Violins Rescued From the Holocaust Play Again in Los Angeles for a Special Online Concert

Silenced no more.

Violins of Hope is an internationally renowned collection of over 60 stringed instruments rescued from the Holocaust and restored by second-generation violinmaker, Amnon Weinstein, and his son, Avshalom in their shop in Tel Aviv. Last March, the collection was brought to Los Angeles for a month long series of concerts, exhibits and student educational programming, most of which were suspended in response to the then growing worldwide health crisis.

Three Violinists–Niv Ashkenazi, Lindsay Deutsch and Janice Mautner Markham–performed a video-taped farewell concert, on the instruments they were to play at various Southland Violins of Hope concerts, taped safely per Covid regulations for City of Los Angeles and State of California, before they were recently returned to Tel Aviv. The concert will be broadcast on-going online from The Soraya, a performing arts center in the San Fernando Valley, beginning Friday, November 20 at 5 p.m. PST.

Violins of Hope, an artistic and educational project, is composed of instruments that were owned by Jewish musicians before and during the Holocaust. Violins in the collection were played in the concentration camps and ghettos, providing a source of comfort for some and a means of survival for others. Above all, the instruments represented strength and optimism for the future during mankind’s darkest hour. Wherever there was music, there was hope.

“Suspending Violins of Hope activities was heartbreaking for everyone who had come together around this extraordinary project — musicians, educators, philanthropists, elected officials, arts organizations, churches and synagogues, and the public at large.”

The Weinsteins, who founded the project, are Israeli luthiers who collect the instruments, refurbish them to concert quality, and bring them to communities all over the world. The Violins of Hope have traveled to Jerusalem, Sion, Madrid, Maastricht, Monaco, Rome, Berlin, London, Bucharest, Dachau, Dresden, and Auschwitz. In the United States, the project has been presented in Charlotte, Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, Sarasota, Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, Nashville, Birmingham, Knoxville, Phoenix, Louisville, Fort Wayne and San Francisco.

After a cancellation caused by the global pandemic, the violins were secured under The Soraya stage for seven months until they were safely returned to the Weinsteins.

Although the instruments make beautiful museum pieces, at the heart of the Violins of Hope project is the Weinsteins’ commitment to ensuring that the instruments are played again. While some of the musicians who originally owned the Violins of Hope may have been silenced by the Holocaust, their voices and spirits live on through performances on their instruments.

Susanne Reyto is the Chair of Violins of Hope, Los Angeles County and was responsible for working with Weinstein to bring the violins to the region.

The Violins of Hope have been played by virtuosos such as Shlomo Mintz and Daniel Hope, and revered ensembles such as the Berlin Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra. Before the return, violinists Ashkenazi, Deutsch and Markham each chose an instrument that spoke to them and performed at The Soraya for the taped concert, to broadcast on November 20.

In addition, in March 2020 just before shelter-at-home began, Soraya artist-in-residence Niv Ashkenazi conducted a 40-school tour and released a Violins of Hope album; the education program was close to completion at that time, and educational programming has continued throughout the pandemic.

“Suspending Violins of Hope activities was heartbreaking for everyone who had come together around this extraordinary project — musicians, educators, philanthropists, elected officials, arts organizations, churches and synagogues, and the public at large,” says Thor Steingraber, Executive Director of The Soraya. “I was really struck with the pain of our two years’ worth of work that would not come to fruition. We decided capturing one final performance on film at The Soraya would allow us to the share the comfort and beauty the violins provide when performed.”

“The current circumstances with COVID-19 only magnify the importance of Violins of Hope,” continues Steingraber. “Headlines in the press and pronouncements from global leaders suggest that we have not faced a crisis this severe since World War II. In that chapter of history, as well as the current one, those violins have stood as witness to our collective strength and resiliency in the face of difficult circumstances, and when we emerge from COVID-19, those instruments will again be present to celebrate what is best in humankind.”


To view the concert, visit www.thesoraya.org

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