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Courageous and Creative Hearts

06/01/2019 08:03:43 PM


Ilana Axel, Cantorial Leader

Beth Tikvah member Ron Coppel is a docent at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Educational Center in Skokie. This year he made an interesting suggestion for telling personal stories from the Holocaust in meaningful ways. He asked if we had any members who would be able to interpret some of these stories artistically. The idea intrigued Rabbi Tachman and myself, but our time was short. Creating and performing original works takes time. A lot of time. We didn’t have much of it to prepare.

Enter some personal heroes of mine at Beth Tikvah. The truth is, I have a lot of personal heroes at Beth Tikvah, people I admire and try to emulate, but I want to focus here on two creative artists that really stretched themselves in this instance.

Alex (Alexandra Jackson) is in 6th Grade. I saw her perform an original dance at the retreat in February and was taken with her grace and maturity. “Should I give this a try?” - I thought to myself. She is barely 12 years old, can I approach her about creating a dance for – of all things – a story from the Holocaust? I consulted with her mother Angela Jackson, and she and Alex accepted and really stepped up to the challenge. They took a recording I created about the story of Janusz Korczak, the Polish-Jewish pediatrician who refused to leave the 200 orphans in his charge in spite of numerous offers to help him escape the Warsaw Ghetto. He perished with the children and his staff at Auschwitz. Angela helped Alex bring the recording to her dance teacher, who choreographed the piece with Alex. I hope everyone realizes how much time and dedication something like this takes, and how courageously Alex rose to this challenge. For four beautiful, powerfully moving minutes of interpretive dance, Alex made Korczak’s and his orphans’ story live again for all of us.

Another heroic story, about the farmers of Le Chambon, a small village in France, who successfully hid Jewish youth during the war, caught Ron’s and my attention. I tried my hand setting the story in lyric form, and asked Matt Hallaron, our member who is also a fine composer, to give it a shot. We only had 3 weeks. Ten days later the music to a stirring new piece was on the desk in my office. It was such an honor to perform it with Matt. Written for voice and piano, it brings the story of an entire village of heroic Righteous Gentiles to the fore. Here is a small bit of that text:

Five were the years we Jews hid in that place,
And not one ever gave us away.
They shared what they had, the field and the stream.
“There’s hope for this world” my grandmother dreamed.
“It’s just what we do” they would say.1


Chasidic masters tell us that “God wants the heart.” In other words, not only should we perform our obligations with care, but the truest part of our humanity that God desires is when we open our hearts, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and responsive to the world. When we do so artistically, and publicly so, we take risk, and this, too, takes courage. What if no one gets the melody or the movement of my heart’s opening? It can be scary.

Matt and Alex (and family) – we got it. And we are deeply grateful to you for helping us tell heroic stories with your own courageous and creative hearts.

The Ballad of Le Chambon,” lyrics by Ilana Axel, music by Matthew Hallaron, © 2019.


Musical Heroics At Beth Tikvah 
Past & Future

Thank you to all our wonderful participants in the Yom HaShoah and G’vurah Ceremony on April 30.

Kol Tikvah performed another premiere piece written by Julie Brandon and arranged by Matthew Hallaron, on the Isaiah text “Lo Yisa Goi – Nations Shall Not Wage War Anymore.”

Kol Tikvah members continue to lead services at Shabbat with Sisterhood Installation on May 31 at 8:00 pm, and Shavu’ot Evening with Yizkor on June 8 at 7:00 pm after (free) pizza & ice cream dinner (please RSVP to to join Shavu’ot dinner).

Kolan recorded a Music Video on Sunday, May 19, with Yuval Trachtenberg.

Kol Tikvah begins rehearsals for High Holy Days on July 9 at 7:30 pm. This is a good time for new choir members to join, and older choir members to re-group.

Tue, June 25 2024 19 Sivan 5784