Three days after a performing at a reggae festival in Spain that had previously disinvited him, Matisyahu brought his music to a synagogue near the gates of Auschwitz.
The Jewish-American singer gave an intimate acoustic concert Tuesday night in the tiny Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot synagogue in Oswiecim, the town in southern Poland where Auschwitz was built.
“Played in the last remaining Synagogue outside of Auschwitz in the city Oświęcim. Peace and blessings,” Matisyahu wrote on his Facebook page. He also quoted a line from his song, “Jerusalem:” “The gas tried to choke but it couldn’t choke me.”
On Saturday night, he sang “Jerusalem” in front of thousands at the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Spain. Its organizers had initially cancelled his appearance due to pressure from the local branch of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement, which aims to put economic and political pressure on Israel. The festival reinvited him following widespread condemnation, including from the Spanish government.
The only one of Oswiecim’s synagogues to survive today, the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot synagogue forms part of the Auschwitz Jewish Center, a prayer and study center and museum founded in 2000. The concert marked the center’s 15th anniversary.
Matisyahu has performed a number of times in Poland and has appeared before in Oswiecim. In 2011, he was a headliner at the Oswiecim Life Festival, a summer festival aimed at using art and music to promote tolerance. Matisyahu is performing several concerts in Poland during his current tour, including in Gdansk, Wroclaw and Warsaw, where he is appearing in a free outdoor concert on August 30 as part of the Singer’s Warsaw Jewish Culture Festival.