Friday, January 18, 2013

A Hava Story We Haven't Heard

Rosa Strygler and Moritz Goldfeier
On Thursday night, Trustee Ingeborg Rennert and her husband, Ira, hosted a dinner in their home to benefit the Museum. The guest speaker for the evening was Roberta Grossman, long-time Museum friend and filmmaker; her most recent work is, of course, Hava Nagila (The Movie).

Hava Nagila (The Movie) has been booked at 76 Jewish film festivals; serving as the opening or closing night film at nearly half of them. We will be showing it at MJH on February 27 with Roberta in attendance.

As I’m sure she will do here in February, Roberta regaled those in attendance with the history of the tune, how it became synonymous with the hora or as she described it “finding its soul mate, the hora,” and how it has become the theme song for joyful celebrations, athletic endeavors, and frankly any happy occasion.
No one doubts the song’s ubiquity, and as the movie and our exhibition point out, the song Hava Nagila has been interpreted widely, as a search of YouTube would suggest. At dinner we heard a story from our beloved Trustee Emerita Rosa Strygler, who shared with us a memory that is a testament to why this exhibition is at this Museum.

Rosa was born in Poland and lived with her family in Krakow. She recalled having been in an orphanage in Hungary for Polish girls. She was a teenager and feeling completely alone in the world, as she said, “like the only Jew alive.” One day, she went into the Great Synagogue in Budapest and slowly, more and more people arrived. “Others who were like us,” she said. The group stayed and talked for hours, and during the course of the day people left. There were four or five people remaining in the synagogue and one of them asked, “What should we do next?” Another member of the group responded, “We should sing Hava Nagila.”
You could hear a pin drop.

To Rosa and other survivors like her, Hava Nagila has tremendous meaning. Its words, which exhort us to rejoice and be glad, have the power to shine light on lives that have endured such darkness. To Rosa, Fanya, Moritz, Angie, and Dr. Ruth, the survivors who dined with us on Thursday, thank you for allowing this light to shine on all of us.
Photo by Melanie Einzig.

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