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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Violins of Hope commemoration reminds us that good can triumph over evil

As our city hosts The Violins of Hope through Dec. 1, News-Sentinel.com wants to acknowledge the collaborative partners and supporters helping stage what they say is “the largest community arts and cultural collaboration of its kind in the history of Fort Wayne.”

It is a two-week commemoration that officially opened Monday based on the story in the book, “Violins of Hope: Violins of the Holocaust–Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind’s Darkest Hour,” by author and musicologist James A. Grymes.

“A stirring testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of music, Violins of Hope comprise a collection of instruments that tell remarkable stories of the defiance, resilience and legacy of Jewish musicians during the Holocaust, and of the Israeli violinmaker dedicated to bringing these inspirational Strings of the Holocaust back to life,” according to the local website, violinsofhopefw.org.

Violins of Hope Fort Wayne was organized by the Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and a steering committee of local professionals that worked with area partners on a community-wide series of events focusing on the collection of Violins of Hope that survived the Holocaust, were restored and have toured other cities around the world to be played again.

These two weeks in our city and the surrounding area will include music, visual art, dance, theater, public conversation, interfaith dialogue and educational activities. After nearly two weeks of related events, the official opening Monday began with a screening of the documentary of Violins of Hope, followed by a discussion with the author and luthier (instrument maker) Avshalom Weinstein, son of Violins of Hope founder Amnon Weinstein.

Amnon Weinstein spent the last 20 years finding and restoring violins that were played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. His father, Moshe, opened a violin shop after immigrating to Palestine in 1938 and learned after World War II that his entire family of 400 people had been murdered in the Holocaust. Amnon learned of that from his mother, Golda. After he became a world-renowned violin maker, he set out to reclaim his lost heritage, locating violins that were played by Jews in concentration camps and ghettos. He reconstructed each one so they could be played on the concert stage and called them the Violins of Hope.

Five of those violins are currently on display at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art through Dec. 1: The German Star of David violin, Ponar Klezmer violin, Vilna Klezmer violin, Hakkert violin and the Buried violin. The museum says each one tells “an amazing story about the Jewish musicians who performed on them during the Holocaust.” The violin exhibition is one of many events during the two-week celebration that is free to the public.

The closing concert Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Embassy Theatre, led by Philharmonic conductor Andrew Constantine, will feature violinist Igor Yuzefovich and 16 violins that survived the Holocaust. (Tickets are on sale at the Embassy box office.)

Although most of the musicians who played the Violins of Hope were murdered during the Holocaust, organizers of the Fort Wayne commemoration say “their voices and spirits live on through the violins Amnon lovingly restored.”

In a letter to the editor to The Journal Gazette, Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne President Ben Eisbart wrote his thanks to the partners and supporters of Violins of Hope Fort Wayne, praising them for understanding “that when we have flourishing arts, education and culture, society is enriched. They also realize when a society allows and encourages systematic hatred, evil results. It is our collective prayer that Violins of Hope will serve as a reminder that good can triumph over evil when women and men of goodwill gather together with a sense of purpose, strength and optimism for the future.”

We heartily agree.

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