We've been following the career of the amazing Hasidic Israeli fiddler Daniel Ahaviel ever since we discovered one of his early YouTube videos five years ago and posted it on Jewish Humor Central.
His fame and his audiences keep growing as does our amazement at his boundless energy, his synthesis of Jewish, Irish, and bluegrass music, and finding that his talent comes from British secular musical roots.
All over the world yesterday was Simchat Torah, the last day of the month of holidays that began in September with Rosh Hashanah. But in Israel, Simchat Torah ended on Monday because the holiday is only seven days long in Israel.
Not to be denied an extra day of exulting in the presence of many Torah scrolls, Israelis in Jerusalem extended the celebration in a way that they couldn't on the actual holiday, by bringing in a brass band and Ahaviel and his violin to entertain a crowd on what's called Isru Chag, a day meant to ease the transition from a religious festival to everyday life.
We're not posting the celebration here because it's too long for our Jewish Humor Central format, but here's a link to it if you want to take the time to watch for a half hour.
We are posting below a video of Ahaviel in a performance last year at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City's Lincoln Center. We came across an article in Mishpacha magazine that details Ahaviel's journey from growing up in Northwest London.
As Rachel Ginsberg wrote in the article,
He was born in northwest London 48 years ago as Daniel Wistrich, to left-wing, idealistic, forward-thinking parents who had exchanged all vestiges of their Judaism for a commitment to a progressive England and a united Europe. His father, Ernest Wistrich — originally Wistreich, son of a well-off, assimilated family in prewar Poland — managed to get on the last train out before the Nazi invasion.
He quickly acclimated to the surrounding English culture and Anglicized his name. As an accomplished social activist, he lobbied for Britain to join the European Union and for the creation of the euro currency. Daniel’s mother is a retired academic and local Labour councillor.
“I knew nothing about Judaism except that Jews died in the Holocaust,” Daniel says. The family didn’t go to shul on Yom Kippur, and he didn’t have a bar mitzvah. “Three-quarters of my family on both sides perished in Poland, and I grew up thinking Judaism as a relevant spiritual force was dead.”
Daniel’s musical talent developed almost accidentally, and under unfortunate circumstances. His mentally disabled older brother — who passed away as a teenager — was sent to a music therapist, and little Daniel was his escort. Daniel was enchanted by the music, and the teacher encouraged his parents to develop his talents. She even predicted he would one day become a great concert violinist.Enjoy!
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