We have, by now, heard the story of the Holocaust
We have, by now, heard the story of the Holocaust—and the stories of the Holocaust—in many different ways: the Hebrew school horror tales of our childhoods, the academic analyses of our college days, the black-and-white melodramas of Spielbergian tearjerker. We have not, however, typically discussed the Holocaust over whisky and upscale pub grub in hip performance spaces.
That changed last night when Clare Burson, a young Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter, took the stage at Joe’s Pub, in lower Manhattan, to perform “Silver & Ash,” a song cycle about her grandmother, who at 19 years old fled Leipzig for Memphis, Tennessee, never seeing her parents again. It’s a meditation on memory and loss, family and dislocation, based on Burson’s travels to Eastern Europe to investigate her family history. (A Brown graduate and former Fulbright scholar, Burson was two years ago awarded a Six Points Fellowship, for young Jewish artists, which funded her travels. “I was interested in using my music to explore my Jewish identity in a way that still could resonate with and be relevant to people regardless of their faith and ethnicity,” she writes in an accompanying pamphlet.)
It’s a jarring experience at first, hearing stories of Kristallnacht, songs of lost family, memories of lost lives, while standing cheek-by-jowl at a packed bar, tumbler of Scotch in hand. And it’s unexpected to hear these things from a sultry-voiced indie-rock chick with guitar slung over her shoulder and backed by a quartet of guitarist, bassist, drummer, and electronic-gadget-player. But, soon enough, you realize that it works. The songs are lovely, and evocative, and you begin to think of Europe’s lost Jewry—of Burson’s grandmother’s lost childhood, and lost family—not as distant, sepia-toned artifacts but actual people, with immediate troubles.
Burson’s great-grandparents, planning to join their daughter in the United States, had packed up all their belongings to ship across the Atlantic as they themselves headed to Latvia, unable to get a visa. (The Wehrmacht, unfortunately, got to Latvia not too much later.) The boat containing their things, their lives and memories, was bombed before it left Europe. Near the end of her set, Burson sings of them: “Bluegreen and dappled spidery light/white wedding china/cut crystal glasses/a trunk of old linens/silver that’s tarnished/at home in the sea.” It’s a bracing new way of telling the stories we must continue to hear.
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at email@example.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.