptance of the way G-d's goodness really works, through people listening and following G-d's commandments to participate in healing a flawed world.
The Prayer for Bosnia is placed in this program between " Kadsheynu" a traditional prayer in which we express joy in the opportunity to fulfill G-d's commandments, and an instrumental prayer called " Hineni," or "Here I am."
"Hineni" is a phrase that resonates very strongly in Jewish life. In the Torah, it is what people answer when G-d calls to them. It is also the first word of the prayer chanted by the person leading the important prayers during Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur , the designated representative of the congregation who stands on their behalf before G-d. "Hineni" is also what G-d answers when we ask to be heard. This medley, the title track of a new recording of WKB clarinettist Sherry Mayrent's original music, is her attempt to describe in musical terms how as musicians we stand before our audiences and attempt to draw both them and ourselves nearer to G-d, and how as human beings we need to stand and take responsibility for " tikkun olam," the repair of the world.
The final prayer in part one of tonight's performance is the Kaddish, perhaps the most repeated prayer in Jewish liturgy. An expression of praise for G-d and of hopes for peace, it is used to mark transitions between parts of a service. The melody we are using here is the one sung at the end of Yom Kippur, and its traditional purpose is to raise people's spirits at the end of the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar.
We begin the second half of our program with Havdala, the ceremony that separates sacred time from ordinary time. It marks both the end of the Sabbath, and the end of the serious part of our program. Following Havdala, the Wholesale Klezmer Band performs songs in a lighter vein, as well as traditional Jewish dance music. You are welcome to dance in the aisles if there is room.
Yosl Kurland & Sherry Mayrent
The Joint Distribution Committee, founded in 1914, has carried out many projects aiding Jewish refugees and Jewish communities in lands where Jewish life is difficult. When the war in the former Yugoslavia erupted, the JDC organized convoys to evacuate the Jews of Sarajevo, along with Christians and Moslems who did not want to be part of the fighting. According to a JDC report, "Sarajevo's remaining Jews indicated, in addition to their wish to perpetuate their 500 year old community, they felt an obligation to continue their important role of providing aid to both their Muslim and Christian neighbors. For, as an acknowledged neutral party, the Jews of former Yugoslavia have been able to secure the trust of all the warring factions, and they have been able to get relief and rescue convoys through the lines when no one else could."
The Sarajevo Jewish community, aided by the JDC, operates, on a non-sectarian basis, three pharmacies, distributing medical supplies at no charge, first aid stations, a system of "home hospitalization," and soup kitchens.
In addition to the effort in Bosnia, tonight's concert is also supporting a project of the JDC to aid refugees from the war in Rwanda.
The Wholesale Klezmer Band has, since 1982, performed both in the traditional context of providing music and dance leadership for Jewish weddings and other simkhes, on the concert stage, and at school and college educational programs. Credits include performances and workshops at the Conference on Judaism in Rural New England, Conference for the Advancement of Jewish Education, the New England Festival of Folk Arts (NEFFA), a Celebration of Folk Music for the 100th anniversary of Carnegie Hall hosted by Pete Seeger, and at the Inauguration of President Clinton. Their repertoire includes music for dance, traditional Yiddish folk songs, and Yiddish theater and vaudeville songs, including original compositions.
The Wholesale Klezmer Band consists of Joe (Yosl) Kurland, (vocals and fiddle), Sherry Mayrent (clarinet), Owen Davidson (accordion, banjo, guitar), Lynn Lovell (bass viol), Brian Bender (trombone), Richie Davis (percussion), and Peggy Davis (flute & vocals)
The Wholesale Klezmer Band can be reached in Colrain, Massachusetts, at 413-624-3204.
Avrom Tate is a midrash on the story of Isaac and Ishmael, the two sons of Abraham. (Midrash is the Jewish tradition of teaching by imaginatively developing a Torah story.) According to Torah, Ishmael “made sport” of Isaac, whose mother asks Abraham to send the older boy away. “How can I send the boy away?” asks Abraham. “He is my own son.” But G-d tells Abraham not to worry, that although Isaac is to be his heir, Ishmael, too, will be the father of a great nation. Tradition tells us that Ishmael became the ancestor of the Arab people.
In this midrash, Isaac, though relieved that he is no longer being beaten, laments that his absent brother must hate him. He tries to imagine what has become of Ishmael, and what would happen if they should meet again. As he becomes older he tells his own son, Srilik (the Yiddish nickname for Israel), and Ishmael’s children to end the conflict that has continued through generations.
Oy Yishmoyel, oy mayn, bruder, vu bistu gelofn?
Iz vu-zhe vest zikh valgeren, un vu-zhe vestu shlofn?
Vu-zhe vest zikh valgeren, mit velkhe fremde layt?
Un vos-zhe voltstu mir gezogt, volst zikh mit mir getrofn?
Gedenkst, flegst makhn khoyzik un flegst shlogn mir in kop?
Srulik, Srulik, Srulik, zindl, vos-zhe vestu ton?
Dem feters kinder shteyen akegn mit a griner fon.
Dem feters kinder shteyen akegn, gekumen iz di tsayt,
Ven keyner iz mishtadl zikh nit, di milkhome firt zikh on.
Kinder, di yerushe fun ayer zeydn kumt mit shrek.
True, he ridiculed me and hit me in the head,
Oh, Ishmael, oh my brother, where have you run to?
Where will you wander, and where will you sleep?
Where will you wander, among which foreign people?
And what ever would you say to me, should we cross each other's paths?
Remember when you used to ridicule me and hit me in the head?
'Srulik, 'Srulik, 'Srulik, my son, what will you do?
Your uncle's children stand against you, beneath a green flag.
Your uncle's children stand against you, and now the time has come,
If no one intercedes, the war will go on.
Children, the inheritance from your grandfather comes with terror.
Words by Leah Rudnicki 1916- 1943 Music by Leyb Yampolski
Es dremlen feyglekh oyf di tsvaygn,
Shlof mayn tayer kind.
Bay dayn vigl, oyf dayn nare
Zitst a fremder un zingt:
Lyu-lyu, lyu-lyu, lyu.
S'iz dayn vigl vu geshtanen
Oysgeflokhtn fun glik.
Un dayn mame, oy dayn mame,
Kumt shoyn keyn mol nit tsurik.
Lyu-lyu, lyu-lyu, lyu.
Kh'hob gezen dayn tatn loyfn
Unter hogl fun shteyn,
Iber felder iz gefloygn
Zayn faryosemter geveyn.
Lyu-lyu, lyu-lyu, lyu.
|Kadsheynu b'mitzvosekho v'seyn khelkeynu b'sorosekho.
Sabeynu mituvekho, v'samkheynu b'yeshuosekho.
V'taher libeynu l'ovdekho b'emes.
Sanctify us with your commandments and grant our portion in your law.
Give us abundantly of your goodness and let us rejoice in your salvation.
Purify our hearts to serve you in truth.
Prayer for Bosnia (Prayer for a Broken World)
Bashomayim, tsvishn volkns, vern shtern geboyrn,
Words and music © copyright 1995 by Yosl Kurland
Please email us and tell us what you think of this program or if you would like your community to host a "Prayer for a Broken World" concert. We can help you with organizing ideas.
To find more information on the recording based on this concert, see Recordings.
To find out more about the Wholesale Klezmer Band go back to the Gan Eydn home page.
The Wholesale Klezmer Band is available for public and private performances. For information and bookings, call:
Joe Kurland 413-624-3204
Or write to: The Wholesale Klezmer Band at
Gan Eydn, Adamsville Road, Colrain, MA 01340
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