Music, it is said, is the key to the Soul. It is also the Language of the Soul. The Israel Day Concerts in Central Park for the past 22 years have had a profound impact on the discourse, the conversation and the history of the State of Israel.
Perhaps, some are not aware but there has been a major Kulturkampf for the Soul of the Jewish People both in Israel and the Diaspora for the past 22 years. The Concert was designed to help win the Soul of our People. Israel and America are stronger today because of it. Much still needs to be accomplished.
On Sept. 13, 1993, the Oslo Accords were signed and brought misery to the State of Israel. Israel so much wanted Peace that it bent over backwards to make a deal that subsequently has cost over a thousand lives and haunts all to this very day. On December 13, 1993, the day that the Oslo Accords were to be implemented, Dr. Joseph Frager, along with a few others, organized a Rally of over 5000 people in Times Square to oppose its implementation. That was the largest Rally of its kind in North America. In order to maintain the momentum against the disaster that awaited, a Concert in Central Park was proposed. The actual idea came from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat. The financing came from Carl Freyer, of Blessed Memory, and his wife Sylvia. That was how it all began. Dr. Frager helped Gaby Goslan to organize the first Concert and has organized every one subsequently. People never like rallies but always came out for Concerts. A Concert always attracted a larger crowd. General Ariel Sharon, who was the leading force in Israel against the Oslo Accords, was the Speaker at the first Concert held in the Spring of 1994. It was a huge success and eventually led to the Likud election victory of 1996.
Dr. Manfred R. Lehmann Z'L and Rose Mattus Z'L were instrumental in making the Concerts happen. Dr. Lehmann was the Concert's first chairman. Shlomo Carlbach z'l performed at the Concert in 1994, not long before his passing. It was his last major performance. The Central Park Concerts have continued unabated since that time.The reason that a man like Carl Freyer z'l spent the last 20 years of his life spending literally millions of dollars fighting the forces that were trying to destroy the Soul of the Jewish People and America, and a man like Dr. Manfred Lehmann z'l, on his deathbed, spoke of the Concert in Central Park scheduled for a week later, is because these Giants of Men understood the importance of what could be achieved via a Concert with a Message.
The Concert in Central Park has featured and highlighted many important causes, many of which have been historic. When a young man saved the records of Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust from the incinerator by the Swiss Banks, he spoke at the Concert because it existed and was the largest forum in the world for his public expression of why he did such a heroic action. He was going to be jailed by the Swiss. He was able to get asylum in the United States. He said the movie on Oskar Schindler had a profound influence upon him. It influenced him to save the records which turned out to be worth 1.25 Billion Dollars for the Surviving Families. His name is Christoph Meili and he was brought to the Concert by then Senator Al D'amato in 1997.
Each year, the need for a large gathering to send a message to the leaders in America and Israel seem to be growing. In 2003, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu was the Guest Speaker. The Concert afforded Prime Minister Netanyahu with an opportunity to reconnect with his Base of Supporters and devoted Zionists in America. The Intifada of 2000, the assassination of Israeli Minister and General Rechavam Zeevi ("Gandi") in Israel and Sept.11, 2001 World Trade Center Attacks were fresh on everyone's minds at the Israel Day Concert in Central Park.
In 2005, the Concert in Central Park was dedicated to preventing the expulsion of 10,000 Jews from Gush Katif. It was one of the last major protests against the so called "Disengagement." Unfortunately, the traumatic and foolhardy move was made anyway but it sent a powerful message that can only help in the future to prevent recurrences. This year marks 10 years since the Expulsion from Gush Katif and the Concert will focus to some degree on this terrible chapter of Israel's history.
When 8 beautiful students of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva were brutally murdered in 2008, the Concert was there for them. It highlighted their families' plight and mourned their loss. Similarly and tragically, the Concert this year will be dedicated to the Kidnapping/Murder of the three boys-Gilad Shaar HY'D, Naftali Fraenkel HY'D, Eyal Yifrach H'YD and to all others who died Al Kiddush Hashem (to sanctify G-d's name) HY'D.
