Boston Secession

From the Testimony of Witnesses Composer

Spring 2007

In 1993-4 I was living in Jerusalem with my husband Earle, who was doing research at the Hebrew University.

We had lived in Israel 1955-6, 1966, and 1987 both for Earle's work and because we love the country and the friends we have there.

During 1993-4 I started to read poetry and other writings about the Holocaust at the Yad Vashem Library. It was an overwhelming experience. The human spirit cannot be denied its need to express itself. The great importance of the poetry is that it creates what Primo Levi called "a new testament, a form of sacred literature." It is courageous writing because it takes us to the very edge of experience – experience long denied by revisionists is confirmed in these accounts.

By breaking through the loss of identity and anonymity caused by the death camps the poet makes the interconnection of historical event and the personal reality of the Holocaust. Poetry evokes the personal. The poets are witnesses and transmitters of historical events. Yet the poet’s language still leaves gaps between the words that allow for a “glimpse of the abyss” (H.N.Bialik, poet).

With my music settings of the poetry I have attempted to translate my deeply felt response to the “glimpse of the abyss” and the spiritual and emotional force of the poems. I want to bear witness to the courage and tenacity of the poets of the Holocaust who have created a montage of voices and memories that allows us access to an otherwise unintelligible and inexpressible experience.

Poets, composers, artists throughout the ages have been inspired by the bible. We now have a new bible to read and study. I believe that the works of the Holocaust poets will continue to inspire us.

Ruth Lomon
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