Stories & Voices
Bringing Nova to New York: Bearing Witness
May 8th, 2024
UJA Federation of New York >>

People go to music festivals to hear their favorite bands, dance with friends, and connect with like-minded people. The 4,000 music lovers who attended the Nova music festival in Re’im came to do just that, but early in the morning of October 7, something went horribly wrong.

06:29 am: The Moment Music Stood Still is an art installation in lower Manhattan that recreates the grounds of the festival during and after the onslaught by Hamas terrorists. Co-produced by music executive Scooter Braun, with support from UJA-Federation, the exhibit highlights the day’s chaos and horror, when Hamas murdered more than 360 festival attendees and kidnapped 44 hostages.

The installation opens with a video of survivors addressing the camera. They discuss the power of trance music and how dance floors should be safe spaces. “Everyone is welcome on the dance floor,” one says.

Further into the exhibit, items from the actual festival — pitched tents, unrolled sleeping bags, knapsacks, clothing — are displayed under trees amidst rubble from the site. Screens are everywhere, blaring footage filmed by both terrorists and survivors. Past this, the charred frames of burned cars sit next to banners, porta-potties riddled with bullet holes, and the actual festival stage, rebuilt to scale.

UJA Federation of New York >>

Wandering through the exhibit, one can’t help feeling the ghosts of earlier antisemitism. A table filled with shoes abandoned by concertgoers recalls the mounds of footwear in Yad Vashem or Auschwitz. The date of the attack seems to have been chosen because it was a double holiday – Simchat Torah and Shabbat – in the way Nazi commanders were extra brutal to prisoners on Jewish holidays.

The exhibit is vital at this moment when distortions of Jewish motives and values seem to run rampant. UJA contributed more than $800,000 to build the exhibit and has been instrumental in organizing diverse delegations of New Yorkers to attend. Equally important, we’ve provided similar funding to organizations in Israel that support the needs of Nova survivors, their families, and the families of victims.   

The installation ends with a promise: We will dance again. It’s a timeless Jewish value — that even in the middle of unimaginable pain and trauma, we will keep living.

The Nova Music Festival Exhibition is now extended until June 22 Learn more and get tickets