Broward County, FL - Holocaust Survivor Band Stars in New Jewish Music Video
Broward County, FL - Two elderly Holocaust survivors are likely the oldest performers ever to be featured in a Jewish music video, as the pair of South Florida residents join forces with Chasidic singer Lipa Schmeltzer in a remake of a classic Yiddish song.
90 year old Saul Dreier of Coconut Creek and 86 year old Ruby Sosnowicz of Delray Beach have been entertaining audiences nationwide since the two men teamed up and formed the Holocaust Survivor Band in 2014. Dreier, originally from Krakow, spent the war years in three concentration camps before being liberated at Mauthausen. Sosnowicz, who hails from Warsaw, was hidden by a Polish farmer during the war.
The band was Dreier’s brainchild, an idea that came to him after learning of the death of the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor, 110 year old Alice Herz-Sommer, a trained pianist whose musical skills helped her survive the war in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
“I wondered what could I do to keep her memory alive?” Dreier told VIN News. “I woke up my wife Clara and I told her I have an idea. I would like to create a Holocaust survivor band. At that time, I was 89. She said to me, ‘You crazy.’”
Undaunted, Dreier approached his rabbi after services to ask him his opinion. Once again, the answer wasn’t the one Dreier was hoping to hear.
“He said to me, ‘Saul, you are 89. You are 17 years retired. You are busy taking care of the synagogue. What do you need this for?’” recalled Dreier.
Having had his idea vetoed by the two people whose opinions he valued most, Dreier refused to give up on his plan and he purchased a brand new set of drums. The last time Dreier had played the drums was after the war when he was living in a displaced persons camp in Italy in the years following World War II.
“I paid someone to set it up,” said Dreier. “My wife came home she saw the drums and she was very upset, but I told her not to worry.”
With the first steps of his plan firmly in place, Dreier got to work recruiting more members for his band. A mutual friend suggested he contact Ruby Sosnowicz and the two clicked immediately. The two began to rehearse, with Dreier on the drums and Sosnowicz on the keyboard and Dreier returned again to his rabbi, this time to ask for permission to use the shul for the band’s first concert.
The Holocaust Survivor Band played its first concert at Temple Chaim in Margate, Florida in July of 2014. Approximately 400 people came to enjoy the free performance, featuring a wide array of Jewish music and a hefty dose of nostaligia.
“After that it took off like a rocket,” observed Dreier.
It was a flyer posted in a kosher grocery in Miami Beach advertising a Succos concert in the fall of 2014 that catapulted the band to the next level. Producer and composer Cecelia Margules was in Kastner’s Market when she noticed the advertisement bearing the words “Holocaust Survivor Band. It’s not about the Holocaust. Come, make freilach.” Having produced several Holocaust related videos, Mrs. Margules went to the performance and approached the pair after the concert had concluded.
“I took their card and told them I might want to do something with them in the future,” said Mrs. Margules, the daughter of Holocaust survivors. “He gave me his card and probably figured he would never see me again.”
In fact, Mrs. Margules realized that Dreier and Sosnowicz would be the perfect addition to a concert she was planning as part of the entertainment for a Holocaust survivor weekend being planned in Las Vegas. The two performed live at The Venetian with renowned Israeli vocalist Dudu Fisher and suddenly found themselves in high demand. The Holocaust Survivor Band has since been profiled by several major media outlets and has done concerts at venues all over the United States. Dreier and Sosnowicz submitted their recently released single Peace for the World for consideration for the 2016 Grammy Awards.
Dreier, who spent some of the war years with Chazan Dovid Werdyger, and would accompany the famed cantor as he sang nightly in their barracks by tapping a beat on a pair of spoons, was honored this past July by the Werdyger family at the premiere of a movie about Polish Jewry. The four Werdyger brothers serenaded Dreier with a song composed by their father during the war and presented him with a set of four spoons, two wooden and two silver, in appreciation for the music that the two prisoners shared during their darkest hours.
Below video: Earlier this year a reunion with Saul Drier and Werdyger Family.
Dreier and Sosnowicz recently traveled to Brooklyn in order to film one of their latest projects, a music video featuring a remake of the Yiddish classic Shain Vi Dilevone. Teaming up once again with Mrs. Margules and director Daniel Finkelman, the Holocaust Survivor Band stars in a five minute video, with Lipa Schmeltzer posing as a reluctant waiter who joins the band as a vocalist when their singer arrives late for a nightclub performance.
Shining the spotlight on the energy and vitality of the two vibrant Holocaust survivors was a golden opportunity, according to Mrs. Margules, who wrote new music and lyrics to go along with the song made popular by the Barrie Sisters.
“This is not just showing the Holocaust and what happened and the sadness, but showing life and hope and creativity and that life goes on,” explained Mrs. Margules.
At an age when most people are content to spend their days relaxing, Dreier and Sosnowicz continue their mission of sharing music, the one thing that sustained them during the war years, with the world. A second music video for the Holocaust Survivor Band is already in the works and will feature an updated version of the 1928 song Mein Shtetele Belz.
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