It was the first time singer Shlomo Artzi had ever performed from a bimah, the synagogue stage where the Torah is usually read, this time backed by a cluster of menorahs. This particular bimah was in Berlin’s Rykestrasse Synagogue, Germany’s largest synagogue, and the occasion was the Days of Jewish Culture Festival.
Every seat in the 1,200-seat synagogue was taken for the Sunday night performance, according to local news reports, and many of the concert-goers donned the synagogue’s stock of black satin yarmulkes, probably another first for an Artzi audience.
The Berlin performance was Artzi’s first in Germany, and he told Spitz Magazine, a Hebrew periodical for Israelis living in Berlin, that he came because he was curious about Berlin, known as “the pluralistic city,” and felt a certain amount of pride in being the successful Israeli visiting the city.
Artzi was born on a kibbutz in 1949, and grew up in Tel Aviv, but his father spent the Holocaust in the Zionist underground of Romania, while his mother, a Hungarian by birth, survived Auschwitz.
Artzi sings about certain post-Holocaust issues in his music, in the songs “In Germany Before The War” and “Like A Large Yard.”
He told Spitz that there was a particular meaning in his performance in a synagogue; it wasn’t like one of his usual performances in the Caesarea amphitheater, he said, but he likes a challenge.
“It’s a matter of the connection between the souls and the people,” he said in the interview. “Is there a better place than a synagogue to make that happen? That’s how I look at it.”