What was the most dramatic and emotionally charged concert of Reb Shlomo in the early part of his career?
Perhaps it was his concert at the end of December 1959 at the George Washington High School near Yeshiva University. The concert was in memory of 19 year old Yolanda Benson who died on Oct. 9, 1959 in a tragic accident when her bus was set on fire. Yolanda who was born in 1940 had survived the Holocaust when she was hidden with Christian neighbors in Poland. She lived in seven different European countries because of the Nazi persecution. Eventually, her parents found her after the war and gradually brought her back to Judaism. In 1948 she came to America and lived in Freehoff, Monmouth County in New Jersey. Yolanda was a 19 year old junior at The College of New Jersey when she and her classmates were returning on Friday by bus from seeing "J.B./Job", a Broadway Play written by American playwright and poet Archibald MacLeish as a modern retelling of the story of the biblical figure of Job, whose faith in God is tested through the loss of his children, disease and afflictions. The students’ bus was hit by a truck in the rain-swept highway and its gas tank exploded into a big inferno. Yolanda and 8 of her classmates were burned to death.
The Yolanda Benson Honor Society and Yolanda Benson Memorial Fund were established at Yeshiva University after her death and many important events took place in this framework. Reb Shlomo later appeared at successive Yolanda Benson Memorial Concerts on April 1, 1962 and March 31, 1963. More on this on pages 99 and 102 of my book on Reb Shlomo.
My thanks to Eliyahu Zelasko for finding the newspaper reference of the 1963 concert in the Red Bank Register, vol. 85, no. 186, March 27, 1963.
Might anyone know of other Yolanda Benson Memorial Concerts where Reb Shlomo appeared?