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Violins of Hope resonate with stories of Shoah

Israeli Amnon Weinstein, who has restored more than 60 violins that survived the Holocaust, will be in Tucson for Violins of Hope Feb. 17. (Daniel Levin)

Israeli violin maker Amnon Weinstein and his son Avshi have spent the last two decades locating and restoring violins from the Holocaust as a tribute to those who were lost, including 400 of their own relatives. Amnon calls these the Violins of Hope.

Violins of Hope will be at the University of Arizona on Sunday, Feb. 17 for the Jewish History Museum’s third annual Elizabeth Leibson Holocaust Remembrance lecture. The program will be a multi-media presentation of live music, artifacts, and storytelling.

“We are very lucky to get this moment to be in contact with the violins and with the Weinsteins, who made this possible by their work,” says Bryan Davis, JHM executive director.

The restored violins are played in concert halls and exhibited in museums around the world. They are featured in books, print, film, and television. They are used in lectures and educational programs. Their stories and messages have impacted hundreds of thousands of individuals.

Amnon restored more than 60 violins as a way to reclaim his lost heritage, give a voice to the millions who were silenced in the Holocaust, and reinforce positive messages of hope and harmony. “Violin is talking, violin is singing,” he says. “And if you have a good way to listen, you can listen to all the stories.”

“The program will tell stories in various ways,” says Davis. “The materials carry a testimonial charge, and the music that’s played through them provides another layer or representation and memory.”

UA faculty and student musicians will play the violins in the three-movement “Semazen Duo” for violins, composed by UA Fred Fox School of Music Professor Daniel Asia. UA Assistant Professor of Music Jackie Glazier will play clarinet in the “Sonata for Clarinet and Piano” by Hans Winterberg, a Czech Jew who survived the Terezin concentration camp.

The Nazis banned Winterberg’s music and his works were embargoed and locked in a vault. Asia worked with Winterberg’s grandson Peter Kreitmeir to unlock the music in 2015.

“We were the first to bring it to life in contemporary times,” Asia told the AJP.

Recorded at the UA, Winterberg’s music was released in November 2018 by Toccata Classics as “Hans Winterberg: Chamber Music, Volume One.” The CD will be available at the Violins of Hope performance. Violins of Hope in Arizona is a collaborative effort with programs throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area and Flagstaff, Tucson and Sedona.

“We expect to reach upward of 50,000 people of all ages and religious beliefs throughout the state during the two-month-long event,” says Marty Haberer, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, a co-sponsor for the Tucson event. “This is a large-scale collaborative project bringing together nonprofit arts groups and other agencies for a multi-cultural, multi-city event.”

Violins of Hope educational presentations will be held at Valencia Middle School and Pistor Middle School in the Tucson Unified School District.

Ron and Kathy Margolis established the Jewish History Museum’s Leibson lectureship in memory of Ron’s mother. Violins of Hope will take place at 11:30 a.m. at Crowder Hall in the UA School of Music building, 1017 N. Olive Road. Reserved seating and a pre-program reception to meet the Weinsteins at 10:30 a.m. is $54. General admission is $18.

For tickets, visit Free tickets are available for Holocaust survivors and students. For more information, contact the museum at 670-9073.