In 2009, Noam Shalit, the father of Gilad Shalit, spoke to a crowd of over 20,000 at the Concert in Central Park. He spoke from the heart and won over the crowd. He was not an observant man but he was a proud Jew, first and foremost, fighting for his son's life. In October 2011, Gilad Shalit was finally freed. The Concert may have helped immensely. It helped unite the Jewish People so that a precious Jewish life could be saved. Our Sages have always said that "if you save one life you have saved the world." Any time thousands of Jews unite, G-d takes action. The message is loud and clear. Every political figure in America is influenced by a massive show of support for Israel. The concert is exactly that.
Although the world has turned a deaf ear to the plight of Jonathan Pollard, the Concert remains one of the major forums for his pardon and release. When BDS (the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement began to infiltrate College campuses, and even the Celebrate Israel Parade, the Concert in Central Park was and is a bastion of strength against the movement.The Concert will once again make it clear that the BDS movement against Israel has no place in America, or anywhere in the world.
The Concert this year will also highlight the looming Iranian Crisis. With a "Very Bad Deal" proposed for June 30, 2015, the Concert will call for increasing sanctions and more aggressive action to prevent a "North Korea" (which now has at least 6 Nuclear Bombs already), placed smack in the middle of the Middle East.
The Concert, Organized by Dr. Joe and Karen Frager, will once again be Chaired by Dr. Paul and Drora Brody, marking a decade of their creative and devoted Chairmanship. The Concert annually celebrates the Jewish People's ETERNAL BOND with the UNDIVIDED CAPITAL of Israel YERUSHALAYIM and the heroic communities of Yehuda, Shomron, the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights.
Presidential hopeful, Governor Mike Huckabee will keynote the event. This is the first time in 22 years that a Presidential Contender has spoken at the Concert in Central Park. This is a Very Big Deal. Gov. Huckabee is one of Israel's staunchest supporters of Israel and the right of Israelis to live and build anywhere in our Promised Land. Drs. Frager and Brody have personally witnessed Gov. Huckabee's unparalleled sincerity and commitment to the people and Land of Israel, having had the privilege of taking him to Israel on four occasions.
The Concert this year will also highlight the looming Iranian Crisis, as Israel and the world face their worst existential threat. With a "Very Bad Deal" proposed for June 30, 2015, the Concert will call for increasing sanctions and more aggressive action to prevent a "North Korea" (which now has at least 6 Nuclear Bombs already), placed smack in the middle of the Middle East. Ambassador John Bolton who is America's leading expert on Iran will also address the crowd which is expected to be between 10-20,000 strong. Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, representing the recently formed Jewish Rapid Response Coalition, who has served in many pro-Israel administrations, will hilight a rally planned for the Summer to monitor and influence the vote regarding nuclear Iran in Congress.
Minister of Science, Technology and Space, MK Danny Danon, will be sending a strong message. ZOA President Morton Klein, RZA President Martin Oliner, who is also the Mayor of Lawrence, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Chairman of the American Friends of Likud Ken Abramowitz, National Council of Young Israel President Farley Weiss, Rabbi David Algaze of Havurat Yisrael, Helen Freedman of AFSI, along with other prominent Speakers will be featured. Well known politicians, Assemblyman David Weprin and City Councilman Rory Lancman will appear.
World famous musicians, led by Musical Producer Zvika Bornstein, include Alex Clare, Gad Elbaz, and Lipa Schmeltzer. A star studded group of performers include Israeli stars Tal Vaknin, accompanied by pianist-extraordinaire Shlomi Aharoni, Mati Shriki, French singing stars Steve Lucas and Israel Alliel, complemented by American sensations Shloiime Dachs, Avraham Rosenblum – accompanied by Ruby Harris, Izzy Kieffer, Heshy R and Sam Ramras – Chaim Kiss and young Cantorial pheenom Aryeh Pollack. Chazzan Jerry Markovitz will perform the Hatikva and the National Anthem. Shloime Dachs, will lead the Orchestra, as he has ably done for most of the past 10 years. Broadway Youth Ensemble and Born kids will also perform. Nachum Segal, once again, will be the Concert's Emcee. Odeleya Jacobs is the Media Consultant.
