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ANTICIPATING AN INSPIRING EVENING

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I’m looking forward to an inspiring evening.

Next Thursday, April 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the Avon Theatre in Stamford, there will be an exclusive showing of the acclaimed documentary “100 Voices, a Journey Home.” The program is co-sponsored by the Avon and Greenwich-based Congregation Shir Ami.

As part of the program, Hollywood composer Charles Fox, the documentary’s music director, will engage the audience in a post-film question and answer session. Fox is perhaps best known for his Grammy Award winning song, “Killing Me Softly with his Song.”

Other award-winning film scores and TV theme songs for which Fox is known include “Goodbye Columbus”, ” European Vacation”, “Nine to Five”, “Love, American Style”, “Love Boat”, “Laverne and Shirley”, and “Happy Days.”

The 90-minute documentary, “100 Voices, a Journey Home,” chronicles a musical journey to Poland in 2009 during which a group of American cantors, under the direction of Fox and backed by the Polish National Opera Chorus and Orchestra, performed in major Polish concert halls from Warsaw to Krakow. Their musical journey culminates with a moving memorial at Auschwitz.

The Holocaust wiped out 90 percent of Poland’s Jewish population. An estimated 3 million of Poland’s 3.3 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis. Indeed, half of the 6 million European Jews who died in the Holocaust were from Poland.

A place with an enormously rich and vibrant pre-war Jewish culture, Poland was the birthplace of cantorial art. “100 Voices, a Journey Home” celebrates Jewish resilience and the healing power of music.

According to Congregation Shir Ami’s rabbi, Vicki Axe, the showing of this documentary on April 4 is timely. Rabbi Axe notes that the observance of  Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – is on Sunday April 7 this year to be followed a week later by Yom Haatzmaut in celebration of the birth of Israel.

“The film recalls a dark time in history,” says Rabbi Axe, “And celebrates the resurgence of interest in the Jewish contribution to the cultural life of pre-World War II Poland.”

Congregation Shir Ami has a strong connection to Poland because the congregation’s cherished Torah comes from the Polish village of Szydlowiec. A Catholic family in Szydlowiec saved the Torah from the Holocaust. Barry Stein, a member of Congregation Shir Ami and co-chair of the April 4 event, discovered the Torah while on a trip to Poland.

After bringing the Szdlowiec Torah from Poland, Stein made contact with Holocaust survivors from Szydlowiec who now live in the United States, mostly in New York.

“They were awed to reconnect with their childhood Torah,” said Stein. Rabbi Axe and members of Congregation Shir Ami now bring the Torah each year to an annual memorial service that the Szydlowiec survivors hold. Some of these survivors and their families will attend next week’s showing of “100 Voices, a Journey Home.”

Like the survivors in New York, the documentary’s musical director and famous composer Charles Fox is connected to Congregation Shir Ami through the village of Szydlowiec. It’s where his father came from.

Rabbi Axe met Fox when he attended one of the annual memorial services held by Szydlowiec survivors.

According to Rabbi Axe, patron tickets for a pre-film wine reception with Fox are now nearly sold out. Tickets for the program are still available. Those interested in attending should contact the Avon Theatre. The tickets are very affordable and the program promises to be inspiring.

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