Member of Music Teachers Association of California • National Association of Teachers of Singing

May 31, 2020 was to have been an eventful day for both Yiddish and my emerging career. The Los Angeles Central Library offers a series of eclectic concerts and performances entitled “LA Made”. Funded by The National Endowment for the Humanities, the concerts are held in an intimate and beautiful ‘state-of-the-art’ venue called The Mark Taper Auditorium. Tickets are free to the public, but due to limited seating, tickets must be reserved ahead of time because every seat is usually taken.

The month of May, 2020 was to be Jewish heritage month, and I had been contracted, along with other artists to bring Yiddish to the LA Made program. The publicity of the concert was already on the calendar. Naturally, our hearts sank at the realization that our concert was being postponed as a consequence of the pandemic. Thank goodness it was not cancelled.

One of the biggest disappointments was not having the pleasure to sing with the Los Angeles Jewish Community Children’s Choir, conducted by the fabulous conductor and composer, Michelle Green Willner. I was excited to have found a Jewish Children’s choir which not only sings harmony, but is led by a conductor with a doctorate in music composition.

Given that I needed a new musical arrangement for “The Lonely Child” I commissioned Michelle to compose a new arrangement for voice, instruments and children’s choir. In my first blog I spoke of Zola Piatka Shuman, whose uncle had perished in the holocaust. I discovered that Zola was also a composer and she had just written a very beautiful and moving song of remembrance for Yom hashoah for a youth choir. The song called “Her Zich Tsu-We Will Remember You” can be heard in its entirety by clicking on this link.

The song was so beautiful that I asked Zola, who lives in Cape Town, South Africa, if she would allow the Los Angeles Jewish Children’s Choir to make an American debut of her choral work. Just as she happily gave me permission to use her family pictures in my program, she readily agreed to let the LAJCC to debut her composition. Zola was gracious and waved the royalty fees she normally receives.

Just before the pandemic lock down Zola had come to California for a wedding. I jumped at the opportunity to meet Zola at a nearby LA Airport hotel the day before she left for South Africa. Zola’s uncle, Leyb Rosenthal, had written “Yisrolik”, one of the songs I sing in my program. Zola’s mother, Chayala Rozenthal, and her uncle Leyb were both in the Vilna ghetto. Leyb Rozenthal was murdered in 1945, but his sister survived. When I saw Zola for the first time, we both had tears in our eyes. We had a musical bond that was so unique that it is hard to put into words. However, I will do what I know best, and that is to take the emotions I felt meeting Zola, and breathe new life into Leyb Rozenthal’s song “Yisrolik”.