May 12, 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel. Stark black-and-white press images of David Ben-Gurion and Konrad Adenauer facing each other may have long since morphed into images of the present-day leaders of Israel and Germany, but there are still as many reasons to remember the dark shadow of historic events as there are reasons for the two countries to complement each other in striving for a shared future.
This is a relationship marked by strong sentiments, but never indifference – a very peculiar relationship, which, against all odds, has flourished into a friendship between two (for the most part) like-minded countries, in a changing world.
Said Angela Merkel when addressing the Knesset in 2008: “Yes, our relations are special, indeed unique – marked by enduring responsibility for the past, shared values, mutual trust, abiding solidarity for one another and shared confidence.”
And then there are the people: German tourism in Israel is booming, while Israelis’ growing interest in Germany and – above all – Berlin has been widely reported on.
Still, at a time when European anti-Semitism seems to be on the rise again, one remains sensitive and mindful of the German promise, “never again.”
Regardless, this year’s golden anniversary is being celebrated with a variety of events throughout Germany and Europe, as well as in North America and Israel. Israeli culture and Jewish history are a visible theme on the German event calendar this year.
Berlin has just hosted the 2015 European Maccabi games, an international Jewish multi-sport event often referred to as the Jewish Olympics.
On the musical end of the scale, the Berlin Philharmonic opened the cultural celebrations with a performance of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Symphony No. 4 in A major.
In New York, the musical focus will be on German/Luxembourg chanteuse Adrienne Haan, an electrifying international cabaret star, whose Carnegie Hall debut at Weill Recital Hall on October 29 will feature music from Weimar Berlin, Yiddish klezmer and contemporary Hebrew songs. Haan is equally at home in repertoire ranging from jazz, blues and klezmer to Broadway and pop, but the music of the ’20s and ’30s – unthinkable without the contribution of Jewish talent – has a special place in Haan’s heart and career.
It is highly likely that Haan’s audience this fall will include Holocaust survivors and many of their descendants, and if Haan’s past concerts are anything to go by, she will again win her audience over with her sincerity and artistic honesty. It is these qualities, which, throughout her career, have made the many characters she portrays so believable – from Pirate Jenny to Lili Marlene. It will be fascinating to observe her delivery of Hebrew and klezmer material, which will include a medley of handpicked pieces, given her Haan’s love for expressive melodies.
And one can, again, expect to witness her very special mélange of gloomy melancholy in memory of tragedy and loss, and the regret that the past remains unchangeable. But her performances have always celebrated life, as well, and have honored the power of the human spirit embracing forgiveness in the hopes for a new generation’s better future.
The event will take place under the patronage of the UN ambassadors of Germany and Israel and the spiritual leader of Manhattan’s Park East Synagogue and founder of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, who has recently been knighted by Pope Francis for his work in promoting peace and understanding.
The evening will feature music especially arranged for Haan by German music director Heinz Walter Florin. The program will include works by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, Mischa Spoliansky, Kurt Schwachbach, Friedrich Hollaender, Norbert Schulze, Chava Alberstein, the Klezmatics, Sasha Argov, Moti Hamer and Naomi Shemer. Ms. Haan will perform in German, Yiddish and Hebrew; Israeli violinists Netanel Draiblate and Perry Tal, violist Shmuel Katz, cellist Yoni Draiblate, as well as Mr Florin on piano, will accompany her.
The embassy series at the embassy of Austria in Washington, DC, will present an encore performance of Tehorah on November 3.
Says Haan: “I created this program to share the tragic experiences of war and loss and to add a sense of love, hope and forgiveness. It is my hope that tehorah, which means ‘pure’ in Hebrew, will help build musical bridges and create sincere understanding.”
And while building on a traumatic history can never be easy, Haan’s approach of combining just the right amount of nostalgia with a gentle sense of humor and a dash of sexiness seems a worthy way to try.
Haan does not make a secret of her appreciation for Israel and its people, and has already lined up several performances for 2016 in the country. “Next year in Jerusalem,” she says and smiles.
Adrienne Haan performs TEHORAH at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall on October 29. Patrons include the Israeli and German ambassadors to the UN and Rabby Arthur Schneier.