Yom Yerushalayim, marking the unification of the City of Jerusalem at the end of the Six Day War, will be commemorated  this Friday, May 22. Thus, I am writing this column about my sister, violinist Zina Schiff’s 1995 4Tay Records release, King David’s Lyre, a celebration of Jerusalem 3000. The CD consists of works by Jewish composers from many different corners of the globe. Since Jewish longing for Jerusalem spanned over two thousand years in Diaspora, it is fitting that a tribute to Jerusalem includes Jewish composers from around the world.

Along with three Israeli composers, Paul Ben-Haim (1897-1984), Marc Lavry (1903-1967) and Hanoch Jacoby (1909-1990), there are four composers from Russia’s Society for Jewish Folk Music, Alexander Krein (1883-1951), Joseph Achron (1886-1943), Efrem Zimbalist (1889-1985), and Mischa Elman (1891-1967); Italian native, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968); British-born David Hush (1956), who now lives in Australia, and American George Gershwin (1898-1937).  The American Record Guide selected  King David’s Lyre Critic’s Choice Best of 1997 and praised it as “one of the most beautiful recordings of Jewish music .. Schiff is a great violinist in every way.” The excerpts I have selected represent the longings of Jews in the Diaspora and the joy of Jews in their own homeland.
Hebrew Melody by Joseph Achron, which I  taught to my sister, Zina, was arguably the most familiar piece of Jewish art music in the mid 20th century. The great Vilna-born Heifetz, a friend of Achron’s from their student days at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, recorded this work and performed it frequently and worked on it further with Zina. It served as the theme song of a radio series, which later became a TV series, called, The Eternal Light. Those programs were sponsored by the Jewish Theological Seminary between 1944 and 1989.

As a child, living in Chicago, I still recall my grandfather, on Sabbath afternoon, after he returned from synagogue and had lunch, asking me, his seven-year old granddaughter, to crank up the Victrola and put on the recording of Hebrew Melody. Years later, one of my teachers, Heimann Weinstine, taught me the piece and I played it at my high school graduation.

Next are Marc Lavry’s Three Jewish Dances, Sher a Yiddish Wedding Dance from Eastern Europe, Yemenite Dance, representing the exotic dances brought to Israel by the Jews of Yemen, and, Hora, the circle dance of the early Chalutzim that symbolized their determination to reclaim the land and build a just society. Born in Latvia and trained in Germany, Lavry immigrated to Palestine in 1936, where he was instrumental in developing the “Mediterranean School” of composition, that merged elements of Arabic and Oriental Jewish music with Western Art Music.

New York City Ballet. The last two tracks, Gershwin’s Second Prelude and Achron’s Hebrew Cradle Song, are accompanied by Cherina Eisenberg, Zina’s younger daughter. The other two recording in the trilogy, The Golden Dove and Elijah’s Violin, were covered in my columns on April 27 and on April 4.

May we celebrate Yom Yerushalayim with song and dance and may the day arrive when tranquility and  beauty reigns in Jerusalem, the City of David.

Republished from San Diego Jewish World