Shmuel Blasz, the chief cantor at a synagogue in Hungary, had written about half a dozen cantorial scores that a neighbor offered to hide when Blasz was sent to Auschwitz, where he, his wife and three of their eight children died in the Holocaust.
After the war, one of his surviving children, Eva Blasz Egri, returned to Hungary, retrieved the music, and kept it tucked away for decades even after she immigrated to the United States.
"It reminded me of the best time of my life, of my childhood, when my brothers and sisters would come home and we would sit down and sing," Egri said through one of her daughters, Julia Goldner, who lives near her in Plantation, Fla.
Six Long Island cantors sang Blasz's scores at a performance attended by about 250 people.
The concert at Temple Beth Sholom in Smithtown was conceived by Len Romano, a former Northport High School teacher who specialized in Holocaust studies. Romano, whose mother is Egri's neighbor, said he learned about five years ago that Egri had the scores stored in a large brown envelope.
He set up the concert after Egri told him she would love to hear the music performed again.
"Here is something that is part of history," Romano said.
The singing was led by Temple Beth Sholom's cantor, Judy Merrick. Egri's age and health prevented her from attending.
Goldner said that although the performance was "beautiful," it also provoked mixed feelings for her mother, who she said has not laughed since the Holocaust. The concert "reawakened a lot of the memories" of the Nazis, Goldner said.
"It was also very emotional for her as she hadn't heard it since her parents perished in the Holocaust, and she felt proud that his [her father's] music was being heard once again," she said.
The story behind the concert led Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) to enter a statement about it into the Congressional Record. "Eva's resilience is a lesson to us all to find the hidden beauty in apparent tragedy and commemorate the lives and contributions of those whose lives were lost," Israel said.
Dalia Rivka Dabah, one of Blasz's great-grandchildren, told the audience Thursday night that, after repressing memories of the Holocaust for decades, Egri is finally talking about it -- in part to help prevent another Holocaust.
"Whatever secrets she had kept hidden inside all those years, whatever she had repressed, is now flowing out of her for all to hear," Dabah said.