Violins of Hope

Touring exhibition plays tribute to the victims of the Holocaust.

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(Courtesy of Violins of Hope)

WHEN SAMUEL ASHER, executive director of the Virginia Holocaust Museum, heard a concert in Nashville featuring violins from the touring exhibition, Violins of Hope, he knew he had to bring it to Richmond. The exhibition tells the stories of violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. It makes its way to Richmond for 12 weeks from Aug. 4 through Oct. 24.

The Virginia Holocaust Museum, the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, and the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia will each showcase several violins from the exhibition. Many other violins will be used for concerts and educational events throughout the community. Members of the Richmond Symphony will play some of the Violins of Hope during a special concert on Sept. 9 at Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

“As soon as I heard about the violins, I was on the phone with Avshalom ‘Avshi’ Weinstein, son of Amnon Weinstein, an Israeli violin shop owner and master craftsman who lost 400 family members in the Holocaust,” says Asher.

Weinstein located and restored the exhibition’s more than 60 violins played by Jews in concentration camps and ghettos. He wanted them to serve as a symbol of hope by telling the stories of the people that played them.

“Bringing the violins to Richmond provides hope for what people have been through, this terrible pandemic,” Asher says. “The Violins of Hope provides us with the understanding that good things will come on the other side of the pandemic like they did at the end of the Holocaust.” During the Holocaust, the violin assumed an extraordinary role within the Jewish community. “For some musicians, the violin became a liberator that freed them and their families from Nazi tyranny,” Asher says. “Some violins were played at Auschwitz as work details marched in and out of camps every day. In exchange, the violinists often received lighter work assignments and they also got some food, which allowed them to survive. There is a story behind every instrument.”

But for Asher, the exhibitions have a deeper purpose. “I want people to understand the history of the Holocaust. I want them to know what happened and to come together and feel strong as a community,” he says. “There could be nothing more important than that.”ViolinsOfHopeRVA.com

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