A haunting rendition of Lu Yehi by Yaron Herman and his trio

Israel is fertile ground for jazz.  I have covered some of the Israeli jazz scene in a previous post.

Yaron Herman

Yaron Herman is ירון הרמן‎ is a French-Israeli jazz pianist now living in Paris. After a few years of piano study, he attended the Boston, MA Berklee College of Music at age 19. He then moved to Paris, France, where he began his recording career at age 21.  He is inspired by such jazz legends as Keith JarrettPaul BleyLennie Tristano and Brad Mehldau – my favorites too!   His website can be found at http://yaronherman.com/ 

BBC’s Kevin LeGendre reviewed Herman’s Muse album, where Lu Yehi is featured, in 2009. “Melodically gifted as he is, Herman is no slouch as an improviser and a fleet, precise right hand unfurls a number of sparkling, at times Chick Corea-like statements in which the Spanish-Arabic flourish is strong.”

Herman’s cover of Lu Yehi follows the song’s haunting melody but introduces a jazzy dissonance that evokes the hurt, chaos and uncertainty of war.

Lu Yehi

The famous Israeli song LU YEHI – לוּ יְהִי  (May It Be) was written and composed by Naomi Shemer during the Yom Kippur War (1973).  Naomi also famously wrote “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (“Jerusalem of Gold”) in 1967 after Israel won the Six-Day War.  In “Lu Yehi”, Naomi Shemer hopes for a quick end to the war and for the safe return of IDF soldiers (“This is the end of the summer, the end of the road, let them come back.”)

Lyrics in Hebrew and English (from Hebrewsongs.com)

Od yesh mifras lavan ba’ofek
mul anan shachor kaved
Kol shenevakesh – Lu Yehi.

Ve’im bacholonot ha’erev
Or nerot hachag ro’ed –
Kol shenevakesh – Lu Yehi.

Lu Yehi, Lu Yehi, Ana, Lu Yehi
Kol shenevakesh – Lu Yehi.

Ma kol anot ani shomei’a
Kol shofar vekol tupim
Kol shenevakesh lu yehi

Lu tishama betoch kawl eileh
Gam tefila achat mipi
Kol shenevakesh lu yehi

Lu yehi…

Betoch sh’chuna ktana mutzelet
Bait kat im gag adom
Kol shenevakesh lu yehi

Zeh sof hakayitz, sof haderech
Ten lahem lashuv halom
Kol shenevakesh lu yehi

Lu yehi…

Ve’im pit’om yizrach mei’ofel
Al rosheinu or kochav
Kol shenevakesh lu yehi

Az ten shalva veten gam ko’ach
Lechol eileh shenohav
Koll shenevakesh – lu yehi

Lu yehi………

There is still a white sail on the horizon
Opposite a heavy black cloud
All that we ask for – may it be

And if in the evening windows
The light of the holiday candles flickers
All that we seek – may it be

May it be, may it be – Please – may it be
All that we seek – may it be.

What is the sound that I hear
The cry of the shofar and the sound of drums
All that we ask for – may it be

If only there can be heard within all this
One prayer from my lips also
All that we seek – may it be

May it be…

Within a small, shaded neighborhood
Is a small house with a red roof
All that we ask for, may it be

This is the end of summer, the end of the path
Allow them to return safely here
All that we seek, may it be

May it be…

And if suddenly, rising from the darkness
Over our heads, the light of a star shines
All that we ask for, may it be

Then grant tranquility and also grant strength
To all those we love
All that we seek, may it be

May it be…

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Rabbi Jacob… (Jews in Paris in the 13-14th Century)

My francophone friends will look at the title of this post and immediately think of the movie “The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob” (French: Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob) featuring the great Louis de Funès.

But this is about another Rabbi Jacob!

This Kosher Pizza joint in the Marais Jewish neighborhood of Paris was likely not a XIIIth Century establishment…

Jewish life in the Paris region in the middle ages was a veritable roller coaster.  Local edicts would allow Jews to live in Paris, only to be reversed 20 years later.  Yet, Jewish communities would re-establish themselves quickly, principally along trade routes.  In 1182, King Philippe II ( Auguste) seizes the debts owed to Jews and their real estate, forcing synagogues to become churches.  Jews are called back in 1198.  They are partially expulsed in 1253, but a royal order gives them access to old cemeteries and synagogues.

In 1272, there are signs of Yeshivots on the right bank of the Seine. In 1283, Phillipe le Hardi, Duke of Burgundy, enabled the community to expand somewhat.  During the 13th Century, there were about 4,500 to 7,500 Jews or 3% to 5% of the total population of about 150,000.  Yet, 20 years later, the Jews were driven out of Paris by Philippe le Bel in 1306.

This brings us to the cemetery at the rue Pierre-Sarrazin…

ruepierresarrasin18981.jpeg

The building under which the Jewish Cemetery was found. (Photo dated 1898)

In 1849, during work on a building belonging to Louis Hachette on the Rue Pierre-Sarrazin, about 80 headstones were uncovered, belonging to a Jewish cemetery dating back to the XIIth Century.  This large cemetery was contemporary to a prosperous era for the Jewish community of Paris.

What about Rabbi Jacob?

One of the most amazing headstones found at the cemetery of the Rue Pierre-Sarrazin is that of Rabbi Jacob, son of Rabbi Haïm. (see below)

85-004665

Inscription
Traduction (Nahon, 1986)

זאת מצבת קבו[רת]
ר[בי] יעקב ב[ן] הר[ב]
חיים שנפטר
לגן עדן יום א
פרשט אמר
שנת שלשה
עשר לפרט
תנבה

This is the headstone of
Rabbi Jacob son of Rabbi
Haïm who left us for
the garden of Eden the first day
of the parasha Emor
in the year three
ten of the computus 
May his soul be bound up in the bond of life

The headstone was discovered in 1849 and given to the Museum of Cluny in Paris (Museum of the Middle Ages), cataloged in 1912, and given to the Paris Museum of Jewish Art and History.  The estimated date of Rabbi Jacob’s death is April 17, 1253.

Conclusion…

Jewish life survived the Middle Ages despite incredible odds.  Communities were regularly pushed from one place to another, losing their fortunes, places of worship and cemeteries.  The headstones found under the Hachette building on the Rue Pierre-Sarrazin are a miracle of history.  And the history told through them enables us to better appreciate the struggles and the extraordinary resilience of our people.