Serbia’s Jewish community today numbers only about 3,300 souls; among its most enduring institutions is a choir, as Amy Guttman writes:
[T]he Serbian-Jewish Singing Society—one of the oldest Jewish choirs in the world, today known as the Baruch Brothers Choir—has prospered, despite having been silenced during World Wars I and II. Today, having survived genocide, Communism, the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, and a dwindling Jewish population, the group is larger than at any time in its history—even though less than 20 percent of its members are Jewish.
But that doesn’t seem to bother anyone—not the Ministry of Culture, which requests the choir’s presence at important commemorations; not the Jewish community; and not the singers. . . .
When the group was founded in 1879, said the group’s thirty-one-year-old conductor, Stefan Zekic, “It was to cherish Orthodox Jewish and Serbian music, and create some kind of bridge between two people—Serbian and Jewish people.” That sense of shared purpose will be marked on May 10, when the choir will perform at an official ceremony marking the liberation of Staro Sajmiste, a concentration camp on the outskirts of Belgrade where half of Serbia’s Jews are believed to have perished. . . .
The choir performed its first postwar concert in 1948, but it wasn’t until it was invited to sing in Jerusalem four years later that the group really found its feet again. Concert pianist Andreja Preger conducted the performance; at 103, he is the group’s oldest member. Preger survived the Holocaust as a partisan and later became one of a substantial number who met their future spouses at rehearsals.