On Friday, Nov. 13, World Kindness Day, Haverford’s Middle School community gathered virtually for a performance and question and answer session with Haverford alumnus and folk songwriter Chuck Brodsky ’78. Brodsky performed his song “Lili’s Braids,” which tells the story of Lili Hirsch, a young Jewish girl who was deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp with her family and killed during World War II.
“Mr. Brodsky uses beautiful music as his medium to inspire other people to be their better selves and to be a force for good,” said Head of School Dr. John Nagl in his introduction of the presentation.
Brodsky, who is known for writing songs that tell stories and celebrate the goodness in people, wrote “Lili’s Braids” in 2006 after traveling to Israel with his family and visiting Yad Vashem - The World Holocaust Remembrance Center.
“As soon as I saw the story of Lili and her family, I knew I was going to write a song about it when I returned home,” explained Brodsky.
In 1945, Lili Hirsch, her 12-year-old brother Yitzhak, and their parents lived together in Transylvania (currently Romania) when Nazi soldiers incarcerated them. Prior to being incarcerated, when her mother learned that the Nazis were near, she cut off Lili’s beautiful long braids and gave them to a neighbor for safekeeping. Lili and her parents were killed at Auschwitz, leaving her brother as the lone survivor of the family. After World War II ended and years had passed, Lili’s brother Yitzhak returned to their original neighborhood and retrieved Lili’s braids from their neighbors.
As the song explains:
The house he was born in was only next door. His country had vanished, his people no more. Out in the garden some little boys played. He'd only come back to retrieve Lili’s braids.
The neighbors were home, to their word they were true. They'd kept them safe like they said they would do. Despite any orders they might've obeyed. It was righteous of them to have kept Lili’s braids.
During the Question and Answer section of the presentation, Brodsky explained how much the Haverford Honor Code meant to him and showed the boys that the poster of the Honor Code even hung in his home studio.
At the end of the presentation, Brodsky left the boys with a final message regarding the importance of empathy.
He said, “It is a real blessing as a songwriter to actually feel empathy for other people and I think empathy is a really good lesson in today’s discussion. Empathy has everything to do with inclusion. Everyone should be welcomed and included. If we were all the same, life would be so boring.”
Note: Photo of Hirsch family is from the Yad Vashem website.