Seton Hall University's School of Diplomacy and International Relations and College of Communication and the Arts premiered the second cycle of their "Prayer for Peace" Concert Series at NJPAC in Newark, New Jersey on October 27. Inspired by Leonard Bernstein's artistic mandate, the classical music concert was dedicated to music's role as an instrument of peace, and took place at NJPAC's Prudential Hall.
Prayer for Peace: The Power of One Voice reunited members of the Seton Hall University Chorus and the greater Seton Hall community with the Mid-Atlantic Opera Orchestra, under the baton of noted conductor and Assistant Professor Jason Tramm. Renown international guest soloists soprano Allison Charney founder and host of NYC classical concert series "PREformances with Allison Charney at Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Music Center," baritone Mark Delavan, tenor Adam Klein and mezzo soprano Karolina Pilou of the Metropolitan Opera, and acclaimed violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins from Broadway's Fiddler on the Roof performed. Concert narration featured veteran actor Jordan Charney, star of stage, screen and television.
Inspired by Leonard Bernstein's statement, "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before," the concert seeks to celebrate peace messengers worldwide. In keeping with this spirit, the concert honored lifetime messenger of peace, Luna Kaufman, and raised scholarship funds for refugees.
Central to the concert a unique performance of A Survivor from Warsaw by Arnold Schönberg honored Luna Kaufman, Holocaust survivor, educator, activist, author and lecturer. A trustee and chairperson emerita of the Sister Rose Thering Fund for Jewish-Christian Studies, Kaufman is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Seton Hall University in 2009 as well as the Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit, given to her by the president of Poland in 2011.
Kaufman's life illustrates the theme of the Power of One Voice. Also known as Emelia nee Fuss, she was born in Krakow in 1926 to Marek and Mania nee Schneider. Her older sister was Blanka, born in 1924. Luna and her mother were the only two family members to survive the death camps out of 70 family members. Luna served as the New Jersey Opera Board President and was responsible for bringing Hans Krasa's Brundibar to North American audiences in 1988 and played a crucial organizational role in the creation of the Liberation Monument in New Jersey's Liberty Park. She also helped stage a performance of the opera Frederick Douglass by Ulysses Kay at Symphony Hall in Newark. Today she is a tireless champion of Jewish-Christian understanding, having been inspired by the late Sister Rose Thering, the Catholic nun and Seton Hall professor who led the fight to eliminate anti-Semitism from school textbooks. Kaufman is acknowledged for teaching the truest and most profound meaning of forgiveness and reconciliation despite experiencing circumstances unimaginable to most people.
"When I first came to Seton Hall, they asked me to discuss my experiences. I was so bewildered. What do they want to know? To me, at that point, I didn't talk about the Holocaust because who would talk about it? I was invited to come and talk for a Holocaust Observance in the Chapel. I had my prison uniform. When we left Poland I was allowed to take only seven dresses, and among them I took this. They counted this as a dress. You know, a piece of fabric to buy and make myself a dress I can always do, but I wanted to have this as my memento. Why? I would never know. And I brought it and it travelled with me to Israel, and from Israel to here. They had it on the altar in the Chapel. I said, 'Now we have arrived someplace. And now we’re joining hands and working together.' Shortly after, I met Sister Rose and we became joined together. I was so impressed by what she was doing and the Sister Rose Thering Fund and the University in continuing this work."
Kaufman shared why Schönberg's A Survivor from Auschwitz holds a special significance for her. She was incarcerated in a concentration camp very close to Warsaw and saw the flames of the uprising, hoping to be liberated. In the last minute, owners of the factory, who had purchased her and the others for a few dollars each as slave laborers, sent them to Germany. There, she spent another two years in the camps.
"I returned to Poland on a trip with Governor Kean. We went to Auschwitz and Israel. When we were in Krakow, I took them to the street where I lived and I showed them the house where I was living and where I was working. The reporters asked me whether I feel some remorse or feeling like that. I said no." She said, "I felt like a victor. I said this is my victory because I survived through, though I lost my father. I lost my sister. We are not going to lay down. I said, 'Look how I live now. I have a marvelous family, and I have a good life.' So you know you have to go forward. You have to remember the Holocaust, but this is not enough. You have to do something about it. You have to go beyond the suffering, and you have to talk about the suffering, so people will know where you need to go from there on. And you need to look at the other. When we were doing this concert this year I said make sure you include other genocides and other problems. This is a human issue, and we are part of humanity. To me this is a very important message that needs to be delivered."
Kaufman wanted this event to build bridges of peace among all peoples.
"The significance of this concert is that people of all religions – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism - listened here together. Pieces of music like Beethoven’s Ninth unite people, giving them a message that we are in this world together and we have to work for peace. That’s the only way we can have some understanding," she explained.
Kaufman said, "I'm so grateful that I have the opportunity to work with Seton Hall University. The chance to touch so many more lives through Prayer for Peace means a lot to me. This is why I'm working so hard. Next I'm going to Tennessee for the National Religious Broadcasters International Christian Media Convention that will have 2,000 people. That why I’m updating and reissuing my book, Luna's Life: A Journey of Forgiveness and Triumph. There are so many people we need to reach."
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