What is the world’s most famous Jewish musician doing in Poland this weekend? He is bringing the message of “One Day” to Auschwitz:
“One day this all will change
treat people the same
stop with the violence
down with the hate
one day we’ll all be free
and proud to be
under the same sun
singing songs of freedom”
“One Day,” a world-wide anthem of peace, was NBC’s official song of the Winter Olympics, and played at the World Cup concluding ceremonies.
Matisyahu’s performance in Oświęcim, the Polish city renamed Auschwitz in 1939 by the Nazis, is the brainchild of Darek Maciborek, a radio DJ for Poland’s most popular station for young adults. Maciborek has built a three-day music and camping festival to promote tolerance called Life Festival, which attracted 15,000 young Poles last summer. The Festival is dedicated to battling anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of xenophobia and to send a message of peace and tolerance from Auschwitz/Oświęcim.
This mega-music Festival is the latest incarnation of efforts to offset the immense evil perpetrated there. Oświęcim is home to a German educational center. Young Germans who choose to perform their national service at the Auschwitz State Museum reside and study there. The Auschwitz Jewish Center is also located there. This precious museum, built by American Jews, the Polish Government, and the city of Oświęcim, resides in the ancestral home of the Kornreich family to commemorate hundreds of years of Jewish life in Oświęcim before the war.
There are some who feel that Auschwitz should be condemned forever as a place of evil, and that efforts to bring a festival, a tolerance center, or visitors’ center are misplaced, if not sacrilegious.
Others believe that the way to prevent another Auschwitz is to draw the world’s attention to what happened here, and use this as a means of teaching tolerance.
One thing is certain: Saturday night’s concert will be one of the most emotional performances of this young musician’s life. Last year during his performance in Krakow, Matisyahu was overwhelmed by his audience. “During my show in Krakow last year, I kind of lost it,” said Matisyahu, “I got very emotional, and had to leave and the come back. There were a lot of Survivors at the concert and it was very emotional.”
This Saturday night, just a few miles from where a million Jews were murdered, Matisyahu will sing his anthem of a peaceful future for tens of thousands of young Poles. “All my life I’ve been waiting for, I’ve been praying for,” sings Matisyahu in “One Day”, “for the people to say, that we don’t wanna fight no more, they’ll be no more wars, and our children will play.”
And while we will not know how the message of “One Day” will influence these young people right away, we can appreciate what it represents. Matisyahu is writing a new chapter in Polish-Jewish relations with his music.
Yonah Bookstein, a leading voice of the Next Generation of American Jewry, is an internationally recognized expert in Jewish innovation, founder of Jewlicious Festival and Executive Rabbi at JConnectLA. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiYonah.