Hitting a high note for Sandy’s victims

Hitting a high note for Sandy’s victims

Broza is back in Bergen to sing our way to relief

David Broza Raanan Cohen

David Broza often is called the Jewish Bruce Springsteen. That’s because he is charismatic and gifted as both a musician and a poet, telling the stories both of his own heart and of his people.

But what do you think of first when you think of Springsteen? New Jersey! And as unlikely as it seems, Broza, who grew up in Israel and Spain, lived in Bergen County for 17 years. His children grew up here.

So it makes perfect sense that Broza will be in concert at Temple Emanu-El of Closter on Sunday, February 10, raising money to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy.

“New Jersey is beautiful,” Broza said in a phone interview from a studio in Tel Aviv. “We were in New York with little babies, and we thought that it would be hard to maintain a family life there, so we crossed the bridge. And what we saw there was gorgeous – green and lush and hilly. We found a house, and we moved in.”

Broza left Cresskill for Spain in 2000, and three years later he moved back to Israel. “My work was changing,” he said. Now he lives in three places. “I don’t have three legs, but basically I have one foot in Tel Aviv, one foot in Madrid, and one in New York.”

Broza, who is 57 years old, is a social activist, as well as an artist. (He comes by that naturally; his grandfather, Wellesley Aaron, who led a fascinating life, was a founder of Neve Shalom – Wahat as-Salam, a village in Israel where Jews and Arabs live together in peace.)

He feels compelled to present the concert for storm relief, he said, because “it is horrifying, the outcome of the storm. It’s not over. A lot of people are struggling with loss; lost property, and the inability to stand on their feet.

“Because my life is so entangled and entwined with this area, I felt personally hurt. My way of showing solidarity and lending a hand is to dedicate a show, where hopefully we can raise funds and direct them to those who need it.

“I think funds are fundamental not only in rebuilding and reconstructing from the damage, but also in rebuilding people’s lives.

“This storm didn’t hit only the poor. It hit everybody. The community needs support.

“I can’t fill Madison Square Garden, but I hope that we can fill Temple Emanu-El. I hope that people will come out, and that they will continue offering help to those in need. And I’m happy to do it in Bergen County, because I’m part of it and it’s part of me.”

“The idea of the concert came from Mr. Broza,” Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner said. It is being presented by the New York Board of Rabbis at Temple Emanu-El, which Kirshner leads. “Mr. Broza is donating all his services. We are covering the sound and lighting, and the VIP reception. Everything else is going directly to hurricane victims.

“We’re limited to 500 people. We hope to sell out; we’re already halfway there.”

(The Jewish Standard is a concert co-sponsor.)

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik is the executive director of the New York Board of Rabbis, where Kirshner is vice president-elect.

Despite its name, the board is not limited by geography. “It’s the largest interdenominational rabbinic body in the world,” Potasnik said. “We have all streams of Jewish life represented here. We like to think that it makes this a very special place, where people of different denominations can have discourse with one another.

“It also means that we have a responsibility to help each other.

“Hurricane Sandy was a tragedy that said to us that we need to do something to support and help those who were so deeply affected.”

Once the money is raised, “we will establish a committee of rabbis of different streams of Jewish life to decide on the distribution,” Potasnik said.

He sees that some good has come from the storm. “This is a wonderful moment of solidarity,” he said. “Sadly, sometimes it takes a tragedy to bring us all together. Maybe we’ll learn that we have to perpetuate that spirit.

“We have to bring people together not just during extraordinary times, but during ordinary times as well.”

Because David Broza grew up on two continents and spent much of his adulthood in a third, a sense of place and of language suffuses his work. When he first came to the United States, decades ago, he toured the country to understand it, primarily through its music and poetry. He concentrated on the Midwest and the South. “The blues, rockabilly, bluegrass, country music, country and western music; I connect with all of that,” he said. “I wanted to connect through music, but I had to sing my way through, and in order to do that I had to find the words. The words were hidden in the poetry, and the poems were the treasure the poets held.

“I’ve mastered a lot of the poetry that I was studying in order to understand American language and culture,” he said. “I fell in love with Elizabeth Bishop, and particularly a poem called ‘One Eye.’ That should be adopted almost as a mantra for the recovery from Sandy.”

Broza quoted the beginning of the poem from memory.

“The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster,” he said.

“Look it up,” he urged. “Read all of it. It’s one of the most magical poems written in 20th-century America.”

He’s written music for the lovely and haunting words of this poem. With luck, he will sing it on the evening of February 10.

Who: David Broza

Where: Temple Emanu-El of Closter

When: Sunday, February 10, at 6 pm; a VIP reception will follow the concert

Why: To benefit New Jersey victims of Hurricane Sandy

How: Presented by the New York Board of Rabbis

For tickets call Jessie DiPaolo at (212) 983-3521 or email her at jdipaolo@nybr.org.

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