‘100 Voices: A Journey Home’ explores Poland’s cantorial past
By Carol Davis
SAN DIEGO–On Tuesday, September 21, the movie 100 Voices: A Journey home will air across the country at 488 select theatres, including seven movie complexes in San Diego County. It’s a must see movie for Jews and non-Jews alike, but bring tissues. The documentary traces an historic trip to Poland by no less than 100 cantors who pay tribute to the 1300 cantors who lost their lives in the Holocaust. Cantors from around the world journeyed to Poland to be a part of this celebration.
It reunites Jewish and Polish cultures, ‘Building people and nations together’, for the first time since WWII. Poland; once a thriving country where Jewish culture dominated for centuries and the birthplace of cantorial music was brought to its knees by Hitler wiping out almost any and every image of that life. But from the ashes, this beautiful and moving story unfolds with commentary from several of the cantors.
In scene after scene from Los Angeles to Warsaw to Krakow to Auschwitz their music is the thread that tied two communities, touchingly and beautifully without reservation. If any of these names sound familiar to you, and they might, you will be enthralled with their oral stories, their voices and their experiences: Cantor Nathan Lam, Cantor Joseph Gole, Cantor Alberto Mizrahi, Moshe Koussevitzky, Jacob Ben-Mendelson, Faith Steinsnyder, Chiam Frankel, Yossle Rosenblatt (his voice was heard in “The Jazz Singer), Simon Shapiro, brothers Ivor Lichterman and Joel Lichterman and Mordechai Hershman are but a few whose voices are featured.
With the exception of the introduction and the cantor’s beginning their journey in 2009 the entire film is shot on location in Poland. It shows communities, clean cities, original clips of what it looked like before and during the occupation and shots of the great Yiddish star of theatre and film Molly Picon (“Yidl Mitn Fidl”) performing in 1936 in Poland.
Clips of the invasion in 1939, the Warsaw Ghetto, Auschwitz-Birkenau where an emotional service takes place in the one remaining synagogue left in tact, The Nozyk Synagogue where the cantors performed the second of their big concert. It is also where the elder Cantor Lichterman presided and chanted and to that very same Bimah where his sons returned and chanted. It was another emotional and heart rending commemoration.
Before the war there were over 400 synagogues in Poland. By the end of the 19th century their use became more diversified than for just worship. The Nozyk Synagogue was built between 1898 and 1902 financed by wealthy Warsaw merchant Zalman Nozyk and designed by Leonardo Marconi. The area in which it was housed was part of the ‘Small Ghetto’ and became part of the history of Ghetto life in the late 30’s. In 1941 the Nazis used the buildings as stables and a depot. It was partially restored and completely rebuilt between 1977 and 1983 and returned to the Warsaw Jewish Commune. It officially opened in 1983.
Lam, Cantor of Steven S. Weiss Temple in Los Angeles and chairman of the project said he wanted to bring together, as their first performance, a 40 member choir of children from Poland along with Jewish young adults from Los Angeles singing “Ani M’Amin” in the Teatr Weilki Polish National Opera House, the very same prayer a 40 voice children’s choir sang in1941, the night of the liquidation of Warsaw Ghetto, it was followed by the Israeli National Anthem, “Hatikva”.
Charles Fox composer (“Killing Me Softly”) whose father was born in Poland was invited along. His father and his mother were lucky enough to have made it out of Poland before the invasion. He is seen revisiting, 90 years later, the small town his father grew up in. It was an emotional visit walking in, what he felt were his fathers footsteps. Fox was asked to write a piece He has taken it upon himself to establish a museum to the 16,000 Jews that lived in his father’s village.
Fox wrote an aria for this special occasion. It is based Polish born Pope John II prayer of forgiveness, “Lament and Prayer”, the words the Pope put into the cracks of the Wall on his visit to Jerusalem: “God of our Fathers, You chose Abraham and his descendants to bring Your name to the nations: we are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused children of Yours to suffer and we ask Your forgiveness. We wish to commit ourselves to the genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant”.
100 Voices: A Journey Home was produced and directed by Matthew Asner and Danny Gold. Michael Lam and Nathan Lam produced it. Matthew Asner, Danny Gold, Michael Lam and Michael Mayhew wrote it. It is presented by NCM Fathom Productions and Time Management in association with the American Jewish Committee, Jewish Life Television and the Milken Archives of Jewish Music.
I highly recommend you make it to any of the following theatres to see this beautiful film: Mission Valley 20, La Jolla Village 12, Otay Ranch 12, Plaza Bonita 14, San Marcos 18, Mira Mesa 18, or Horton Plaza You will not be disappointed.
For a peek go to: http://www.100voicesmovie.com/trailer.html
See you at the theatre.