Sharon Kenigsberg | Director of Endowment & Community Development
Our 2019 Community Yom HaShoah Commemorative Candle Lighting and Holocaust Memorial Service, open to all, begins at 2:00 pm on Sunday, April 19, held in the Lipeles Auditorium at the Alpert Jewish Community Center on the Weinberg Jewish Long Beach Campus.
This annual Yom HaShoah event is truly a community effort with rabbis and cantors from all the local synagogues participating in the memorial service. This year, the service will be led by Rabbi David Cantor of Temple Beth Shalom and the program will feature virtuoso violinist Niv Ashkenazi and the Violins of Hope.
Violins of Hope was created to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit. The private collection of more than 60 violins, violas and cellos were rescued from the ashes of the Holocaust. Collected by master violin artisan Amnon Weinstein and his son Avshalom in Tel Aviv, the instruments have been restored so they can continue to tell the story of the role of Jewish music – particularly violins – in history.
For Jews enduring utter despair and unimaginable evil during the Holocaust, music offered haven and humanity. The strains of a beloved song supplied solace, even if only for a few moments. The chords also provided a vital reminder that even the most brutal regime could not rob them of their faith. No matter what, their souls could be free.
In some cases, the ability to play the violin spared Jewish musicians from more grueling labors or even death. Nearly 50 years ago, Amnon Weinstein heard such a story from a customer who brought in an instrument for restoration. The customer survived the Holocaust because his job was to play the violin while Nazi soldiers marched others to their deaths.
When Weinstein opened the violin’s case, he saw ashes. He thought of his own relatives, 300 of whom had perished, and was overwhelmed. He could not bring himself to begin the project. By 1996, Weinstein was ready. He put out a call for violins from the Holocaust that he would restore in hopes that the instruments would sound again, giving a voice to the voiceless.
For our Community Yom HaShoah Observance, on April 19, we are fortunate to be partnering with the Long Beach Symphony to have virtuoso violinist Niv Ashkenazi as our featured guest. Niv will be playing one of the restored violins on April 19 for Yom HaShoah and then again the evening of April 25 for the Violins of Hope event at the Long Beach Symphony (for ticket information, see pg. 9).
Niv Ashkenazi has captivated audiences with his heartfelt musicianship and emotional performances. Praised for his “lush sound” and “passionate playing” (CASA Magazine) and “formidable technical powers” (Santa Barbara News-Press), he has made several Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center appearances, and has performed in Europe, the Middle East, and across North America. His conviction that the impact of music serves people beyond the concert stage motivates him to collaborate on projects that create a strong emotional bond with his audience.
In the 2019-2020 season, he will be the first ever Artist in Residence at the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts (The Soraya) and will perform as a soloist with the Long Beach Symphony.
The restored Violins of Hope were played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. These instruments have survived concentration camps, pogroms and many long journeys to tell remarkable stories of injustice, suffering, resilience and survival. Every rescued instrument has a story to tell. Posters with those stories will be part of the Yom HaShoah commemoration.
In support of the Violins of Hope project our community has adopted two violins:
The Buried Violin has been underwritten by Jewish Long Beach; Drs. Matthew Davis and Mark Dressner, along with the Alpert Jewish Community Center, have underwritten the German Violin with the Star of David. (See page 5 for further details.)
In addition to attending the Community Observance, community members are encouraged to visit the Zena & Pauline Gatov Exhibition Art Gallery from March 29 - April 29, 2020 to view Faces of Resilience, Faith and the Human Spirit.
Curated by Georgia Freedman-Harvey, this exhibit features the artwork of Bill Aron, Dina Dar and Dave Fox. The works tell stories of determination, hope, faith, resilience and the power of the human spirit to thrive even after the darkness of the Holocaust. Dina Dar and Dave Fox were both born in Europe. They would have their identity and lives shaped by the events of the Holocaust, and their artwork is a reflection of their resiliency to survive and to still find beauty in life. Bill Aron will exhibit a selection of portraits of Holocaust survivors from the series "The Indestructible Spirit,” commissioned by the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education at Chapman University in conjunction with The 1939 Society. All of the artworks illustrate the strength of the human spirit, and what each of us can achieve. There will be an Artist Reception, open to all, on March 29, 3-5pm at the Alpert JCC on the Weinberg Jewish Long Beach Campus.
Jewish Long Beach has honored Gerda Seifer by naming the Yom HaShoah Fund in her honor. The fund makes possible the annual Community Yom HaShoah observance program, as well as other Holocaust education activities and programs. If you wish to continue the important work of memorializing the Holocaust, please consider a donation to the Gerda Seifer Yom HaShoah Fund. Please make your tax-deductible donation payable to: Jewish Long Beach and mail to 3801 East Willow Street, Long Beach, CA 90815 or call (562) 426-7601 ext. 1314 to make your donation by phone. Donations received by April 13, 2020 will be recognized in the printed event program.