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Partisans of Vilna
When I was growing up, there were two truths: Jews went passively to the gas chambers and Israel was God's answer to the Holocaust. This is not the place to address the second of these, but it has been clear for many years that the first proposition, too, is patently false. And just as David Biale's "Power and Powerlessness in Jewish Life" proved intellectually that the myth of Jewish impotence in the "Diaspora" was ... myth, movies such as Josh Waletzky's Partisans of Vilna reclaimed the memory and efforts of those Jews who did organize and fight back against the Nazis.
So, you're obviously going to run out and purchase this album simply because the movie is such a wonderful expression of ethnic pride. How empty would be that pride if there weren't more. And happily there is. Waletzky and Sapoznik assembled a group of friends (and Waletzky's son, David)--wonderful voices such as the incomparable Adrienne Cooper and Michael Alpert (all alums or current members of Kapelye), plus Yiddish poet/Holocaust survivor Irena Klepfisz. Together, they craft an affirmation of spirit and hope.
The arrangements are impeccable and perfect. No slickness here, that would be an anathema to the times and to the songs. But neither is there sloppiness or poor singing. Instead the singers manage just the right sensibility and listenability, and the arrangements behind them show all to perfect effect. Expected songs such as "Zog nit Keynmol" are here, of course, but so are songs new to me such as "Tsu Eyns, Tsvey, Dray" (It's One, Two, Three) and poems such as "Blayene Platn (Lead printing plates). Liner notes are likewise impeccable.
This is more than good music. It is music and poetry that affirm Jewish spirit. Having said that, I can say no more.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow 5/26/96. Revised 1/1/98 to note that the album was produced by Henry Sapoznik and Josh Waletzky.