EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ East Brunswick Public Library continues its Holocaust Remembrance Program with “The Jews of Central Europe Before the Holocaust with Focus on Hungary.” This multi-media program of lecture and music will be held at the East Brunswick Community Arts Center (721 Cranbury Road, East Brunswick) on Sunday, April 28 at 2:30 pm.

The program is dedicated to Hungarian-Jewish poet Hannah Senesh, who is regarded as a national heroine in Israel. It is produced by Michael Kesler of East Brunswick. Since his retirement in 2006, Kesler has written extensively of his and his late wife’s experiences during World War II. This is the sixth event that he has planned in a series that chronicles the history and culture of Jewish populations in Europe before the Holocaust.

“Our aim is to commemorate and celebrate the rich historical and cultural contributions of Jewish communities, beginning with that of Hungary before its tragic extinction by the Germans,” said Dr. Kesler, producer of the series.  “It is our way of honoring and keeping alive their legacy as time marches on, so that these once-thriving civilizations, from whom many among us are descended, are never forgotten.”

Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Historian Glenn Dynner, Chair of Humanities at Sarah Lawrence College, will lecture on the history and culture of Hungarian Jewry.  His presentation will highlight Hungarian Jewry’s role in commerce and industry, as well as in the culture and the arts of the country. It will include the rise of Hasidism, the growth of the Jewish press, and the significant musical exchanges with Hungarian composers and artists at the highest levels.  It will also bring to light the Jews’ golden years in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  

Dr. Tamara Freeman, Holocaust ethnomusicologist and concert violist, will preside over the art program.   Dr. Freeman will play her 1935 Joseph Bausch viola, rescued from the Holocaust.  She will be joined by a number of accomplished musicians:  Michael Kesler, a former cantor, tenor; David Schlossberg, pianist and composer; Dr. Susan Hornstein, alto; Donna Messer, recorder player; Steven White, tenor; David Simen, bass baritone; Mary Rose Schneider, clarinetist; David Goldfarb, clarinetist; Deborah Gerber, vocalist; and Korina Kesler, violinist.  May Kesler and Keslerdances will also perform at the event.

The event will feature an eclectic selection of classical music of European Jewry, including “Rachel,” an aria from Halevy’s opera “The Jewess,” and “Eli, Eli,” by Hannah Senesh, to whom the program is dedicated. 

Another somber song, “Es Brent,” warns the Jews of the region about the impending disaster.  The Jewish troubadour Mordecai Gebertig conceived the song in 1936.  Alas, World War II began in 1939 and marked the beginning of the Shoah, the extinction of most Polish Jews, including Gebertig, who perished in Auschwitz in 1942. 

The program will continue in a lighter vein with a more spirited selection of Hungarian-Jewish music, including instrumental pieces and dancing. 

“The Jews of Central Europe Before the Holocaust with Focus on Hungary” is sponsored through a partnership of the East Brunswick Jewish Center, the Karma Foundation, the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, and East Brunswick Public Library.

The program is free and open to the public. There is limited seating at the Community Arts Center. Additional information about this event can be found online at www.ebpl.org/calendar.