The Worlds of Refugee Musicians

By the mid-20th century, Elizabeth Braw reports, “virtually every American conservatoire and symphony orchestra [included] highly skilled musicians from countries ravaged either by the Nazis, the Soviets, or both.” Since that time, a sort of community has formed around musicians who fled violence and brought distinctive musical traditions to their new homes. As Braw notes, many such musicians will soon assemble in the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, a project of New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the Polish National Opera.

One day in 1939, a sixteen-year-old named Menahem Pressler from the German city of Magdeburg arrived with his family in Israel after having escaped the Nazis’ persecution of Jews. Seven years later, the piano prodigy was a famous soloist in American and European concert halls. To this day, the now-ninety-nine-year-old remains a venerated professor of music at Indiana University (IU) and continues to teach the piano. He’s just one of countless musicians who have been uprooted by war or persecution—to the benefit of conservatoires, orchestras, and concert halls in other countries.

When, in 1955, Pressler decided to scale back on his soloist career and joined the music faculty of at Indiana, he became part of a conservatoire that was already home to several other refugees from Nazism. The European refugees, in fact, helped raise the Jacobs School of Music to such heights that it was often said that the conservatory should thank two men for its success: IU’s President Herman Wells and Adolf Hitler.

[Among the best-known refugee musicians are] the Jewish-German cellist Anita Lasker-Wallfisch (a former member of the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz), the Jewish-German conductors Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer, the Jewish-Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg, Jewish-Austrian violinist Max Rostal, [and others]. Many other exiled musicians were far less famous, serving as orchestral players or instrumental teachers. But all brought a phenomenal skill and verve to orchestras, conservatoires, and teaching.

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Read more at Engelsberg Ideas

More about: Classical music, Refugees, War in Ukraine, World War II

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform