Violins of Hope spark powerful reminders of our past

On Sunday, February 3, many people across the country will be getting ready for the Superbowl. However, here in beautiful, sunny Phoenix, February 3 marks the kick off of Violins of Hope, a community-wide program that will tell remarkable stories of violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. And for the next two months, Violins of Hope will be sharing these stories, concerts, educational programs and much more with people across the state.

The goal of the program, which is a project of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, is to “transcend religious and other barriers to facilitate a community-wide dialogue about music, art, social justice and free expression and the importance of cooperation and collaboration to achieve common goals,” according to a press release.

The Violins of Hope have been played in concert halls and been featured in museums around the world and it all began with Israeli violin maker Amnon Weinstein. Weinstein has devoted the last 20 years to locating and restoring these violins lost during the Holocaust and has restored over 60 violins as a way to “reclaim his lost heritage, give a voice to the victims, and reinforce positive message of hope and harmony.”

 
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One of the most exciting parts about this program is the large multi-cultural reach it will have on our community. Violins of Hope is one of the largest collaborations of nonprofit organizations to be implemented throughout the state, and they expect to reach upwards of 50,000 people in Arizona during the two-month-long program. And many of the events are free or low-cost to encourage participation.

“In every major US city, except Phoenix, there is a Holocaust museum where people of all religions can go for education and knowledge,” said Julee Landau Shahon, co-chair of Violins of Hope. “In schools, the Holocaust is studied from a historical perspective but not in an in-depth, comprehensive way. Providing education on the Holocaust and relating lessons of the past to present day is key to creating a future where tolerance, hope and peace are valued.”

And in this politically-charged climate, where anti-Semitic incidents are happening more frequently, Violins of Hope aims to reinforce key lessons of tolerance, inclusion, and diversity that are pertinent now as well as for future generations.

“Given all that is happening in our world today, this program could not have come at a better time,” he continued. “According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents in the US rose 57 percent compared to 2016. This is the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since the ADL started tracking such data in 1979.”

Through educational programs, musical performances, museum exhibits and many more insightful events scheduled throughout the months of February and March, Valley residents of all ages are sure to find a program that speaks to them. Click here for a full calendar of events and to purchase tickets.

“Each violin has a unique history and it is important that we remember the stories of the Holocaust,” said Rachel Hoffer, co-chair of Violins of Hope. “This event will showcase the role of the violin and music not only as an important aspect of Jewish culture but also as a symbol of strength and optimism in the face of adversity.”

 
© Daniel Levin Photography 2016

© Daniel Levin Photography 2016