The Concert is FREE. It takes place this Sunday, on May 31st from 2:30 to 7:30 PM, Rain or shine, at Central Park's SummerStage (enter at 5th Ave. & 72 St.). Come early, as there will be tight security. No large bags or backpacks will be allowed. One's presence sends a message to all Americans who love Israel. Be seen and be heard.
Some of the many noteworthy religious figures that have appeared since the inception of the Concert, include Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh of Chabad, Rabbi David Fendel of Yeshivat Hesder Sderot, Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg of the YI of Jamaica Estates, Rabbi David Algaze of Havurat Yisrael in Forest Hills, Rabbi Raphael Benchimol of Manhaatan Sephardic Cong., Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie of the Safra Synagogue, Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, Director, Iggud HaRabbanim.
Israeli MK Arieh Eldad, MK Rabbi Chaim Druckman and MK Danny Danon have presented eloquent speeches.U.S. Politicians that have spoken over the last 22 years, and made an impact include Senators Ted Cruz and Charles Schumer, NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, former NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, NYS Assemblymen Dov Hikind and David Weprin, City Councilman Rory Lancman and Councilman James Gennaro, NYS Republican chairman Michael Steele, and short-lived Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain, Prof. Alan Dershowitz and many others.
Leaders of Jewish organizations who have delivered important messages over the years include Mort Klein of the ZOA, Shani Hikind, Daniel Luria and Yossi Baumol of Ateret Cohanim/Jerusalem Chai, Rob Muchnick of Manhigut, Scott Feltman of the One Israel Fund, Ari Lieberman of the Hebron Fund, Josh Hasten, representative of Sderot, Ken Abromowitz and J. Phillip Rosen, Chairmen of the American Friends of Likud, Rabbi Farley Weiss, Rabbis Pesach Lerner and Shlomo Mostofsky of the National Council of Young Israel, and Rabbi David Nesenoff, who exposed the anti-Semite Helen Thomas.
Singing stars, from all over the world, have included Yoni Shlomo of France in 2006, who sang an ode to his friend Ilan Halimi of France, who was brutally murdered. Other Superstars have included Shlomo Carlebach z'l, Avraham Fried, Gad Elbaz, Lipa!, Benny Friedman, EDON, Piamenta Yehuda Green, Shlomo Katz, Eitan Katz, Aaron Razel, Blue Fringe, Avner Levy, Shlomo Haviv, Elron Zabatani, Elad Snir, Elram Amram, Simply Tsfat, Meyer and Baruch Abittan, the Maccabeats, Jerry Markovitz, Avi Peretz and Ouri Bitan, Chaim Kiss, Sandy Shmuely, Shalshelet, Nachas, Choni G., Yitzy Bald's New York Boys Choir, Gershon Veroba, Michael Ian Elias, Izzy Kieffer and Heshy R., Yood, Pey Dalid, Ari Lesser, Beryl Teitelbaum, Eytan, Broadway Youth Choir, Born Dancers, "Remedy," "Except Saturday," Battle of the Bands winner Yaakov Chesed, Moses Bibi, Jewish Star Junior Finalists: Dovid Moskovitz, Mendel Piekarski and Shlomo Skolnik, Israeli Fusion Band HaMakor, Light Intonation, Chazzanim Chaim Dovid Berson, Joel Kaplan, Yaakov Rosten, Meir Goldberg , and many other exciting performers.
This year, more than ever, let your voices be heard! Your attendance and support help to ensure the survival of Israel and the Jewish People. "For the Sake of Israel, Dare Not Be Silent!"