Today is April 21, 2014 - 21 Nisan 5774
of Westport, Weston and Wilton
30 Hillspoint Road · Westport, CT 06880
Phone: (203) 454-4673 · Fax: (203) 454-8888
Notes from our Cantor
Posted on May 02, 2013
“Religion promises a heavenly world. Music proves it!”
Bronislaw Huberman, a Jewish-Polish violinist and one of the most celebrated violinists of his time, wrote these words on a signed portrait of himself. They tell of a man who found inspiration and a sense of the Divine not through words but through music.
He was not alone; many amateur and professional musicians describe such experiences, as well as music lovers in general. I can attest to experiencing moments I can only describe as Divine connection while singing or while chanting our services, especially at times when I am joined by the congregation. There is now scientific research that supports what we feel. According to research reported in The Week, group singing “can create a rewarding feeling of oneness…. ‘You are synchronizing with other people, and harmonizing with your hearts,’ says the author of the Swedish study…. The controlled breathing that singing demands also seems to have a calming influence, achieving ‘the same effect as breathing exercises in yoga.’ ” The benefits of singing have been shown to include improved lung function, reduced stress levels, increased happiness, better immunity, and according to a 2008 joint study by Harvard and Yale, even greater life expectancy.
But Bronislaw Huberman knew nothing about yoga. He wrote the words above in 1932 during the days of the Nazis’ rise to power, when anti-Semitism was being fueled and Jews and Jewish businesses were being victimized. By 1933, the policy of Gleichschaltung, coordination, meant that even music had to confirm to the Nazi ideal. As such, Jewish composers were shunned and Jewish orchestras and opera casts were purged of their Jewish performers. A man of integrity and vision, Huberman used his prominence to procure exit documents for seventy Jewish musicians fired from orchestras throughout Central Europe. In total, Huberman rescued nearly 1000 people from their demise by the Nazis, including musicians and their families from Germany, Poland, Austria, and Hungary. He brought them to Palestine where the musicians would become the founding members of the Palestine Symphony Orchestra, later to become one of the world’s great orchestras, the Israel Philharmonic.
At 4:00 on Sunday, March 23, our TCS Jewish Cultural Arts Council, in partnership with the Westport Cinema Initiative (WCI), will bring Huberman’s story to our community (see page 19). We are thrilled that the WCI was so eager to move forward when we proposed this partnership; the event also includes the sponsorship of the UJA/Federation Westport, Weston, Wilton, and Norwalk and the Stamford JCC Jewish Arts & Film Festival of Fairfield County. The screening of “Orchestra of Exiles” will take place at WestportTown Hall and will include a talk-back with the Academy Award nominated director, Josh Aronson. The film includes music recordings by Huberman as well as by Joshua Bell, who plays the Stradivarius violin that had been stolen from Huberman in 1936. So on Sunday, March 23, you can skip the yoga.But you cannot miss seeing “Orchestra of Exiles,” and experiencing inspired music and a riveting story about the human struggle for goodness.
I’ll look forward to seeing you at Town Hall.
Cantor Laura Berman