Music: To Kill and To Save
After his concert tour, Huberman still needed $80,000 to meet the start-up costs for his dream orchestra. He contacted Albert Einstein, then the most famous Jew in the world, to host a fund-raising dinner at New York's Waldorf Astoria—and finally, Huberman had the finances to move forward.
When the musicians and their families traveled from throughout Europe to Palestine—many for the first time in their lives—they stepped off the boat in Haifa, only to find mostly sand, intense heat, lots of bugs, and a few buildings. Some wondered what they had gotten themselves into, not yet knowing what would have happened to them had they remained behind in their homelands. (A couple musicians did quit and returned home, only to lose their lives in prison camps.)
They took a bus to Tel Aviv and began rehearsals for the first concert, to be held December 26, 1936. When Toscanini arrived, there was a media frenzy. A hundred thousand Palestinian Jews were clamoring for the 3,000 tickets. Huberman refused to play those first shows, because he wanted the orchestra to be the star. And as the musicians, under Toscanini's baton, launched into a Rossini overture, history was made. The concert, broadcast around the world, was heard by millions on the radio.
One man, who attended the landmark event as a 6-year-old, told the filmmakers that "it was a feeling of victory." The Palestine Post reported, "Mr. Huberman has turned a great calamity into a unique opportunity." And a descendant of one of the original musicians said that Huberman "was one of the great liberators of the world."
Bono was right. Music can change the world. Because it did.
Mark Moring, a former film and music editor at CT, is a writer at Grizzard Communications in Atlanta.