The 2016 Rafael Schächter Institute for Arts and Humanities
During the first week of May, the Foundation hosted The 2016 Rafael Schächter Institute for Arts and Humanities in New York City. In collaboration with the Czech Center New York and its director, Barbara Karpetová, four outstanding events were held in the beautiful Grand Ballroom of Bohemian National Hall.
On Tuesday evening, May 3, British actor Jane Arnfield performed The Tin Ring, a one-woman play based on the autobiography of Holocaust survivor Zdenka Fantlová. This stirring and moving account of Zdenka’s incarceration, lost love and ultimate survival left the audience of over 200 spellbound. Jane, director Mike Alfreds and producer Tony Harrington conducted an engaging and spirited discussion session with the audience following the performance.
The Tin Ring was followed the next night by a screening of the Foundation’s Emmy-nominated documentary film, Defiant Requiem. The screening was so popular that it was moved from the Cinema Room to the Grand Ballroom to accommodate the large audience! Following the screening, Foundation President and Founder Murry Sidlin conducted a talk-back with the attendees.
On Thursday evening, May 5, in honor of Yom HaShoah, Maestro Sidlin’s newest concert-drama, Hours of Freedom: The Story of the Terezín Composer, was performed to a full house. Featuring 18 works by 15 composers imprisoned in Terezín, Hours of Freedom combines video, music and narrative to highlight compositions by Viktor Ullmann, Gideon Klein, Pavel Haas and twelve others. Some of their compositions reflect the personal, eyewitness account of the agony and suffering of camp life, while others express the assurance of a return to life as it was before the war. Hours of Freedom continues to explore the themes expressed in Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín – the power of the arts to inspire and sustain human dignity, courage and hope. The performance featured a stellar cast including Arianna Zukerman, soprano; Leah Wool, mezzo-soprano; John Bellemer, tenor; Philip Cutlip, baritone; Phillip Silver, piano; and a number of the finest freelance instrumentalists in New York City led by our own concertmaster and solo violinist, Herbert Greenberg. Actor Jane Arnfield joined us once again to serve as narrator for the program.
On the last afternoon of the Institute, guests of the Foundation attended a lunch and panel discussion at the Harvard Club entitled Women, Resistance and the Holocaust. Sponsored by Foundation Board Member Patti Kenner, the discussion featured professor and author Lenore J. Weitzman, and scholar Michlean Amir from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, who were joined by Auschwitz Survivor Hanna Wechsler. Over 60 guests attended the lunch and fascinating discussion focusing on the many roles that women played during the Holocaust from smuggling food, secretly walking the streets when men could not, sustaining and supporting their families and, serving as spies. Hanna Wechsler shared her personal story of surviving Auschwitz with the strength and courage of her mother who protected Hanna and saved her life on numerous occasions.
Over the Institute’s four days of events, the Foundation reached approximately 600 people. For many of these individuals, this was their first contact with the Foundation’s work and mission. We are deeply grateful to Barbara Karpetová and the staff of the Czech Center who provided us with positive energy and exceptional support. Next year, the Institute will return to the Czech Republic from May 13-22 for an exciting weeklong tour that will take travelers to nine historic renovated synagogues throughout the Czech Republic in addition to visiting important locations in Prague and Terezín. The tour will conclude with an encore presentation of Hours of Freedom at Terezín. Watch for more details about this one-of-a-kind trip that will combine history, culture, music and insights to Jewish life before, during and after the war.