Over the years, the Raanana Symphonette Orchestra has been holding a unique activity on the subject of the heritage of Jewish music and the Holocaust remembrance, which includes works by great composers who perished in the Holocaust, works dedicated to Righteous Among the Nations, among which are concerts dedicated to the memory of Irena Sendler, Alma Rosé, Joop Westerweel, Varian Fry, Feng Shan Ho, Princess Alice, Giorgio Perlsasca and others.
In addition, the orchestra took part in exciting projects, such as an encounter and concert with the last klezmer from Galicia, a project for the preservation of the synagogue in Poznán, the Violins of Hope project and preservation of violins that have survived the Holocaust, the Babi Yar project and the Irena Sandler project, initiating an encounter between Israeli and Polish children and included a series of concerts throughout Poland for which the Orchestra CEO won the Polish President’s Award.
The Raanana Symphonette Orchestra performs a tribute concert to Alma Rosé, the violinist who founded the female orchestra in Auschwitz, for high school students
This unique documentation of the artist’s life, intertwined with World War II, became a flagship mission for the Raanana Symphonette Orchestra.
Alma Rosé, a revered musician in Vienna before the war, shaped the Auschwitz Women Orchestra and arranged music for it. She also performed as a solo violinist. During this time if any of the musicians became ill, they were sent to the hospital and none of them were executed. Music became their life insurance. Despite this, Alma Rosé was executed in Auschwitz in 1944.
Composer Orit Goral arranged the pieces that the orchestra plays during the performance. A program was produced for the event that narrates the life of Alma Rosé, incorporating documents regarding the survivors of the Auschwitz Women’s Orchestra and other materials. The information was gathered from the book “Alma Rosé-Vienna to Auschwitz”, the outcome pf a 22-year research project by the authors, as well as a testimony of one of the few survivors, Mrs. Hilda Simcha. Hilda, who played in the orchestra in this terrible circumstance, was very close to Alma and that experience is firmly etched in her heart.
The Raanana Symphonette Orchestra believes that holding the concert has the utmost importance by way of resurrecting Alma Rosé’s journey from Vienna to Auschwitz in order to convey the Holocaust and the tragedy of the Jewish cultural elite in Western Europe, who believed that the admiration that they won would guarantee their lives.
We have adapted the concert especially for youth groups and presented it throughout Israel in front of youth groups embarking on a trip to Poland. The aim of this project is to render the history of the Holocaust more tangible and personal for young people, before arriving at the sites of Nazi atrocities, and provide them with a tangible and vivid experience of what was before the Holocaust and what was lost to the world through the atrocities that occurred during this period in history.
The Last Chance traces the exciting and inspiring story of Betty Knut, a young warrior woman, a freedom activist during and after World War II. She died at the early age of 37, in Israel.
The concert “In the footsteps of Betty Knut – The Last Chance” outlines the life of a brave and extraordinary woman, providing musical landmarks, from the Russian heritage of her grandfather, Alexander Scriabin, through the songs of the Parisian bohemian life with which Betty and her mother mingled (Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf) to the songs and singers which starred in the club she opened in Beer Sheva (in which Jacques Brel had also appeared during his visit in Israel).
Her mother Ariadne was the eldest daughter of the famous composer Alexander Scriabin and the niece of Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. Elizabeth (Betty) Lazarus Knut was born to Ariadne and a French composer named Daniel Lazarus. After the divorce of Ariadne and Lazarus, the mother and her children moved to Paris. There she met her second husband, David Knut, a Jewish poet of Bessarabian descent. After the wedding, the mother and her daughter converted to Judaism.
During World War II, David was sent to Switzerland on behalf of the underground and together with Ariadne had established the Jewish Army Underground, the Armée Juive. Among other things, they were involved in smuggling Jews to Switzerland. Ariadne (Knut’s mother) was executed by the Vichy regime militiamen and Betty Knut continued her career as a freedom activist.
With the Allied invasion of France, she became a military correspondent for the newspaper Combat (edited by Albert Camus). As part of her activities, she crossed the Rhine with the First Brigade under General Patton. The jeep in which she was traveling hit a mine and exploded and she was fatally injured. Until the day she died, Betty suffered severe headaches from the shards left in her head.
