2: Newsreel footage of Czech-Jewish schoolchildren, ca. 1933/4, singing Naphtali Herz Imber's "Hatikvah" ("The Hope").
In this footage filmed for the American newsreel series known as "March of Time," students of the Hebrew Gymnasium (school) in the town of Múnkacs, then in Czechoslovakia (now Ukraine), sing the Zionist anthem. The words of the chorus are those that Imber wrote, and differ from the version sung today.
NB: The way in which the words of "Hatikvah" are set musically aligns with the Ashkenazic pronunciation of Hebrew, that is, the Eastern European-Jewish pronunciation, with its accents on penultimate syllables. Modern Hebrew mostly prefers Sephardic-style pronunciation, with Ashkenazic Hebrew sounding to many Israelis old-fashioned and redolent of the Diaspora. Even so, "Hatikvah" is still sung with the traditional Ashkenazic inflections (that is, "nefesh yeHUdi," rather than "nefesh yehuDI," or indeed "haTIkvah," rather than "hatiKVAH").
Suggested Activity: Play the video for students, and note the time and place of the footage. First ask them for their initial reactions to the music: what emotions do they have upon hearing the melody? Does the emotional quality of the tune match the lyrics, or does it conflict with the lyrics in some way? How might the musical setting (in a minor key, unusual for national anthems) relate to Jewish music generally, or to the history of the Jewish diaspora?
Next, ask for the students' evaluation of the aesthetic qualities of this particular performance: the way it is staged, the appearance of the surroundings, the sound of the voices, the dress of the children, the movement of the conductor. Does it resemble school performances in which they have taken part? How do the elements combine to convincingly convey the message of the performance and the footage, and what might that message be?
Then ask some questions that examine the historical context of the artifact, and the place of "Hatikvah" in the Jewish consciousness of the time. Why would schoolchildren be singing this song in this grand assembly, filmed by foreign cameras? They are not, after all, in Israel, and the State of Israel has not yet been established. What meaning would the song have carried for them, and for Jews worldwide, in this pre-State period? Why might audiences in mid-1930s America be particularly interested in seeing these European children singing this song? Why might Yad Vashem, the Israeli museum of the Holocaust, have chosen to feature this clip prominently in its galleries, where it plays on a large screen in a constant loop?
Source: Excerpt from "March of Time" newsreel series, filmed in Munkács, Czechoslovakia (USA: 1933/4, exhibited October 1935). Posted July 14, 2010, by Yad Vashem YouTube channel at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zA7ihcXGzQ>, accessed March 1, 2019. Footage courtesy of the National Archives and the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.