Like any idea, it starts with a faint “What if?” When this particular student thought about what she might do to honor the memory of those who perished and survived in the Holocaust, the notion began to take root.
What if students from the Music Academy met with survivors and learned their stories and their songs? What if they were to sing and play those songs? What if the survivors got a chance to tell their stories and be honored by students singing their songs, once again, in their language?
What if Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, could put us together with these survivors and we could meet them, talk to them, and perform?
It happened! The eleventh-grade class took it upon themselves to meet with survivors from Poland, the Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Italy, and other countries and learn the songs that were important to them, sing them and then sing corresponding songs in Hebrew.
Thus, was Holocaust Memorial Day celebrated last year and this year, with my music school in Jerusalem.
Yad Vashem also provided teaching and lectures about the Holocaust, so that we would learn the lessons inherent in this tragedy and never forget—lessons of peace, tolerance, and acceptance. It was immensely moving to see clips of my students meeting with the survivors, looking at pictures, and singing together.
We were then blessed with a live performance, ending with “Ose Shalom” (a traditional song sung in synagogues) and Hatikva (“The Hope,” our Israeli National Anthem).
We filtered out into the yard overlooking Jerusalem, and after a few moments, the sirens began to wail. Every voice stopped. Every car on the road stopped. It seemed as if even the birds stopped chirping.
We stood together—students, teachers, and a smattering of soldiers and parents. We stood together to honor our dead and our State, to remember our past and look forward to our future.
We remember. We honor. We are filled with gratitude and a deep sense of responsibility.
May the memory of those who perished be a blessing and an inspiration never to let it happen again, to neither us nor anyone else.
This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion, May 4, 2017, and reposted with permission.