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Singer-songwriter in front of the Torah shrine

On 28 January, the synagogue in Dresden-Neustadt became temporarily noisy. Members and friends of the Jewish community had invited to a meeting of songwriters. Amateur and professional musicians from Mexico, the Netherlands, Israel and Germany sang well-known and lesser-known traditional songs as well as their own compositions, accompanied by guitar or ukulele and sometimes electronic support. Homemade cakes and drinks also contributed to the relaxed atmosphere. The event was organised by the musicians and the Dresdner Synagogalchor e.V.

Moshe Barnett, chairman of the community, was happy to provide the synagogue.

In the audience: Dresden Jews and non-Jews, members, friends and friends of the Friends of the Jewish Community, Dresdeners and new Dresdeners from various countries.

I was very moved by this event. The last time I experienced something like this was more than fifty years ago. It was the time of the singing movement in the GDR: the Canadian Perry Friedman (1935-1995) organised hootenanny events in East Berlin in the early 1960s, following the example of Pete Seeger. Folk and political songs were performed by amateur and professional musicians and often sung along with the audience. The first events included professional artists such as Berlin-based Dutchwoman Lin Jaldati, an Auschwitz survivor and Yiddish singer, and Gerry Wolff, a Jewish émigré who had returned to Germany from exile in England. Later it was mostly amateurs like myself. The songs reflected the period of East-West confrontation in the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the nuclear arms race. Also the belief that socialism would win everywhere in the world. As well as folk songs, we sang solidarity songs from the anti-colonial movements or songs about the fight against fascism. This was about 20 years after the end of the Second World War and the Holocaust.

Back to the songwriters in front of the Torah shrine, half a century later. We live in another time. The songs that were sung here were family songs, they described their own experiences, or they came from the repertoire of internationally famous folk singers. In any case, they were not primarily political. But that seems to be the spirit of the times: in the era of aggressive and vocal opponents of nuclear power or the emerging environmental movement, there were many songs that expressed social commitment. I'm thinking of Hannes Wader, Fasia Hansen, Dieter Süverkrüp, Konstantin Wecker, Bettina Wegner and many others. Half a century later, this development seems to have come to a standstill. Where is there a singer-songwriter movement that reacts to current social developments? To the war in Ukraine, to the AfD, to militant anti-Israel demonstrations?

Even if the actors are not aware of it, the meeting of the singer-songwriters also had a symbolic meaning for me: Jews and non-Jews making music together, not in an arranged concert, but "loosely from the stool", in a synagogue, in front of and with an equally mixed audience, without any political speeches: I wish there were more events like this.

Someone in charge told me that the next meeting of singer-songwriters will take place soon. I look forward to it!

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