Violins of Hope: Reclaiming a Lost Heritage

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Virtuoso violinist Niv Ashkenazi is coming to Ottawa, bringing with him a prized instrument. But this is no ordinary violin. Rather, it is one of the scores of violins played during the Holocaust by “Jews in ghettoes, forest hideouts and concentration camp orchestras” and lovingly restored by Israeli luthiers Amnon Weinstein and his son, Avshalom.

Countless recollections tell of the rich place of music in Jewish lives through the ages, even in times of despair. And the violin was at the heart of Jewish life for reasons that are “partly spiritual, partly practical. Orthodox Jews faced religious prohibitions in the arts of painting, sculpture and dance. Music was one of the few artistic outlets and violins were cheap, light and easy to carry. When persecution forced Jews to flee, they could grab their violins and run.”

“Music connects us to history in a way we can relate to, and that’s particularly true of the violins. Just thinking about the role violins played during the Holocaust makes us shiver as we feel, think and identify with the victims,” says Weinstein. Four hundred relatives of his father Moshe, a luthier who emigrated to Palestine in 1938 with his wife Golda, lost their lives during that terrible time ─ grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.

Originally posted on Glebe Report. Read the full article.

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