CHICAGO (WLS) -- Violins of Hope is a collection of 70 restored string instruments that were played by Jewish musicians before and during the Holocaust. They've traveled the world, and next month you'll be able to see and hear them here.
It's been said that no other instrument is so strongly tied to Jewish tradition than the violin, both in times of celebration and times of great sadness. Master violin makers and co-founders of Violins of Hope, Amnon Weinstein and his son Avshalom, began repairing violins rescued from the Holocaust to keep their stories alive.
"They tell the stories of everyday people, about their life, what happened to them, to their families, those who survived, those who died and I think the important thing is to simply make sure people hear those stories," Avshalom said.
"Came to me a guy, he played on the way to the chamber, the gas chamber, and he had a grandchild he wanted to repair the violin that he will play," Amnon said. "I opened the violin, I remember, there was inside black powder because it was played beside the crematorium and beside all these horrible places.
"This is a lovely story. It was the violin of Violette. When she was deported she brought her violin with her. People who were in the orchestra maybe got an extra piece of break, maybe they got more clothing, it meant you had a chance to survive," said Ilene Uhlmann, community engagement director at JCC Chicago. "We have this video of Ashvi's wife playing on this violin and playing the exact piece that Violette played to get into that orchestra."
That violin will be here in Chicago as part of the Violins of Hope exhibit.
"You can go to a concert and see the violins and hear them being played," said Addie Goodman, president and CEO at JCC Chicago. "You can go to an exhibit and read the stories of every violin and the experience and their own history, where they were made, who owned them, where they were rescued from."
Mina Zikri is the Music Director of the Northbrook Symphony. He will be conducting a concert in June featuring the Violins of Hope. His wife, violinist Victoria Moreira, will be playing one of the rescued violins in that concert.
"The irony of us thinking sometimes our life is hard and life is difficult and then you get these instruments that remind you of these people that showed resilience and showed much bigger meanings of life than we realize," Zikri said.
The opening night concert is April 20 at North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe. More than 50 additional events, including concerts, exhibits at libraries, schools and civic centers, are scheduled through September throughout the state. Library and school exhibits will be free.
To buy tickets to the opening night concert and see a full list of upcoming events, visit jccchicago.org/violinsofhope .