KAILUA-KONA — The story unfolded half way across the world, but landed here, in Kona.
The remarkable tale crosses thousands of miles and country borders before it settles in Hawaii — a journey that’s been captured in the documentary “Black Fire, White Fire” by writer and producer Sara Nealy, a former Kohala resident.
It’s the story of a Holocaust Torah that is now lovingly maintained by Kona Beth Shalom.
The film premiers 6 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Pirates Outreach Community Center, the former Hualalai Theater, 75-170 Hualalai Road, Ste. B102.
The screening coincides with the anniversary of Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, the widespread violence of Nov. 9-10, 1938, that signaled an escalation in the Nazi reign of terror.
The filmmaker said in a press release she hopes to counteract that sad memory with remembrance and hope.
The story follows the Torah and the diaspora of the Jewish people from the land of Judea to Bohemia, to the village of Polna in what is now called the Czech Republic. By the 1700s, Jews accounted for one-quarter of Prague’s population; however, recurring acts of anti-semitism and the Holocaust decimated much of that population.
Miraculously, 1,564 Torah scrolls, including the Polna Torah, were rescued and brought to London for restoration.
Thanks to the aid of some special people, including the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, the Polna Torah finally found a home with Kona Beth Shalom, a congregation about the same size as the last congregation of Polna. Former Gov. Linda Lingle and kumu Keala Ching are also part of the story.
“Black Fire, White Fire” explores the meaning of Torah, how a Torah is made and its sacred meaning in Judaism and to other cultures. The Torah’s history is a tale of empires and regimes, pogroms and genocides. It is also a miraculous story of survival, hope and rebirth.
Nealy conceived the idea for “Black Fire, White Fire” soon after she moved in 1999 to Hawaii, where she encountered the Polna Torah at Kona Beth Shalom. Every year, the congregation says the Kaddish, the memorial prayer, for the congregation of Polna. Working with the help of her longtime partner, Keith, Nealy finally completed editing the film this fall.
The film could not have been made without the guidance and on-screen presence of Rabbi Moshe Druin of Sofer On Site; Jeffrey Ohrenstein, chairman of the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London; and Dr. Barry Blum, who served as president of Kona Beth Shalom for 13 years.
Award-winning voice over artist Ed Green narrates.
Admission is free. Reserve seats at https://blackfirewhitefire.eventbrite.com.