The Lost Yiddish Songs of the Soviet Holocaust, Revived

As a matter of policy, the USSR suppressed efforts to commemorate the Holocaust as an event distinct from the suffering of the Soviet nation as a whole. Thus a remarkable trove of songs and poems written by Jews caught up in the Final Solution was long kept in obscurity—until last month, when a professor and a musician teamed up to perform them in Tel Aviv. Aron Heller writes:

As the war raged, a group of Soviet Jewish ethnomusicologists led by Moisei Beregovsky recorded hundreds of Yiddish songs detailing the Holocaust and Jewish resistance to fascism. . . . Beregovsky planned to publish an anthology after the war, but the project was shut down in 1949 at the height of Stalin’s anti-Jewish purge, and Beregovsky was arrested on suspicion of promoting Jewish nationalism. His documents were seized and he died thinking his work had been destroyed.

Only after the fall of the Soviet Union did a librarian stumble upon fifteen unmarked boxes containing the collection. She catalogued them, but it was another decade before [the historian Anna] Shternshis came upon the trove of handwritten poems in the Ukrainian National Library [and] decided to put them to music with the help of Russian-American musician Psoy Korolenko, who was responsible for what he called “melodic solutions” to the newly discovered lyrics.

[One song], “Yoshke From Odessa,” tells the story of a Jewish soldier in the Red Army—one of a half- million—who slices his enemies into pieces like a butcher. “My Machine Gun” invokes the pride another otherwise helpless Jew felt at being armed.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Holocaust, Jewish music, Soviet Jewry, Soviet Union


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount