Eighty-one years ago, Moshe and his wife Golda, moved to Tel Aviv and opened a violin shop. They had both graduated from the Vilna Conservatory; Moshe as a violinist and Golda, as a pianist and followed the large Jewish emigration from Europe to Palestine. In postwar Europe, survivors of the Holocaust - remnants of the continent's once rich and thriving Jewish communities - poured out of liberated concentration, work and displaced persons camps. Some made their way to British Mandate Palestine and what would soon become the new, modern, Jewish State of Israel. Many made their way to the United States, Canada and Latin America. Countless more remained locked behind the Iron Curtain as the cold war settled across the globe.
Amid the human destruction and displacement, the treasures of the Jewish people were also displaced. The sacred - Torah scrolls, prayer shawls and other ritual items - but in even greater numbers, the artistic and musical treasures sacred to Jewish culture throughout Europe. The Nazis burned, smashed, looted and confiscated the possessions of millions. But some precious pieces remained. Many musical instruments survived when their owners did not. Many more were lost or abandoned as their owners escaped the war. And, when the Allies Liberated Europe in 1945, hope remained. For Moshe and Golda's son, Amnon Weinstein, that hope manifested in the thin, wooden bodies of violins, violas and cellos rescued from the Holocaust.
Amnon and his son Avshalom, created the Violins of Hope to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit. Using their private collections of over 60 violins, violas and cellos all restored since the end of World War II, the Weinsteins continue to tell the story of the instruments' previous owners, each with their own personal experiences from the Holocaust.
Susanne Reyto, Chair of Violins of Hope, Los Angeles County, was born just six days before the Nazi occupation of Hungary in March 1944. Her childhood experiences and difficult escape from Communist Hungary in the late 1950s has left her with an unwavering spirit of optimism and perseverance. Her memoir, "Pursuit of Freedom," recounts the story of her early life during this turbulent era. Being a grateful child survivor, bringing Violins of Hope to the Los Angeles community is her way of giving back.
Music has the power to heal...to transcend pain and anguish...and to bring hope. Even through humanity's darkest chapters - music persists.
The mission of Violins of Hope is to educate audiences about the Holocaust through music and culture using a collection of violins, violas and cellos rescued from the Holocaust and restored by Israeli luthiers Amnon and Avshi Weinstein.
Included in the collection is a violin played in the Auschwitz orchestra and one used on the Kindertransport. Some were played by Jewish inmates in Nazi concentration camps; others belonged to the Klezmer musical culture, which was all but destroyed by the Nazis. These instruments were silenced by World War II.
After painstaking restoration, however, they have new life and sound, giving voice to a generation lost in the Holocaust. They restore hope, the strength of the human spirit and the power of music. It is proof of the victory of life over death and memory over oblivion.
Violins of Hope is not only a memorial to the lost culture and people, it is an educational project that reaches students and adults of all faiths and backgrounds. Visitors will attend narrated concerts telling the history of some of these instruments - such as the violin that was thrown out of a cattle car on the way from France to Auschwitz or the violin that was buried under the snow in Holland. So many stories, so much history - these instruments are a symbol of hope.
In 2015, following the publication of Violins of Hope by James Grymes and a critically acclaimed PBS documentary narrated by Adrian Brody, academic, music, cultural and media partners came together in Cleveland, Ohio. More than 70 programs including an exhibition, lectures and school visits, impacted tens of thousands of people and cast a national spotlight on the project.
Violins of Hope underscores the importance of standing up against bigotry and hatred while demonstrating the transformative power of music to bring awareness and knowledge to the public and helping to spread an important message. I am grateful to my co-chair, Geri Morguelan, for all her support and for bringing this very meaningful project to me.
We hope you will participate in this impactful program as these instruments promote a message of hope and endurance through music and have a history that must be told. We need your commitment to ensure that the voiceless do indeed have a voice and that we must "Never Forget."
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Violins of Hope LA County is a registered 501c3 through Community Partners
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