A Hope for a Light

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SHTRUDL-BAND (ex-Varnitshkes) – a Lviv Ensemble of Jewish Song created a composition based on music by a French composer Itai Daniel and David`s Psalm No.133 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”. Oleksandra Somysh, a band leader, tells more about the story of the project.

Lviv is a city of religious and cultural crossroads. Their meeting points sometimes wonderfully blossomed, the other times were bleeding from the wounds that are still hard to heal.

Lviv Ensemble of Jewish Song SHTRUDL-BAND, run by Teiva Progressive Judaism Community, embraces the representatives of various religions and nationalities. For about 15 years they have been trying to cherish the flowers of Jewish musical legacy which underwent a considerable ruinous damage. Those flowers were grown under immense influence of Ukrainian culture and intertwined in its bouquet so strongly and naturally that sometimes it is hard to guess the roots at first sight.

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Ensemble`s repertoire majorly consists of songs in Yiddish – a mother tongue of almost one third of Lviv population before WWII. But, after joining another European Festival of Jewish Choirs the band was offered to make a record of Parisian composer - Itai Daniel`s - version of David`s Psalm No.133 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”, which the band members eagerly accepted. The message lying in this classical psalm, highly appreciated as in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is the most accurate expression of the artists` desire to claim about modern Lviv being a city where nowadays, regardless the tragic history, different religions, different cultures and different mindsets can coexist in harmony.

And, as it often happens when you are doing a good deed and get into “the flow”, unexpected help appears. Such help got the appearance of Dialog program by the Libertas Interfaith and Interreligious Center offering a grant for audio- and video presentation of the project.

Its creation involved a team of like-minded people, half of them at once agreed to volunteer. When we realized that nearly the whole budget planned for the video was depleted by renting of the equipment (which cost suddenly increased), the film director, being already inspired by the idea, also agreed to finish the art-work for free.

The video was seen at different continents, the ensemble received letters with warmth and gratitude from different parts of the world. A Rabbi of the Arc Synagogue of progressive Judaism in London, Aaron Goldstein, during their Sabbath service was excited by sharing this Lviv-Paris Project with his audience.

And the composer, Itai Daniel himself, a choir master, leader of one of the most outstanding Jewish choirs in Europe — "Сopernic" (France) — wrote: "I was very happy with the results of the video; the message of peace it has portrayed was clear and the musical arrangement Shtrudl has created to the song was lively. I can only wish that more projects of this kind will be done in the future and would like to congratulate your organization (*Dialog - Libertas) for the help you are giving to groups like Shtrudl in order to promote peace and friendship among all people."

However, maybe the most touching feedback was received from public activist Amet Bekirov, who with his family was forced to leave his dear Crimea: "Today is the day when you gave me a Hope for a Light! Çoq sağoluñız, Dostlar! Thank you very much, my friends!"

A Hope for a Light – the words that could become an alternative name for this project. And now, on the threshold of Hanukkah — a Jewish holiday called a celebration of light and freedom, — would think like these hopes are to be justified, as only the light of love, freedom, mutual respect and understanding promote the flowers of our cultures to be preserved.