Maayan: Beyond Music

Usually in this section we introduce readers to one of the members of our community. This month we are featuring Maayan, a local musical ensemble, comprised of a group of friends in Toronto. Though they have vastly different characters, tastes and backgrounds, they share the belief that the ancient sources and writings of the Jewish sages contain some of the highest expressions of art, which they explore together through their music. Their music draws inspiration from these timeless sources, and evokes a harmony that touches on the eternal – something they seek to share through their performances.

“Our performances are all about interacting with the people who come to spend time with us, because the beauty of truth is only revealed in the connection of friends,” explains Yura Kaplunovich, one of Maayan’s members.

To give you a sense of the diversity contained within Maayan, meet its members:

Ernest Itzkovich is an engineer who served in the IDF in the First Lebanon War. His father, Alexander, survived several concentration camps. Last year, in an interview on Chicago radio, Ernest said that it is important for Jews to be as one family and to convey the harmony of unity to the whole world. All we need in order to achieve this is to dare to move toward each other.

Sergey Dondish, from Moscow, is the scholar of the group, who speaks four languages and is a talented organizer of children’s programs. His late father, Aasron Israelivich, was killed in action while serving in the Russian Army – at least according to the notification his family received. In fact, he was badly wounded but survived; it was a false notification. He was a decorated hero, and was a senior official in the Ministry of Education for many years.

 Lesha Reznik, an artist and designer, believes that even though many in Maayan’s audience do not understand Hebrew, people can feel the connection to the source and to each other.

Yura Kaplunovich, an artist/sculptor, feels that Maayan is the result of a connection between friends, and the notion that loving your neighbor as yourself is the most important principle of Torah. In the last couple of thousands of years, the Hebrew language did not change; we feel the powerful energy of the sacred letters. We sing the same songs as our people sang thousands of years ago, and by this we awaken the strings of the Jewish heart.

Dima Graziani, a professional musician, is from Belarus. Babi Yar was not the only place where Jews were brutally murdered. Just outside Minsk, at a place called Yama, thousands were killed. Dima and his parents have been visiting there every year to remember all the Jews who were killed just because they were Jews. Dima strongly believes that a Jew is someone who cares about unity as the art of being human, and the songs of Maayan are presented as a representation and empowerment of that ideal.

Maayan is the Hebrew word for a wellspring, a source of living water. From a spiritual perspective it refers to the source from which our nation has been acquiring all the wisdom and strength that allows us not only to survive but to thrive and become a source of light for the rest of the world.

It is written in the book Maor VaShemesh that “the prime defense against calamity is love and unity. When there is love, unity, and friendship within Israel, no calamity can come upon them.” Only if we are together and if we are together with our Torah and holy sources, we have a future: the Torah is eternal, and therefore the Jews are eternal.

In this troubled times, when anti-Semitism has been rising, Maayan’s members wish to generate connection and unity in our community through music and discussion. All are invited to join Maayan at the evening with E. Yevtushenko dedicated to commemoration of 75 years of the tragedy at Babi Yar. Maayan was also invited by the UJA to perform at the annual Walk with Israel on May 22.

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