As the saying goes, when the Jewish calendar turns to Adar, and Purim lies around the bend, we start saying, and singing, “Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha,” or, “Whoever enters Adar shall increase in joy.” That’s fine, in general, but maybe not right now?

Adar, read the room. This has been far and away the most joyless year of our Jewish lives, replete with antisemitism run amok, the parroting of Hamas propaganda by celebrities at the Oscars, and endless doom scrolling, day after day, night after night. At the same time, I have seized this moment to again start showcasing my Magen David necklace made from Hamas rockets and “Bring Them Home” necklace publicly and unabashedly, to both proclaim my proud Judaism and remember the horrifying reality of life in Israel, and as Jews, today.


To keep ourselves from constantly dwelling with the trauma of Oct. 7, we must make time to set aside the trauma, anger, and sadness that we have all been feeling. Yes, the murdered and the captive are ever-present in our waking moments, but right now, we must also pursue joy at all costs. No matter what. Full stop.

This isn’t exactly on-brand for Judaism, which does not generally exhort us to have a good time. Despite popular belief, there is not an explicit commandment to have fun on Purim, although we are casually required to have a festive meal. There is that instruction, though, for Sukkot, when we are told “Hayita ach sameach” in Deuteronomy 16:15, loosely and generally translated to mean, “You will know nothing but joy.” Nonetheless, Purim does afford us the opportunity to dress up, live a little, drink a little, and shout and scream during the Megillah reading. What’s not to love?

And I will say that I am actively courting joy right now during Adar; I’ve gone to a handful of Bruins games, have been playing “The Eras Tour” on repeat since it dropped on Disney Plus, and am trying to have more fun whenever possible. Easier said than done, right? But a little walk down Memory Lane last week brought me the absolute most joy during this most despondent of Adars. Let me frame that for you.

Way back when, in the infancy of the internet, right after Napster and before iTunes, and years before streaming music services, there was music that never made it to our shores. These were the heady days when, for Americans in Israel, we’d stumble on songs and bands played at clubs, or in central bus stations, or, more likely, MTV Europe. We’d buy bootleg CDs, pop them into our Discman, and we were off. A fair portion of my post-graduate year in Israel featured a deep dive into not just Israeli songs that would become central to my musical identity, but also music that was huge in Europe and Asia but would never make the leap across the pond. Right there in that bucket were All Saints and Robbie Williams, Natalia Oreiro and Paola y Chiara, and to a lesser extent, Craig David. The list goes on. That playlist hits the vein of Israel nostalgia hard. Wicked hard.

This phenomenon still kind of happens. I remember when a group of Israelis came to Boston one year and they couldn’t believe that “Price Tag” from Jessie J hadn’t made it here yet…but then it did. Even K-pop took years to arrive, but now it’s here in spades, to the point that Blackpink played at MetLife Stadium last year and on Thanksgiving morning “Talk That Talk” by IVE came on in Starbucks and my kids and I almost fell over with surprise and joy. Take it from me—any cursory review of international pop hits on Spotify and/or an annual check-in with the Eurovision Song Contest will yield surprising results; go ahead and look for Amir, an Israeli-French singer. You’ll thank me later.

There is perhaps no finer example of music-that-never-came-to-America-a-generation-ago than Westlife, an Irish group that rode the crest of the boy band wave in the late ’90s into 55 million records sold and chart-topping hits all over the world, but never Stateside. I mean, they outsold the Spice Girls in 2000 but I’d venture to guess that most of you haven’t heard of them except for their one single that kind of hit here back in 2008, “What About Now.” If that’s you, well, you were missing out on “My Love,” “I Lay My Love On You,” and their cover of “Uptown Girl,” among many others. We listened to those songs on repeat for much of the fall spent in Ashkelon and Sderot, and at least on my end, on my iPod, iPod shuffle, and a whole series of iPhones over the years. 

With technology, it’s easy to reach back and touch a memory, or a song, or a feeling. It’s much harder to have the chance to make a new one a full generation later, but fate took a hand, and in late summer 2023 Westlife announced their first-ever North American tour, with stops in Toronto, Boston, New York, and Chicago. Then, fate took the other hand, and a Thursday night in Boston arrived with no schedule conflicts, so me, my wife, and two of our kids who knew the music from my relentless playing of their songs over the years headed to the MGM Music Hall at Fenway for their first performance in the United States…ever.

The appropriate way to describe the experience using 2024 terminology would be to say that I had fully manifested by being able to go see them in this setting. No doubt you’ve been there, at a concert when the songs you know and love come on and you can’t wait to bang them out as loud and as off-key as you can. I was there for that, was amazed by the performance of “Starlight,” laughed along at their ABBA mini-set, as well as the poll of the audience that revealed that the majority of the crowd were Irish, British, or Asian, and that there were only a few regular old Americans in the 5,000 or so souls in attendance. 

It’s a rare night when things meet lofty expectations, but this was one of them, and I happily dropped way too much money on merch to commemorate an evening that I will certainly never forget. I sent and posted photos and videos to my friends from that year in Israel and basked in a warm glow of nostalgia and satisfaction for a few days afterward. Joy, achieved.

Back to the matter at hand, though, the absolute happiness of those two hours is quickly counteracted by the memory that the roads of Israel that were traversed whilst listening to these tunes are now forever stained by the blood and ashes of the scores of our brothers and sisters massacred on Oct. 7. May their memories be forever etched in our hearts and may our captives be redeemed. 

Bring them home now. No matter what.

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