Tycher Library Fall Read book strikes chord
Photo: Courtesy Ma’alot-Tarshiha Music Center
Ma’alot Music Center musicians (left to right) Nachmun Kapel, Natalie Habib, Gila Viksman, Reem Khamisa, Gil Kotlarsky and Galina Brickman. 

‘Violins of Hope’

By Deb Silverthorn

Author James “Jay” A Grymes captures music of the heart and heritage in “Violins of Hope,” with two upcoming opportunities to participate in online gatherings about the book.

The book, subtitled “Violins of the Holocaust, Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind’s Darkest Hour,” will be presented at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 4  at the Tycher Library Book Club, and at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27 in the 15th annual Tycher Library Fall Read. The Fall Read is in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Center for Jewish Education (CJE) and the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, and in association with Partnership 2Gether Western Dallas Galilee and Ma’alot Music Center. 

The Violins of Hope project was created by renowned violin maker Amnon Weinstein, who over decades has located and restored violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. His work is dedicated to 400 relatives who stayed behind when Amnon’s parents, Moshe and Golda, of blessed memory, immigrated in 1938 to Palestine. The family in Eastern Europe all perished. While most of the musicians who originally played the instruments were silenced by the Holocaust, their voices and spirits live on through the violins that Amnon has restored. 

Grymes’ book, a National Jewish Book Award winner, brings together the stories of the Violins of Hope and of Weinstein, who followed in his father Moshe’s footsteps, dedicated to the instruments.

“The message of zahor, remember, is underscored,” said Marcy Helfand, a member of CJE Advisory Committee. “We must remember the poignant stories in this book which extol the remarkable resilience of the human spirit and celebrate heroism, history, humanity, healing, and hope.”

Longtime Dallas resident Ilana Pomeranz, a lifelong musician who performed in a baroque quintet as a child, and whose own family history tragically mirrors that of the Weinsteins, will lead the Tycher Library Book Club in a discussion of the book at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 4.

“Amnon Weinstein coped with his family’s history in a healthy way, weaving together the history, and the memories of the violins and those who played them,” said Pomeranz, who plays and teaches piano and recorder. A member of Congregation Shearith Israel, she also sings in its professional and amateur choirs. 

Like Weinstein, Pomeranz was born in 1939 to parents who escaped the Holocaust, and many of her ancestors were also murdered. Music was always important in her home and she connected to the book immediately. “The Holocaust was horrific,” she said. “‘Violins of Hope’ is the story of one who survived and his son, of the children of survivors and their families.”

On Oct. 27, Grymes, an internationally acclaimed musicologist, critically acclaimed author, and professor at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, will share the remarkable stories of violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. 

“When I learned of the Violins of Hope, the project coming to UNC, inspired me with its incredible message,” said Grymes, who twice visited Weinstein’s workshop in Israel, his own father Robert Grymes traveling with him. “Amnon and his wife welcomed us into their home and into his workshop which remains almost as his father left it. The pieces of wood, smells of varnish and glue—you can’t help but feel decades of expertise and technique.”

Grymes said that music had been a passion “since I was in the sixth grade and thought I’d be a middle school band director. This very special gift [“Violins of Hope”] spoke to my core.”

During the Fall Read, Annie Black, director of Programs and Volunteers at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, will moderate a question-and-answer session.

“We know that music took on many roles during the Holocaust, sometimes to exploit already imprisoned Jews, but also as a soothing comfort, strength, and inspiration to many Holocaust Survivors. It is so important that these stories live on so we can learn from them today,” said the museum’s President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins. “The stories in ‘Violins of Hope’ help rescue the individual. Six million Jews killed is an unfathomable number, even more so when you add those who suffered and survived.

“To read these stories of individuals and their instruments,” said Higgins, “is to remember each of them as they lived and to acknowledge their unique personal experiences.”

The Fall Read will be accompanied by young conservatory musicians of the Ma’alot Music Center, performing “Zog Nit Keynmol/Never Say” and the “Theme from Schindler’s List.” Violinists, a pianist and an accordionist will perform.  

Ma’alot Music Center is in Ma’alot Tarshiha in the the Western Galilee near the Lebanese border. Its nearly 250 students are both Jewish and Arab, ages 10 to 19. The school offers a choir and ensembles, and students play string instruments, harp, flutes, clarinets, percussion and more.

“This music, it is like the soul of those who played the violins and the music they shared, remains with us. To have our children, our students perform and share it widely through this program is exciting,” said Eran El-Bar, the Music Center’s pedagogic director and conductor of the youth orchestra.El-Bar visited Dallas 10 years ago when he was director of the Dallas-Western Galilee Partnership in Israel.

In the Ma’a lot Music Center performance, 12-year-old Nachmun Kapel dedicates his performance to his grandfather, Josef Kapel, of blessed memory, a Holocaust survivor who passed away recently at the age of 94.

“‘Violins of Hope’ is an emotional reminder of the people, and their talents, lost during the Holocaust,” said Karen Schlosberg, CJE project coordinator. “These stories, the family who restored them and the children who will perform, illustrate the Tycher Library’s mission to inspire lifelong Jewish learning through programming and resources that provide a rich understanding of Jewish life and culture.”

To register for the Book Club event email kschlosberg@jewishdallas.org and for the Tycher Fall Read visit jfgd.regfox.com/2021-fall-read.

15th Annual Tycher Fall Read presentation of “Violins of Hope” to his grandfather, a Survivor, who recently passed away.

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