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Jewish Journal

A Concert of Conscience

by Naomi Pfefferman

June 17, 2004 | 8:00 pm

In choreographer Roni Kosmal-Wernik's piece about the aftermath of a suicide bombing, a dancer prowls the stage as if searching for a lost loved one. Her movements become heavy, brooding, as if she is burdened by an invisible weight.

Inspired by a family friend's death in a 2001 attack, Kosmal-Wernik's work will help kick off a June 20 event at Temple Emanuel to support other victims of terror. Performers such as pianist Sha-Rone Kushnir will appear to benefit ATZUM, a Jerusalem-based charity that provides necessities for families not covered by Israel's overburdened welfare system.

"Artists for ATZUM," is the latest Los Angeles response to Israel-based violence. While synagogues have supported programs such as Adopt-a-Family, and musicians have played for Rock for Israel concerts, Kosmal-Wernik contemplated what she could do to help several months ago. Although she had previously donated funds to ATZUM, founded by her friend, Rabbi Levi Lauer, "It always bothered me that I couldn't give more," the 27-year-old choreographer said. "So I began thinking, 'What can I do,' and I decided, 'I can give my art, and I can get others to do the same.'"

As Kosmal-Wernik enlisted performers such as choreographer Ben Levy, she kept costs minimal to match ATZUM's practice of rigorously limiting overhead.

"Every cent raised will go toward families in need," said Lauer, who will speak at the event.

The concert will include two works Kosmal-Wernik choreographed in response to her own experience of living in Jerusalem from 2001 to 2003. The alternately agitated and hopeful movements of "Two Years in a Land" reflect the conflicting emotions she felt about remaining in Israel after a car bomb exploded near her apartment.

When a 19-year-old family friend was blown up at the Naharia train station, she interviewed his mother to create a dance memorial; the piece features seven performers, symbolizing the seven days of shiva, who protectively surround the mourner.

Kosmal-Wernik hopes the upcoming concert will convey similar sentiments. "Especially now, when people are afraid to visit Israel, it's crucial to let [Israelis] know there are Jews in another part of the world who care," she said.

For information about the June 20, 7 p.m. performance call (310) 274-6388, ext. 560 or contact rwernik@earthlink.net. For information about ATZUM, visit www.atzum.org .

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