Desert Island Texts: My Blue Piano
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Desert Island Texts: My Blue Piano

Desert Island Texts
Desert Island Texts

If you were cast away on an island with just one Jewish text for company, which would you choose?

This week Rabbi James Baaden, of Sha’arei Tsedek (North London Reform Synagogue) chooses the poem My Blue Piano

Desert Island Texts
Desert Island Texts

I came to Britain at the end of the 1970s, in my late teens – a migrant. I left Texas, where I’d spent my adolescence: there were bad things I wanted to leave behind, and good things I looked forward to here. Just like migrants today.

I became hooked on British radio, avidly following Gardeners’ Question Time (I had no garden) and Desert Island Discs: how wonderful to hear an interesting, distinguished person reflect on life via music, plus three books – the Bible, Shakespeare and a third book.

Like many Jews, I was dismayed in 1989 when Desert Island Discs invited Diana Mosley, widow of fascist leader Oswald, to be the castaway. She reminisced admiringly about Hitler – and expressed doubt that six million Jews had died in the Shoah. If I had to choose a third book, I might have to invent something like The Universal Book of Jewish Poetry.

In it would be Heinrich Heine, Osip Mandelstam, Nelly Sachs, Else Lasker-Schueler, Joseph Brodsky, Leah Goldberg, Max Jacob, Barbara (Monique Serf), and many others: in their languages, with translations. Plus poets of today, such as Elaine Feinstein, Ruth Fainlight, Carol Rumens, all three British Jewish women (something rarely noted).

If limited to one poem, maybe it would be My blue Piano (Mein blaues Klavier), an elegy written by the great German poet Lasker-Schueler, an old woman and refugee in British Palestine in the early 1940s. The poet evoked her lost world – German literature – conjuring it up as a mysterious blue piano.

“Now the rats are dancing” in it, she mourned, and in her new home, Jerusalem, she yearned to be admitted – still living – to Heaven. I’m sure it expresses the sorrows and yearnings of countless migrants today.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments