Six hundred Holocaust survivors gathered together to sing “Chai,” made famous by legendary Israeli artist Ofra Haza, ahead of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The Beit Avi Chai cultural center, together with Koolulam (a musical social initiative project) and Zikaron BaSalon (“Memories in the Living Room,” referring to annual private gatherings in peoples’ homes where the Holocaust is discussed), recently organized one of the most moving mass Holocaust memorial gatherings ever to be held in Israel.
Leading up to Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day), 600 Holocaust survivors and their families — including second, third, and even fourth-generation survivors — gathered at Jerusalem’s Beit Avi Chai to unite in recording Chai (Hebrew for “alive”).
The song Chai, written by the late Ehud Manor and composed by Avi Toledano for the 1983 Eurovision Competition in Munich, was specifically chosen for this event. Manor noted that the words were written as an expression of defiance and victory directed at those who made every attempt to destroy the Jewish People. Indeed, the song proudly declares that the Jewish people are very much alive: “This is the song that our grandfather sang yesterday to our father, and today, I am able to sing it.”
As the song was being recorded, many of the survivors – hands shaking, some with concentration camp numbers visible on their arms – were overcome with emotion. They described their memories of the horrors – and survival. Many family members arrived from all over the country and even from abroad to join their grandparents and great-grandparents in this special event.
According to Dr. David Rozenson, Beit Avi Chai’s executive director, this is a unique project in terms of commemorating and preserving Yom Hashoah. “By uniting in song, we celebrate not only the miracle of survival, but the next generations of those who have been born and who are, together, continuing the great miracle of the Jewish People in the Jewish State. We draw great hope and inspiration from them – and will never forget their strength and victory. The Jewish people are one nation that beats with one heart, and there is no greater expression of this than our unity,” he said.