Allen Oren, a Dyson professor and producer of a PBS documentary on the Kol Nidre prayer, is featured in The Journal News. The film will air Sunday, September 12 at 7:00pm on Channel 13, WNET, and on other public television stations in 34 cities throughout the month including WLIW, Channel 21 at 7:00pm September 16. The story begins on the front page of the paper and continues on page 10 with a photo of Oren with a copy of the documentary in his home in New Rochelle.
(Photo: Meagan Kanagy/The Journal News)
The program was highlighted in NY1’s weekly segment “Your Weekend Starts Now,” which shows entertaining picks for great things to do each weekend around the city.
More on “18 Voices Sing Kol Nidre” from Professor Oren below. The following was used in a pitch to media by Pace Public Information:
“A number of years ago I was leaving the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., when my attention was wrested by a video testimonial on a large screen on the wall. A survivor was testifying to his story.
He told of how his work detail in a Nazi labor camp was exhausted on the afternoon before Yom Kippur day, the holiest day in Judaism. Suddenly the sky turned black, the guards allowed a weather break, and the inmates saw it as literally a heavenly sign.
First one, then another began singing the Kol Nidre, the prayer that begins the Yom Kippur observance. Some knew the words, many hummed haltingly, but all chanted in unison.
“How,” I asked myself, “did one prayer, the Kol Nidre, become so important to one people, the Jews?”
Finding the answer led to “18 Voices Sing Kol Nidre,” a documentary and DVD I recently completed that’s scheduled for broadcast in New York as a pledge piece on WNET’s THIRTEEN on September 12 at 7 p.m. and on WLIW21 on September 16 at 7 p.m.
It will also air this High Holiday season in more than 34 other cities across the country, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, Baltimore, Miami, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, and Denver.
How did the Kol Nidre become a Jewish anthem and, as it turned out, an object of intense interest for non-Jews as well? How did a prayer that doesn’t even mention God overcome centuries of persecution and save itself with a haunting melody?
The answers arrive when 18 storytellers in the piece, most from New York City, share their tales about the prayer. Some are top experts on the chant, some are just those who have been changed by chanting it. Each tells his or her story with the help of unique visuals and unique musical settings for the melody.
The 18 voices—18 storytellers—include a Hassidic rabbi who tells the tale of a stable boy who is illiterate and can’t read the Kol Nidre prayer, but in frustration lets his shepherd’s flute fill the synagogue with spirit.
Also, famed African-American author Julius Lester, a convert to Judaism as an adult, who recalls as a boy practicing the melody on piano “as its beauty and pain twisted together like the braids of a girl’s hair.”
And a composer demonstrates how the chant has reached beyond Jewish circles, adapted by non-Jewish musicians from Beethoven to Johnny Mathis to the Electric Prunes.
Then a film critic shows how the prayer burst onto the pop scene with the first talking film, “The Jazz Singer” in 1927, which included, among the first words heard on film, the Kol Nidre.
In short, we learn the secrets of a sacred chant from those who have been touched by it.”
Professor Oren is a full-time associate professor of Journalism at Pace and a long-time working journalist, first in print, including a stint as Entertainment Editor of USA Today, then in broadcast, recently winning an Emmy for a series on the history of Madison Square Garden and an Emmy nomination for a documentary on the topic.
Oren is a long-time student of Jewish history and religion and his late father was a rabbi in Queens for 50 years.
For more on the documentary, visit www.18voices.com.