‘Stories From the Violins of Hope’ to honor International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Guest Speaker Niv Ashkenazi, who is the only violinist in the US with one of the instruments from the ‘Violins of Hope’ collection, will play it during ‘Stories From the Violins of Hope’ on Jan. 31. (Niv Ashkenaz)

Seven actors will bring to life the extraordinary story of violins played in ghettos, forests and concentration camps, and of the passionate Israeli violin maker determined to restore them after the Holocaust silenced them. Now heard in performances all over the world, they are called the Violins of Hope. 

And if you have not yet experienced the glory of their music, please tune in live on Zoom on January 31 when The Braid (formerly Jewish Women’s Theatre), the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony Chamber Players (LAJSCP), and Temple Isaiah will honor International Holocaust Remembrance Day with the world premiere of ‘Stories From the Violins of Hope.’

Along with extraordinary performances by five musicians, you will learn the 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.  Speaking from Israel where he continues to restore Holocaust violins sent to him from all over the world, violin maker Amnon Weinstein, who founded the traveling Violins of Hope project with his son, told playwright Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum, “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.  Every piece of music played on them says, ‘Never Again.’”

The live production, postponed last spring due to COVID-19, has been re-imagined for a live Zoom performance. Directed by The Braid’s Producing Director Susan Morgenstern, it will take place at 2 pm PST, on Sunday, January 31, 2021. Virtuoso violinist, Niv Ashkenazi, will play the only violin from the Violins of Hope collection currently in the United States. The rest of the collection remains in Israel until live concerts can resume.

Rosenbaum explains, “The story is based on my extensive conversations with Amnon and my research about the violins. What struck me was that Amnon’s father, Moshe, was also an extraordinary violin maker. 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 that will be performed by LAJSCP throughout Rosenbaum’s play.

The Braid’s Artistic Director and Producer of Stories From the Violins of Hope, Ronda Spinak shares, “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.”

Amnon Weinstein agrees, saying, “Every performance with the Violins of Hope is a monument to a boy, a girl, a man, a woman who cannot speak anymore.  It reminds us that as long as the song of a violin can be heard, there is reason to have hope.” And we certainly need more of that in today’s world.

Tickets for Stories From the Violins of Hope begin at $36. Performance is on Sunday, Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. Visit www.the-braid.org to purchase tickets and for additional information.