A young Rumanian Jewish choir sidestepped political boundaries and brought the Rumanian and Israeli Ambassadors to the United States, members of the Rumanian Jewish community and several U.S. officials together Tuesday.
“This choir is both a symbol of the victory the Jewish people won against the Nazis, and against all those who tried to put an end to the existence and symbol of the redemption of the Jewish people,” said Israeli Ambassador Meir Rosenne as he welcomed the choir to the Israel Embassy during the U.S. Holocaust Remembrance Week.
Rosenne was 13 when he left Rumania, having survived a pogrom that killed much of the country’s Jewish community. “I did not dream that I’d have the privilege of representing Israel and greeting the Jewish choir of Rumania,” he said.
Addressing the choir for a few minutes in Rumanian, which he said he had not spoken since the death of his mother 13 years ago, Rosenne said he too had sung in a choir as a boy.
Rosenne also joked that he should be speaking in Moldavian, instead of Rumanian, a reference to the part of Rumania that now belongs to the Soviet Union.
‘A DESIRE FROM THE RUMANIAN PEOPLE’
Rumanian Ambassador Nicolae Gavrilescu, who said he brought a “desire from the Rumanian people for peace and understanding,” said the “language of music is used by the choir in order to show the ties between people.”
The choir, with 46 members ranging in ages from 16-24 who are children of Holocaust survivors, sang a selection of Yiddish and Rumanian folk songs, Hebrew songs and a version of “Oh Susannah” performed in English with a western twang.
The group, whose male members wore yarmulkes, have been on a packed tour of the U.S. from April 23-30, and have performed at Holocaust remembrance ceremonies in New York’s Madison Square Garden on Sunday and in Washington. They are scheduled to meet later this week with Vice President George Bush.
“We didn’t dream such a thing would happen. If this is not a miracle, what is a miracle?” asked Moses Rosen, Chief Rabbi of Rumania, who is accompanying the choir along with presidents of the Jewish communities of Bucharest and Jassy.
There are approximately 23,000 Jews remaining in Rumania, most of whom are over age 60. There is an active Jewish life with 70 synagogues, religious instruction and kosher community kitchens.
Rep. Stephen Solarz (D. NY), who visited Rumania several years ago to see the birthplace of his grandmother, said he was surprised to find “in a community virtually cleansed of Jews, here was an old Jewish community that was young and vibrant, singing songs of their fathers and their faith.”
Alfred Moses, a Washington lawyer who has represented the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in dealings with Rumania and who helped to arrange the choir’s tour, claimed that “we’ve had problems on behalf of the Jewish community. Things are not as smooth as we would like them to be.”
Moses was involved in the unsuccessful attempt to prevent the Rumanian government from destroying the only remaining Sephardic synagogue in Eastern Europe located in Bucharest.
But Rosen added that “the choir represents dozens of thousands of Rumanian Jewish children who has the possibility to learn Talmud and sing in the Jewish choir. Rumanians have an understanding, and humanitarian feelings from the government that the Jewish people have the same rights as other people to build their own destiny.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.