The voice of peace

Is­raeli singer David Broza is renowned for his mu­sic and ac­tivism. Jenni Frazer talked to him ahead of his Lon­don con­cert

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - MAR­RIAGE AN­GELA EP­STEIN

CON­VER­SA­TION WITH the Is­raeli singer­song­writer David Broza is a bit like sit­ting next to a water­fall — no, make that a tor­rent.

Ideas and words pour out of Broza in an al­most un­ceas­ing flow, from mem­o­ries of his beloved grand­fa­ther, Welles­ley Aron, to the peace work he him­self does. And al­ways, al­ways, the mu­sic is at the fore­front of the talk, to the point where I thought he might burst into song.

First things first: David Si­mon Ber­wick Broza was born in Haifa in 1955, the son of an Is­raeli-Bri­tish busi­ness­man, Arthur Broza, and Sharona Aron, a folk singer. It’s not ex­actly the most Is­raeli of names, I say, and he laughs, mut­ters a bit and says that most Is­raelis don’t have mid­dle names, although all three of his chil­dren do.

And… we are off. Broza wants to tell me about his names. Welles­ley Aron, his grand­fa­ther, was the founder of Habonim, the Zion­ist youth move­ment, and also co­founder of the Arab-Is­raeli peace vil­lage, Neve Shalom. Ber­wick Tay­lor, it turns out, was the son of one of Welles­ley’s Chris­tian half­si­b­lings, Vi­o­let, and had died in France in the First World War. “So when I was born, my grand­fa­ther asked my par­ents to give me a name for Ber­wick; and Si­mon is for my father’s father.”

Broza adored Welles­ley Aron, a re­mark­able man who, the singer re­veals, was on the same run­ning team at Je­sus Col­lege, Cam­bridge, as the Char­i­ots of Fire ath­lete, Harold Abra­hams. “My grand­fa­ther re­ally be­lieved in the re­birth of the Jewish na­tion, and went to Pales­tine for the first time in 1925. He lis­tened to a lec­ture by Chaim Weiz­mann, and found a deep con­nec­tion. Later he be­came Weiz­mann’s po­lit­i­cal sec­re­tary”.

Like his grand­fa­ther, who spent years shut­tling be­tween Lon­don and Is­rael, Broza had a peri­patetic life. Un­til he was 12 the fam­ily (Broza has a sis­ter, Talia) lived in Is­rael but then “my father moved us to Madrid, for a busi­ness op­por­tu­nity. He in­vested all his money and lost it. We got stuck un­til we made it back.”

So Broza grew up in Franco’s Spain, but it had a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence: his sub­lime gui­tar-play­ing, full of fla­menco, driv­ing rhythms, un­like any­thing his Is­raeli con­tem­po­raries were do­ing. Some songs of Broza’s are not so much played as at­tacked, the pas­sion ooz­ing through the gui­tar strings so you can al­most hear the heel taps on the stage.

At one point Arthur and Sharon Broza be­gan to worry about their son, and — rad­i­cally — ex­tracted him from Madrid to un­dergo for­mal school­ing at Bri­tain’s only Jewish board­ing school, Carmel Col­lege. It was not a suc­cess. “I had one year at Carmel in the Lower Sixth but Rabbi Rosen [the head­mas­ter] asked me to leave. Then I did a term at another school in Hast­ings and that was it.” So he’d had enough of school?

“No,” says Broza, with slight in­dig­na­tion. “School had had enough of me. But I com­pleted all my obli­ga­tions and then it was time to go back to Is­rael, to do my army ser­vice.”

If he had any plans for life after the army, it was to be­come a graphic artist, as he’d done well sell­ing paint­ings in the Ras­tro, Madrid’s Sun­day flea mar­ket. But, after an ini­tial stint in the army’s gen­eral corps, Broza trans­ferred to the en­ter­tain­ment unit. It was there that he re­alised his des­tiny in life, to make mu­sic.