At the end of the war, Betty became involved in the Zionist struggle. She was recruited to the Lehi organization in 1947 by Yaakov Eliav, Lehi’s head of operations in Europe. As part of Lehi’s efforts to gain international support, she met with her mother’s uncle, Molotov. Some argue that this meeting greatly influenced the vote of the Soviet Union on November the 29th. That same year, the Lehi was sent to blow up the British Colonial Office in London, but the bomb did not explode. She was later caught crossing the border between France and Belgium carrying explosive envelopes. She was sentenced to one year in prison and after eight months in prison, she was released.
In 1948, she visited Israel for the first time as part of her role as a military correspondent and joined the fighting forces in Jerusalem and its environs. At a press conference that year, she stated that she had decided to leave the Lehi organization following Brandot’s murder.
After a period in France, she traveled to the United States, where she met Leon Hellman, a young American Jew. The couple immigrated to Israel in 1952 and after a year in Kiryat Tivon, moved to Beer Sheva. There they opened a cabaret club in their home called “The Last Chance”, a club that became a magnet for the best Israeli artists and even for Jacques Berl, who visited the place. The day after his visit, Betty passed away at the age of 37. After their deaths, Betty and Ariadne received the Croix de Guerre medal as well as the Jewish lifeguard award from Yad Vashem.
The brave woman who saved hundreds of Jewish children was the center of an international project of the Raanana Symphonette Orchestra.
A world premiere performed in Poland and Israel.
The Raanana Symphonette Orchestra continues its work to commemorate prominent figures whose courage was a ray of light during the darkest period of humanity – the Holocaust.
In 2009, the orchestra’s CEO, Orit Fogel-Shafran, chose to dedicate a special project to Irena Sendler, a wonderful woman who saved hundreds of Jewish children during the Holocaust (Polish authorities cite 2,500). Irena’s story became famous many years after the Second World War because she chose to subdue it.
Irena Sendler was born in Poland to a doctor who, when a child, explained to her that the world was made up of only two sides: the good and the bad, and that she always and uncompromisingly had to choose the good.
In her youth she studied social work. With the Nazi occupation of Poland she began an operation to rescue Jewish children, while risking her life. With the help of a special travel document, Irena entered the ghetto to take the toddlers from their parents. In various ways she smuggled the children, in the hope that they would be returned to their parents at the end of the war, she made lists in which the boy’s original Jewish name, his Polish name and his hiding place appeared. She kept the lists in urns that she hid in various hiding places in the yards of houses throughout Warsaw.
An informant tipped the authorities and Irena was captured by the Gestapo, cruelly tortured and sentenced to death. With the help of several connections she was released from prison and under a false identity, she fearlessly devoted her energy to save more children.
At the end of the war, Irena returned to normal life and remained silent for fear that the communist regime would disapprove of her subversive activities during the war and harm her family. At this point only the survivors knew about her work. Irena Sendler passed away at the age of 98.
In the last few years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Irena’s story has become widely known. Barack Obama as a senator passed after her death a decision in the Senate that Irena’s life and heritage will be taught at schools, and so her commitment to helping others at the risk of her life will continue to inspire, hopefully never be forgotten. Yad Vashem awarded her the title of Righteous Among the Nations and the State of Israel granted her honorary citizenship. Survivors and their children made a pilgrimage to her house.
In order to commemorate her life and work, the Raanana Symphonette Orchestra and the Raanana Municipality held a project in collaboration with the Polish Embassy in Israel, during which on January 6th 2009 the Raanana Symphonette Orchestra performed a world premiere of Irena’s song – “A Ray of Light in the Darkness” written by Kobi Oshrat and Udi Brenner conducted by Omer M. Wellber. The Soloists wree Karin Shifrin (soprano), Nitai Zori (violin) and Shalev Menashe, only 7 years old (vocals).
The world-renowned Polish artist Rafał Olbiński has created two stamps that have been issued specifically for this commemorative project and are already in demand by many people around the world.
In Israel during the months leading up to the project, the children of Raanana learned about Irena’s story from people who had the privilege of meeting her and the survivors. Children in Israel as well as children in Poland wrote letters of thanks to Irena as part of the project. The letters were stored in urns and the sculptor Ilana Gur created a commemorative piece of Irena Sendler.
The Polish premiere took place in Poznán, Poland, in the presence of Irena’s daughter, in a 10th – century cathedral in Gneizno where the first kings of Poland were crowned, and in the Adam Mickiewicz Concert Hall in Poznán.