Locating Bloch on the Eve of World War II
During the final years of his nine-year sojourn in Europe during the 1930s, Ernest Bloch began an intensive, but ultimately inchoate, collaboration with the World Centre for Jewish Music in Palestine (WCJMP). This bold endeavour was designed by three immigrants to the Yishuv (Heb. ‘settlement’) – Salli Levi, Hermann Swet, and Joachim Stutschewsky – the goal of which was to lay the foundations for a Jewish music of the future through the musical realization of an in-gathering of music and musicians from throughout the diaspora. Ernest Bloch's own contributions to the World Centre for Jewish Music were considerable, despite the growing insecurity in which he was living, making it necessary to shuttle between various domiciles in France and Switzerland. Bloch was the World Centre's honorary president, and a performance of the Avodath Hakodesh by the Palestine Broadcasting Symphony, predecessor of the Jerusalem Symphony, was to be the centrepiece of the festival of Jewish music that inaugurated a centre that had the potential to open a modern history of Jewish music in the Yishuv. It was the vision of Levi, Swet, and Stutschewsky that Ernest Bloch would symbolically become the founding figure of the World Centre and that his own life's journey would bring him to Israel to build upon the foundations of a modern history of Jewish music.
Bloch's correspondence with the World Centre was extensive, with several of his letters voluminous in length and substance. For Bloch, the World Centre for Jewish Music represented no less than a future world in and of itself, a musical world with truly utopian dimensions, a world in which he, with other Jewish musicians, might realize, through music, all that had been unrealizable through centuries of diaspora and displacement. Music alone, especially Jewish music, would effectively provide the foundations for the new utopia, for it would justify no less than a new type of aliyah.