In the first year after leav­ing the army, he was of­fered a job in a show with the poet and jour­nal­ist Yonatan Gef­fen, the nephew of Moshe Dayan. And, with Gef­fen, Broza wrote and recorded the hit song

Yi­hye Tov, or It Will Be Good.

For some singers it might be hard to be de­fined by a song first per­formed in 1977, when just 22 years old. But Broza doesn’t see

Yi­hye Tov — or other an­themic songs he has writ­ten in more than 30 al­bums — like that. “My mu­sic has evolved. When I sing Yi­hye Tov I sing it to­day, as I am now. None of my songs feel to me as though their time is up.”

And, cheer­fully, he re­jects sug­ges­tions that the song is an al­ba­tross. “Look, you could say life it­self is an al­ba­tross. But it [the song] gets the al­ba­tross to spread its wings and let it go. It’s al­most

My father lost all his money. We were stuck in Madrid’

RE­CENTLY, I bumped into an old school friend and — both be­ing Jewish moth­ers — the catch up con­ver­sa­tion in­evitably in­volved an au­dit of our grow­ing fam­i­lies. For­tu­nately, I vaguely re­mem­bered that this woman’s son was a ris­ing star in cor­po­rate fi­nance and so pro­vided the cue for her to glow about his stel­lar ca­reer. (I got at least ten bars of If you could see him now.)

How­ever, when I shmoozed that this boy was quite the catch, his mother told me that her son had al­ready been caught — by a gor­geous young teacher, no less, who was ut­terly de­voted to him and who was adored by all the fam­ily, in­clud­ing my friend — a sig­nif­i­cant coup con­sid­er­ing the ter­ri­to­rial re­flex of the Jewish ma­tri­arch.

Yet, some­thing in her pleated brow tele­graphed a big, fat “but”. Which she duly ex­pressed. In three big, fat words: “She’s not Jewish.”

Frankly, I was sur­prised she was that both­ered. After all, here was a woman whose own fam­ily weren’t re­motely re­li­gious (think: “Should I have the lob­ster or the gam­mon?”).

Yet the idea of her son mar­ry­ing out was pro­foundly up­set­ting. Equally, the pos­si­bil­ity of re­ject­ing a girl who made her son so happy, was a source of great dis­tress. We parted with words that have walked with me since. “I sup­pose he’s old enough to work it out.”

Or is he? As a fa­mous rabbi once told a con­gre­gant who came to him about his son’s non-Jewish girl­friend, “How old is the boy? Twenty-five? You’re 30 years too late ask­ing this ques­tion.”

But how do par­ents — those who worry about the prospect of their chil­dren mar­ry­ing out — pre­vent such a match com­ing to pass?

And in post-mil­len­nial, all in­clu­sive, 21st-cen­tury Bri­tain, should it even be a con­ver­sa­tion we should be hav­ing with our chil­dren?

Some may even find it of­fen­sive to raise the ques­tion. After all, one in 10 cou­ples is now eth­ni­cally mixed, ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice of Na­tional Sta­tis­tics.

What’s more, where once some fam­i­lies mourned and sat shivah when a child chose a non-Jewish spouse, to­day, ex-com­mu­ni­ca­tion has al­most al­ways been ex­changed for, at the very least, grudg­ing ac­knowl­edg­ment.

I con­ducted a straw poll among friends and ac­quain­tances; one mum told me: “I just want my chil­dren to be happy. Mar­ry­ing some­one Jewish isn’t as im­por­tant as them hav­ing a happy life to­gether.”

The lat­est re­search shows that mar­riage be­tween Jews and nonJews is at a record high of 26 per cent.

Yet it re­mains a per­verse irony that even some of the most un­re­li­gious and as­sim­i­lated Jews still want their chil­dren to marry Jewish. Can par­ents in­flu­ence the choice of spouse?

