By Alison Bailin Batz
In 1933, Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, immediately founding his first concentration camp in Dachau.
In 1935, he issued the Nuremberg Laws, excluding Jewish people from public life across Germany.
By 1945, more than six million Jewish people were murdered across Europe during the Holocaust.
“We believe that in keeping the memory and lessons of the Holocaust alive, we prevent silence and indifference in future generations,” says Marty Haberer, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix.
In an effort to give a voice to those lost during those darkest of days in our history, the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix and other community partners, thanks to the diligent work by local volunteers Julee Landau Shahon and Rachel Hoffer, and in partnership with more than 50 Arizona nonprofits, schools and businesses, is proud to present Violins of Hope.
Violins of Hope
Violins of Hope tells the remarkable stories of violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. Today these instruments serve not only as powerful reminders of an unimaginable experience but also reinforce lessons of tolerance, inclusion, and diversity.
The violins were first discovered by Israeli violinmaker Amnon Weinstein, who as a young violinmaker more than 50 years ago was asked to restore a particular violin.
The customer shared with Weinstein – who himself lost hundreds of relatives during the Holocaust – that the violin was played by a musician at Auschwitz as he marched to the gas chamber. The musician was spared by the Nazis and forced to play at the camp afterwards.
Weinstein, who discovered what appeared to be ashes when he opened the violin case, was unable to restore that instrument. The memory was too painful at the time. But in 1996, by then a master violin-maker, Weinstein put out a worldwide call for violins from the Holocaust.
He sought out to restore every single one he could find as a way to reclaim his lost heritage and to give a voice to the victims.
The Violins of Hope have been played in concert halls and exhibited in museums worldwide. They have been featured in books, print, film and television. Their stories and messages have impacted hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide.
Violins of Hope Phoenix
Throughout March, Phoenix and Scottsdale will play host to dozens of Violins of Hope Phoenix events.
“This incredible program will be the largest collaborative project ever undertaken in greater-Phoenix, with Jewish and non-Jewish community organizations partnering in celebrating music, education, history and culture. It is a tremendous opportunity for the Federation to connect with community members and organizations and demonstrate unity in our shared values,” says Landau Shahon.
There are free, ticketed and even school events all month long, including:
Now through March 24:
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts will feature a Violins of Hope Exhibition. Monday-Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm, Sunday, noon-5. Docent-led tours (free).
Now through March 26:
The Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center will feature a free photography exhibit by renowned artist and photographer Daniel Levin called “Amnon Weinstein, The Man behind the Music”
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts will host a Violins of Hope Tribute Concert featuring the Red Rocks Music String Orchestra honoring Holocaust survivors and those who perished, with special guest Avshi Weinstein and emcee Lin Sue Cooney, at 7:30 p.m. (ticketed event).
March 23 and 24:
The Arizona Science Center Planetarium will host Chinese-American violinist Xiang (Sean) Gao as he gives an exclusive preview of a multi-media production based on stories of the Shanghai Jewish Refugees during the Holocaust.
The Arizona Opera will perform selections from Brundibar, a children’s opera originally performed by the children of Theresienstadt. Then, the Phoenix Boys Choir will perform I Never Saw Another Butterfly, with a Violins of Hope finale. I Never Saw Another Butterfly is based on poems written by Jewish children imprisoned in Theresienstadt. It serves as both a dramatic reminder of the Holocaust as well as a remembrance for these children, most of whose lives were extinguished soon after their poetry was written.
To see a full list of Violins of Hope events, or to buy tickets, visit www.violinsofhopephoenix.com.