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Get Over It

June 7, 2013

I don’t even know how to talk about the past couple days. Yesterday was our concert day. It was quiet in the morning and early afternoon.  Some press activity in advance and I visited the Jewish Quarter of Prague and then a little relaxation before the concert. There was a bus up the hill to the Castle and Cathedral where the concert would take place, but since I wanted to be there  early and after many indulgent meals, I decided to walk up. It was about a half an hour walk along a beautiful path full of gardens and art and busking musicians.

The Cathedral was closed in preparation for our concert, so I was one of less than 10 people in the glorious structure. I was earlier than I needed to be, so I walked by myself for a while, marveling at the gilded domes and alters and pulpits. Imagine being alone in St .Patrick’s or Notre Dame – that was me in St. Vitus.  I am not, as most people know, a particularly spiritual person, but it was impossible not to be moved and slightly reverent in that space.

As people arrived for the performance – a celebration of the defiance of concentration camp prisoners through music – the pre-concert energy took hold. I had set myself up on a seat in the back, but, at the insistence of one of the sponsors, was moved to the second row, where I say behind the Cardinal of Prague and among the more than 40 ambassadors in attendance. There were tears and cheers through the very moving performance.

At the post concert dinner there was more discussion of the human potential for evil and good, and of the power of art to elevate us. After dinner a few of us opted out of the bus walked back to the hotel through mostly deserted streets. I am reading City of Dark Magic at the moment, a mystery based in Prague and I certainly felt its mysterious forces last night.

This morning was a film screening and some more press and some more free time. Then in a very special treat, a small dinner gathering at the Ambassador’s home.

The US Ambassador to the Czech Republic is Orthodox and keeps a kosher home. Joining us was Israeli Ambassador and Stuart Eizenstat, former Ambassador and former Secretary of the Treasury, among many other impressive credentials. We followed a traditional Shabbat format with chanting and prayers and ate off the State Departments only existent set of kosher plates. We were served by Czech women in traditional black and white maid uniforms.

The Ambassador’s home was once the home of a very wealthy Jewish family but was seized by the Nazi high command. Furniture was still stamped with the Nazi markings. The Ambassador is the son of an Auschwitz survivor and commented on his mother’s pride at her being take from Prague on a train and his returning on Air Force One, though he said she never returned to Prague despite his appointment.

Conversation turned to the performance and the issue of religion. There was some conversation about whether singing a Christian piece as the inmates had done and we did last night, was appropriate and the question of including Jesus in the text. Someone said that hearing it was “shocking.” There was more conversation about religion and at several points “the ladies” were asked to weigh in on what they thought.

Though it was an enormous thrill to be there, I was conflicted as a woman and a cultural Christian. I certainly didn’t offer up any opinions, but in the hotel after the dinner I sat with our conductor and his wife for a beer and to talk about the evening. There was more discussion and debate about the human condition and the role of religion in both expanding and narrowing dialogue. We turned again, as we have so often on this trip to the camps and the experiences of individuals. In a not necessarily quiet voice I shared a story about a concert I’d worked on years ago which brought out Holocaust deniers. A man in the lounge who’d clearly heard our conversation crossed the room. I was interested in what he’d share as he leaned over and said, in a very strong Australian accent “You know what I think? Get over it already.” We all looked at him for a moment in slightly confused silence and he repeated “Get over it.” and walked out.

Murry leaned in to me and said softly – “that’s why we do this.”

This trip has been so thoughtful and inspiring and profound in so many ways. I am naive sometimes in my North Eastern liberal world about the fact that there is still so much hate in the world and I am so sad that the trip had to end with a glaring example of that, but that is why I am so honored that I could be part of this week. I will never get over it.

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  1. Roberta permalink

    You are amazing,

  2. Nancy Peterson permalink

    We’re proud of you!

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