Songs from the Holocaust highlight Yom HaShoah event

The songs are "Eli, Eli" (My God, My God), with text by Hannah Senesh and music by Israeli composer David Zahavi; and "Ashrei Hagafrur," with text also by Senesh and music by Lawrence Avery, a Conservative cantor in New York. Richards arranged both.

"These two songs are quite well-known," he said. "They have been sung a lot at the youth camps in this country."

In fact, a lot of Senesh's Hebrew poetry has been set to music over the years, he said. She was a young woman who left Hungary and went to the former Palestine in the 1930s as a teenager. Enlisting in the Palestinian Brigade, which was part of the British army, she was sent into Czechoslovakia to try to bring people out. She was captured and killed when she was in her mid-20s.

Her words to "Ashrei Hagafrur" seem to express her bravery:

"Blessed is the match consumed in a kindling flame/Blessed is the flame that burns in the heart's secret place/Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honor's sake."

The other song, "Eili, Eili," almost seems a foretelling of what she would miss because she died young:

"My God, My God, don't let these things ever end: the sand and the sea, the rush of the waters, the crash of the heavens, the prayer of man."

During the concert, former director of the San Francisco Community Chorus, Victor Fink, will perform his "Warsaw Ghetto Overture" on piano. The piece is divided into three sections: "The Ghetto Under the Nazis," "Sher," and "The Enemy Approaches," noted the Berkeley composer.

Elsewhere in the East Bay, the children's chorus of Tehiyah Day School and Cantors Linda Hirschhorn and Ilene Keyes will perform for the Alameda County community observance, also taking place at 7:30 p.m. April 15, at Temple Beth Sholom, 642 Dolores Ave., San Leandro. The Rev. Bruce Bramlett of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in San Rafael will speak on "The Lessons of the Holocaust for the World Today," and winners of the Isaac Sevi Holocaust Writing and Art Contest will be announced as well.

Other observances are set for 7:30 p.m. April 15 at Congregation Beth El, 2301 Vine St., Berkeley; at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 14 at Temple Beth Torah, 42000 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont; and at 1:30 p.m. April 14 at the Hillside Clubhouse in Rossmoor. For information, call Riva Gambert at the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay, (510) 839-2900, ext. 38.