In Vilden Vald—Aaron Tessler ft. Zemiros Choir
The Holocaust’s devastation brought about not only the decimation of the Jewish people in body, but also immeasurable losses to Jewish culture. Countless and precious pieces of memory, history, and tradition disappeared with the people who guarded them. But one simple song from the alter heim (“old country”) has been given new life in a new generation.
The Yiddish song, In Vilden Vald (In the Wild Woods), performed by Aaron Tessler, 27, is a tribute to his own family’s legacy and the eternal continuity of the Jewish spirit.
“My grandmother, Rachel Tessler, was one of few family members to survive the horrors of Auschwitz and the Nazi Death Marches, to return to Viseu de Sus (Visheve), Romania, to marry and start a family,” says Tessler. “Yet, she endured more persecution under the Romanian Communist regime, and in 1964—after giving up any claim to their property and belongings—she and her husband, Baruch, and their children, emigrated to Israel. She lived there until her passing in March 2017.”
In her later years, Rachel Tessler spoke of her childhood in the small Romanian village of Romuli, and among the many stories retold was a song, a piece of Jewish folk culture dating back to a world now lost.
In Vilden Vald tells the story of a lost lamb in the harsh wilderness, searching for its mother and home. The song’s verses equate the lamb with the Jewish people and their enduring quest for tranquility in the Land of Israel, illustrating the constant hope and faith that have been characteristic of so many generations of Jews, in Europe, and around the globe.
Tessler was unable to find this song documented elsewhere; a simple recording from his grandmother was all that remained. The song danced with death at Auschwitz, and has survived, and is now reinvigorated by the ultimate sign of Jewish perseverance: the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor.
While most of the song’s original listeners perished thinking they were experiencing the end of Jewish history, the remastering of In Vilden Vald is a testament to the everlasting faith, strength, and resolve that have carried the Jewish people through time.
Originally from Norfolk, Aaron Tessler lives and works in Washington D.C. He studied classical voice at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Md., as well as the Corcoran School of Music of The George Washington University. Tessler has served as cantor at multiple congregations on the East Coast, as well as at synagogues and events around the country.
To hear the song, go to https://youtu.be/-_n15a4Q4Y8.