Yesterday, Sunday 16 April, marked Charlotte Salomon’s centenary. I find myself imagining what the trajectory of her life – and art – might have been had she survived the Holocaust. Would she have rebuilt her life and perhaps settled in Amsterdam, where her parents had taken refuge during the war, and raised a family with her husband, fellow refugee Alexander Nagler? Would she have gone on to become a well-known artist and perhaps a grandmother and great-grandmother, founding a dynasty of artists? Perhaps she would now be celebrating her centenary. Her stepmother, the renowned mezzo soprano Paula Salomon-Lindberg, lived to celebrate hers, dying at the age of 102 in the year 2000.
What links London’s latest hit musical An American in Paris, a revival of Incident in Vichy – an Arthur Miller drama not seen in this country for 50 years – and the centenary of the young German artist Charlotte Salomon, who continues to enchant more than 70 years after she perished in the Holocaust?
The clue is in the titles of the theatre pieces. Arthur Miller’s Incident in Vichy concerns the fate of 10 men detained in Vichy, France, at the height of World War II in 1942, when Vichy became notoriously synonymous with the French government of Marshal Pétain that collaborated with the Nazis. An American in Paris, freshly adapted from the much-loved Gershwin movie musical, is reimagined with a story set in the City of Light in 1945, in the immediate aftermath of the war. The heroine is a young Jewish ballerina safely hidden by Parisians, while her parents have disappeared in wartime Provence. And the young German artist Charlotte Salomon, escaping Nazi Germany to take refuge in the South of France, was herself arrested in Villefranche in September 1943 aged just 26 – within a month she had been murdered on arrival in Auschwitz.
Set in the detention room of a Vichy police station in 1942, Miller’s drama explores the ways paranoia among those detained by the Nazis could descend so easily into guilt and fear, making it all too easy for the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Ten men wait to be called. At first, the strained and nervous discussion is about why they might be there (a random pick up, routine check on their papers), but it soon emerges that some (or most) are Jews who have fled German-occupied northern France for the southern, ‘unoccupied’ Free Zone.
I rounded off October by spending two consecutive evenings being excited and challenged by the work of two talented young Israeli performing artists, both with so much to offer. Niv Petel is heartbreaking in Knock Knock, his beautifully nuanced account of a devastating situation faced by too many Israeli families, and Hagit Yakira attracted full houses for her exciting new work Free Falling.
Petel is an extraordinary physical actor, wonderfully convincing as a devoted mother whose son is the centre of her life. An engaging and important contribution to our understanding of life in Israel. And at Sadler’s Wells last week, dancer/choreographer Yakira presented four talented performers falling and recovering again as they take what life throws at them. Supporting each other, their eyes and faces as important as the rest of their bodies as they look out for each other. In a beguiling add on, three more dance artists responded to Free Falling – including full audience participation on the studio floor, everyone linked in a joyful dance – a sort of Hora at Sadler’s Wells, which makes Israeli dance so welcome. Niv Petel and Hagit Yakira are certainly names to watch.
by Judi Herman
Hagit Yakira attracted full houses for her exciting new work, four talented performers falling, recovering and supporting each other, as they take what life throws at them. Their eyes and faces are as important as the rest of their bodies as they look out for each other. Yakira says she invites her audience “to experience the unravelling of real life experiences”. What I loved, though, was the synthesis – the building up of the elements that make up this seemingly simple but actually complex work performed on a vast bare stage.
Next month Sadeh Farm in Kent is set to open its gates. This may not seem like news in itself, but Sadeh (field in Hebrew) is a unique kind of farm: a Jewish farm. Founded by Talia Chain and co, who have already begun work in the grounds of Skeet Hill House, Sadeh aims to reconnect people with their faiths and each other by working together on the land to grow vegetables. “Here Jewish people of all ages and backgrounds can connect with our rich tradition of Jewish farming and be inspired by a religion based in agriculture,” they promise in their mission statement. While the group are almost set up, they still need financial help to acquire polytunnels, sheds, tools, marketing and legal help and more. Visit their Chuffed crowd-funding page for more info and to donate.
By Danielle Goldstein
This month BBC Radio has joined in the celebrations of Arthur Miller’s centenary (he was born 17 October 1915) with a terrific season of dramas and documentaries exploring his life and work on Radio 3, 4 and 4 Extra – including the broadcast world premiere of The Hook, which had its world premiere on the stage earlier this year, as reported in Jewish Renaissance. Read on for all the necessary details, and if you miss/have missed any of the programmes, they will be available on BBC iPlayer for a month after broadcast.
The two Rafis: Raphael with Rafi Zarum, the dean of the London School of Jewish Studies, who presented sessions on James Bond and 7 levels of laziness
“Just back from the two-day inaugural Limmud Tel Aviv. I am not certain how many attended but those who did were a mixture of Israelis and olim from many countries including the UK, France, Italy, Turkey, the USA, South Africa and Australia. There were sessions in both Hebrew and English. Of the English sessions, topics included leadership, a talk by a retired Israeli intelligence agent (his name was not given but when he got up to speak, I recognised him from previous UK Limmud conferences, so his cover was effectively blown), Nidda (Jewish family law), Israeli innovation for developing countries, water co-operation and Jewish origins of value investing. There were also some journalists from the Jerusalem Post and The Media Line.”
By Raphael Gee
© Complete Music and the Brickman family via Times Union
Composer Ronald Senator and his wife, pianist Miriam Brickman, tragically died in a fire in their home in Yonkers, New York on Thursday 30 April. Geraldine Auerbach, the founder of the Jewish Music Institute in London, explains how important they were in the world of Jewish music in Britain.
With the General Election now officially underway, we have politics on our minds – in all its forms – for our April issue. From the revolutionary Yiddish poets who fired up the streets of East London, to the current crop of social activists who are committed to making the world a better place today. As our pieces show, there is an irrevocable link between Jews and political activism.
We also have an essay on Jewish voting patterns by Geoffrey Alderman; a discussion on the ethics of the ‘right to offend’ by Brian Klug, and a personal reflection by associate Times editor Daniel Finkelstein on whether being Jewish really matters when it comes to casting your vote. There’s a piece from Paris three months after the terrorist attacks there by a former Le Monde senior editor, Sylvain Cypel, and a piece by Dan Carrier about his great uncle Nat – one of the first English speakers to fire a shot in the Spanish Civil War. But if you’ve had enough of politics (already!) don’t despair, there’s plenty to keep you reading.
We’re celebrating two centenaries: one with the chair of the Ben Uri museum, David Glasser, who tells us how he rose from the mean streets of Glasgow to head one of the most exciting art venues in Europe; and on the eve of the Arthur Miller centenary, we’re asking why are there no Jews in the plays of one of the 20th-century’s greatest Jewish playwrights? There’s also klezmer from Leeds boys Tantz, an interview with new Israeli novelist Ayelet Gundar-Goshen and a report from the place to be on a Tuesday night in Manchester: the Menorah Film Club. Plus three month’s of cultural listings for the UK and abroad. With all that going on – don’t forget to vote!
By Rebecca Taylor