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Jewish Journal

Show Goes On

by Naomi Pfefferman

October 18, 2001 | 8:00 pm

As artists canceled performances en masse after last month's terrorist attacks, members of the Moscow Jewish Choir camped out for three days at the Moscow airport, hoping to catch the first available flight to America.

Canceling their 20-city U.S. tour -- including an Oct. 28 concert at the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills -- wasn't an option for the 11-member male ensemble. "That would have been an admission that the terrorists had won," says choir director Michael Touretsky, whose group has performed for Israeli chief rabbis and the U.S. Congress.

While security will be tight throughout the American tour, Touretsky isn't preoccupied with threats of additional terrorism. "We've played in far more volatile regions," he says, calmly. "We've toured Chechnya."

Braving obstacles is old hat for the choir, founded in 1989, when Soviets allowed the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to revive Jewish music previously forbidden in the former Soviet Union. Touretsky had to scour musical libraries in Israel and New York to find synagogue music that had been systematically destroyed by the Communists.

When his wife died in a car accident two weeks before the first concert, he was determined that the show should go on. "The music helped me to heal," says Touretsky, whose group began selling out houses throughout Europe and the former Soviet Union.

While most of the patrons were non-Jewish, the choir didn't escape rising anti-Semitism after the collapse of the Soviet regime. Racists graffitied posters and in one instance, heckled the musicians before a concert. "Then they heard our music, and we won them over -- which is our goal," says Touretsky, adding that the choir now performs Jewish classics, pop and Broadway hits. "Our mission is to introduce people to Jewish culture, using music as a gateway to make them comfortable with something they perhaps don't understand. We aim to unite people, which is the significance of our U.S. tour, in light of recent events in New York."

Tickets for the event are $25-75. For information about the concert, call (213) 365-3500. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The New York Firefighters Disaster Relief Fund.

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