Modern Exodus: The Sarajevo Haggadah’s Musical Journey

This piece was first published in The Times of Israel.

Detail of 'Maror' page of the Sarajevo Haggadah (courtesy of the Foundation for Jewish Culture)

Detail of ‘Maror’ page of the Sarajevo Haggadah (courtesy of the Foundation for Jewish Culture)

One of the millions of readers of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks’ 2008 “The People of the Book” was Merima Ključo, a Bosnian-born musician who left Sarajevo in 1993 during the Bosnian War. The novel offers a fictionalized history of the Sarajevo Haggadah, the medieval Spanish illustrated manuscript whose survival was oft perilous on its 650-year journey from Catalonia to Venice, to Sarajevo, to Vienna, and back to Sarajevo again, where until recently it was on permanent display at the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Like all Sarajevans, Ključo, 39, was already aware of the Sarajevo Haggadah. A prized national treasure that Jews, Christians and Muslims alike have endangered themselves to keep from destruction, the book is seen as the ultimate survivor and a potent symbol of the non-sectarian unity of the people of the Bosnian capital.

Ključo, a concert accordionist who performs with chamber and philharmonic orchestras around the world, decided that she, too, must retell the story of the famed Jewish manuscript—but through the language of music. The result is “The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book,” a multimedia work, which is the 2013-2014 New Jewish Culture Network’s music commission.

Click here to read more and watch a video preview.

© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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