The Center for Holocaust and Gender Studies-Muskegon invited the public to view the film “Stories from the Violins of Hope” and to participate in an online question-and-answer session with the director, writer and one of the actors.
The virtual event tok place on on Thursday, Jan. 27. The showing coincided with the International Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and the day that Soviet troops entered Auschwitz liberating those Jews who were not forced to endure the death marches.
“Stories From the Violins of Hope” is an original drama which brings stories of surviving Holocaust violins to new generations through a filmed performance by The Braid, formerly the Jewish Women’s Theatre. The film tells the true story of the famed collection of stringed instruments that survived the Holocaust and were brought back to life, and to the world, by an Israeli family of violin makers.
The filmed performance features seven actors along with five musicians from the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony (LAJSCP), including virtuoso violinist Niv Ashkenazi, who plays a violin from the Violins of Hope collection.
“I had to find a way to let these violins speak, to tell the world they were once played by people who had dreams, and so much talent that has been lost,” said violin maker Amnon Weinstein, who founded the traveling Violins of Hope project with his son, to playwright Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum.
“Every piece of music played on them says, ‘Never Again,’” added Weinstein, who lives in Israel, where he continues to restore Holocaust violins sent to him from all over the world.
Rosenbaum based the story on her extensive conversations with Weinstein and her research about the violins.
“What struck me was that Amnon’s father, Moshe, was also an extraordinary violin maker,” she recounted. “He left Lithuania for Palestine before World War II and set up a music store and workshop in Tel Aviv. Members of the newly founded Palestine Orchestra, now the Israel Philharmonic, all of whom were exiled Jews from Europe, wanted to get rid of their German-made instruments. Moshe could not bear to destroy them, so he put them away in his attic. Years later, his son Amnon reclaimed and restored them, and added them to his collection of violins that survived concentration camps, ghettos, transport trains and the forests of Eastern Europe. This is a story that needs to be told.”
“The violins will outlive Holocaust survivors and be there to tell the story to the next generation,” said Dr. Noreen Green, Artistic Director of the LAJSCP. Green curated the music performed by LAJSCP throughout Rosenbaum’s play.
“We are honored and thrilled to have found a way to present this fresh, original, deeply moving work which gives voice to our Jewish heritage in a unique and contemporary way,” added The Braid’s Artistic Director Rhonda Spinak, who produced “Stories from the Violins of Hope.”
“The Braid’s Advisory Council Member and writer Lisa Rosenbaum’s unforgettable script, enhanced by the beautiful music, offers a soulful way into this moving story and gives a gift to each audience member that will long be remembered.”
The film’s subject, Amnon Weinstein, concurs with the sentiment.
“Every performance with the Violins of Hope is a monument to a boy, a girl, a man, a woman who cannot speak anymore,” he concluded. “It reminds us that as long as the song of a violin can be heard, there is reason to have hope.”
On behalf of the Center’s board, I would like to thank you for joining with over 120 other viewers for the presentation of “Violins of Hope”. I would also like to thank Mr. Tom Hinken from MAISD, Mrs. Sarah Wojcehoski from Fruitport High School, Rabbi and Mrs. Alpert for all their work to make the presentation possible.Here are a few of the responses we received.
Center for Holocaust and Gender Studies-Muskegon
Thank you so much for arranging this for us. It is a profoundly moving film, made even more meaningful by listening to the writer, director, and cast member tonight……Thank you again for gifting us a memorable experience with the film and interview.
. . . this was one of the most stunning, moving, and memorable presentations I’ve ever seen. I had the merit to meet Amnon in his shop in Tel Aviv some years ago, and I taught the book Uncle Misha’s Partisans many years ago to 7th graders, so it was especially important to me to see this and learn about these background stories, which I did not know. I cannot thank you enough for sending me this link and giving me this opportunity to see this marvelous and important presentation.
I just watched “Stories from the Violins of Hope” via Eventbrite registration, and wanted to commend you on showing this riveting and beautiful production. I was moved to tears of sadness and joy throughout. The actors and music and writing were stellar. This story is such an amazing inter-generational family history of hope and compassion for others, and part of the universal history for us all. It’s a powerful offering for this year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I also greatly appreciated seeing the family and historical photos shown at the end. Thank you for offering this film to viewers. I will pass the info on to friends, and post it on my Facebook. I hope more people register to see this important film. This has also given me a renewed respect for violins. I began playing as a child in 4th grade, initially inspired in kindergarten by hearing a recording of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”, and my grandmother also played the violin. I was in regional orchestras as a youth and young adult, but put it aside as I aged. And haven’t played now for years. My favorite violin is here in a closet at home, another is in storage. This film has encouraged me to get reacquainted and play, or give them to someone else who will. “They are alive, the wood breathes”, instruments deserve to be honored, their stories heard.
Just wanted to thank you for this film which I have just watched. Inspiring and sad but what people did during this horrible time to save a huge part of their culture is so remarkable. A good way to reflect on the Holocaust on this Remembrance Day.
Pastor Christopher Anderson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Retired
Ms. Anna Alpert
Congregation B’nai Israel
Rabbi Alan Alpert
Congregation B’nai Israel
Mr. Tom Hinken
Muskegon Area Intermediate School District
Ms. Sarah Woycehoski
Fruitport Schools, Administrative Secretary
Dr. Dale Nesbary
President, Muskegon Community College
Mr. Tom Hinken
Muskegon Area Intermediate School District
Ms. Jennifer Fairweather
In 1995 a Service of Commemoration was held at Samuel Lutheran Church in the city of Muskegon. Pastor Chris Anderson and Rabbi Alan Alpert gathered in the small Worship Center with 12 people in attendance. The service commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the liberation of the only remaining death camp, Auschwitz, and the many concentration camps spread throughout northern Europe and the murder of six million Jews and five million others because they were Slavs, Roma and Sinti, or their religious or political beliefs or their sexual orientation. The service also commemorated Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was murdered by the Nazis at Flossenburg prison on April 9, 1945 for his participation the attempt to assassinate Hitler.
It has been a remarkable 25 years bringing primary witnesses to the Holocaust, individuals who lived in Europe and were part of the Hitler Youth, scholars in Holocaust studies. Various organizations have shared their gifts of music: the Cammerata Singers under the direction of Floyd Farmer; the Muskegon Chamber Choir under the direction of David Wikman; area high school and middle school choirs and instrumental groups from Reeths-Puffer, North Muskegon, Mona Shores, Muskegon High School and a diverse group of individuals. Over fifteen survivors of the Holocaust have come to Muskegon to share recollections of their experiences.
The Center has supported educational programs for the Muskegon County schools and provided underwriting for programs through its annual fundraising event.
In an effort to provide for this organization’s work into the future, a partnership was forged with Muskegon Community College and the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District. We moved from being the Shoah Remembrance Committee of Muskegon to the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies–Muskegon, whose mission is: cultivating values to diffuse hate and encourage diversity.
The Center will provide opportunities to the Muskegon Community which result in:
- Education: The Muskegon Community learns, thinks critically and applies lessons learned from the Holocaust and genocide
- Commemoration: The Muskegon Community remembers and reflects upon the victims of the Holocaust and genocide.
- Perpetuation: The Muskegon Community recognizes the ongoing importance of educating and commemorating beyond the immediacy of the victims of the Holocaust and genocide
PO Box 452
Muskegon MI 49440