In its third and final women’s outreach event of the year, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Women’s cabinet partnered with UJFT’s Holocaust Commission to host a Girls’ Afternoon at the Movies, bringing back to Tidewater the award-winning film, Defiant Requiem.
Defiant Requiem tells the story of the Nazi concentration camp, Terezín. Led by imprisoned musical conductor Rafael Schächter, the inmates of Terezín fought back against their captors through music and art. Despite hunger, disease, and slave labor, the Jewish inmates of Terezin held onto their humanity by staging plays, composing operas, and using paper and ink to record the horrors around them.
The event took place at the Slover Library in downtown Norfolk, a true gem in Hampton Roads and a lovely venue for small events. This intimate gathering of 40 women was made unforgettable by the inclusion of Maestro Murry Sidlin—founder of the Defiant Requiem Foundation and the driving force behind the film’s production.
This was not Tidewater’s first screening of Defiant Requiem. The film was shown earlier this year as part of the 24th Annual Virginia Festival of Jewish Film. It was so well received that the Women’s Cabinet had multiple requests to present it as an encore performance. It should be noted that each request included a plea for the Maestro to return with it!
So, on a sunny Sunday afternoon in late-March, Maestro Murry Sidlin returned to Tidewater to discuss his film. Beautifully shot on the grounds of Terezin, the film featured testimony from Terezin survivors (some of whom have passed away since the film was shot). But beyond the film itself was the fascinating story of how it came to be, and the challenges and hurdles that Sidlin and his colleagues faced in bringing it to completion. And yet despite all those challenges, Sidlin described the film as a story that demanded to be told, and humbly viewed himself as the steward assigned to tell it.
Sidliln was awed and inspired by the Terezin inmates and their determination to defy the Nazis by freeing and enriching their minds and souls throughout their terrible ordeal. His filmmaking journey took him around the country and ultimately around the world, as he gathered testimonies and facts about the camp and its covert activities. The more he learned, the more he was determined to honor and to give voice to the victims of Terezin, and by extension, to all victims of the Holocaust.
Janet Mercadante, UJFT Women’s Cabinet chair-elect, opened the event with a welcome, and UJFT Holocaust Commission member Vivian Margulies introduced Sidlin. The Q & A could have gone on for hours, but Sidlin’s busy schedule had him once again on the move.
The event was a fitting and beautiful close to a year of intimate Plus One outreach events in the Women’s Division — beginning in October with the exploration of individual creativity with Israeli artist Neta Levy; then continuing in December with a special Hanukkah event featuring latkes, personal Hanukkah memories, and the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service’s newest Hanukkah Forever Stamp.
For more information about UJFT women’s outreach events or how to get involved in the Women’s campaign, visit www.jewishva.org/women or www.facebook. com/Jewish-Women-757 or call or email Amy Zelenka, UJFT Women’s Campaign director at 757-965-6139 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Amy Zelenka, UJFT women’s campaign director