Click above for a quick look at what’s behind “18 Voices.”
The journey has been a joyous one—from screen to screen to screen.
It began with a video screen at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. There I watched a Holocaust survivor tell how his work crew defied their Nazi guards one Yom Kippur Eve. Before their tormentors, they chanted the Kol Nidre.
"How," I asked myself, "did one prayer, the Kol Nidre, become so important to one people, the Jews?" (And, it turned out, to non-Jews as well.)
The answer led to television screens nationwide. This year "18 Voices Sing Kol Nidre," an independent documentary, reaches a landmark, airing its fifth straight year on public television for the High Holidays. (Click here for this fall's broadcasts.) It has been seen in 90 PBS markets, including nearly all the largest, and was a pledge special in New York City.
And the film played on two theatrical screens. In Manhattan, it was part of a multimedia concert at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, combining film and live performance of the Kol Nidre in a variety of styles.
In Toronto, it was the focus of a special screening and discussion at a major cineplex, sponsored by the Toronto Jewish Film Festival.
The film is the first to tell the Kol Nidre's rich story and has received very positive reviews, including those on this page.
Most important, in California it was viewed approvingly by the daughter of the survivor in that Holocaust video. "It is an incredibly moving piece," she said of the film. "It is a story I wish all students were required to see at school. I know my dad would have loved it."
--Allen Oren, producer and director of “18 Voices Sing Kol Nidre”
Laura Savini, a host of the public television pledge special featuring the documentary:
“Thanks to producer-director Allen Oren for being an explorer, thinker and artist.”
George Robinson, The Jewish Week:
"The film is a quiet little gem, gracefully conceived and executed. The tone is earnestly informative, good-natured and never preachy."
Eileen Wingard, San Diego Jewish World:
“Eighteen segments are featured in Allen Oren’s remarkable documentary about the Kol Nidre prayer, “18 Voices Sing Kol Nidre.” Like an eighteen-square quilt, with each piece having the same border, the Kol Nidre melody unifies the interesting narrative.”
Gary Stern, national news service of the Gannett newspaper chain:
“The stories, taken together, cover the murky origins, painful history, and undeniable religious impact of a simple, misunderstood prayer that Jews the world over chant at the start of Yom Kippur.”
Stephanie Simon, NY1 TV news network in New York City:
“18 Voices Sing Kol Nidre” is the top pick of the best things to do on the weekend (probably the first time in its long history that the Kol Nidre received that honor).
Michlean Amir, Reference Coordinator, US Holocaust Memorial Museum:
“I have watched the video with much interest and recommend it for every Jewish school. Teaching about the Kol Nidre is not easy. Allen Oren's work is a great contribution for all Jewish educators because it explains the prayer from many viewpoints and gives a taste of the prayer for almost every level.”
Paul Kaplan, Library Journal:
"This unique gathering of voices provides genuine insight into religious expression. Young adults and up from all backgrounds will find inspiration here."
Video Librarian magazine:
Three-star "Recommended" rating