As one young man — cur­rently squir­ing a non-Jewish girl — re­sponded to his dis­mayed father: “Why, all of a sud­den, are you so Jewish, when it comes to whom I marry ? You spend most Satur­day af­ter­noons at the foot­ball and haven’t been to shul in 20 years?”

So for those of us who would mind our chil­dren mar­ry­ing out — and yes, I de­clare my hand — is there such a thing as a pre-emp­tive strike?

Emo­tion­ally, many par­ents like my­self be­lieve (and des­per­ately hope) that hav­ing a her­itage steeped in prac­tis­ing Ju­daism will en­sure the de­sire to “do Jewish” will re­main deeply in­grained in their choices.

As Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi, has said: “Lev­els of Jewish at­tach­ment, re­li­gious ob­ser­vance and con­ti­nu­ity, di­rectly cor­re­late with ‘en­dogamy’ — mar­ry­ing in.”

Not that it stops me mak­ing lit­tle digs (not al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated) at my lot.

For ex­am­ple, when I re­cently at­tempted to make chal­lah, the rich, yeasty scent waft­ing through the house was in­tox­i­cat­ing. “Ah,” I told my boys. “You won’t get won­der­ful smells like that if you marry out.”

Though when I with­drew two hard­ened rocks from the oven they re­torted that they wouldn’t have to break their teeth on home-made chal­lah ei­ther.

One friend, how­ever, takes a far more hard-line ap­proach. She in­cor­po­rates her wishes for her chil­dren to marry in, into the bless­ing she gives them on a Fri­day night.

She says (and I’m quot­ing ver­ba­tim from the mes­sage she sent to me): “May Hashem bless and pro­tect you, may he shine his light upon you and may you al­ways be a good Jewish girl/boy and marry some­one Jewish.” And her chil­dren’s re­ac­tion? “They hate me say­ing the last bit as they think it is em­bar­rass­ing but I’ve told them that they will reach the end of their line of Jewish her­itage if they marry out.”

Rabbi Benji Silverstone, who through his in­volve­ment with Jewish ed­u­ca­tion group Aish, has worked with count­less stu­dents over the years, says the chal­lenge for par­ents who are not re­li­gious is ex­plain­ing why chil­dren shouldn’t marry out .

“They may tell their kids, ‘I won’t have Jewish grand­chil­dren if you do it.’ The re­sponse may be, ‘So what? You don’t even prac­tise your­self.’

“So par­ents have to know why it is im­por­tant to be Jewish. I take the view of Doron Korn­bluth, the au­thor of best-seller Why Be Jewish, who points out that any cross­cul­tural mar­riage has a fair chance of not work­ing out. The dif­fer­ences can even­tu­ally be­come a chal­lenge.”

The other ap­proach, sug­gests Rabbi Silverstone is “check it out be­fore you chuck it out” — that is, look at Ju­daism to see if there is any­thing in it that is worth giv­ing up the re­la­tion­ship.

“I knew of a Jewish stu­dent who was go­ing out with a non-Jewish boy — but my wife and I still in­vited them for Shab­bat meals.

“Her par­ents were fu­ri­ous with us for seem­ing to en­dorse the re­la­tion­ship, so I said to her mum and dad ‘come back in 18 months. If they are still go­ing out, you are right to have a go at me’.

“The cou­ple came a few times, then the girl started com­ing with­out the boyfriend. Other fam­i­lies started to in­vite her and she started to re­con­nect with her Ju­daism. Even­tu­ally, she saw the life she wanted and gave the boy up.”

Not ev­ery­one will agree with this plan. Some may not even have the ap­petite to try. Oth­ers may find it of­fen­sive. Ul­ti­mately, it is a per­sonal de­ci­sion.

Although, per­haps, when it comes down to it, the warm smell of freshly baked chal­lah may well be the place to start.


David Broza per­forms at a rally mark­ing 21 years since the mur­der of Yitzhak Rabin


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