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Yom HaShoah observed at VHM

Amnon Weinstein, an Israeli violin maker who restored the instruments in the collection that became known as "Violins of Hope," holds up one of the instruments adorned with a Jewish star indicating it was played by a Jewish musician during the Holocaust. Photo courtesy the UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture.

The Virginia Holocaust Museum paused to remember the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust during its annual Day of Remembrance – held virtually on Sunday, April 11.

Dr. James Grymes, internationally recognized musicologist, professor, and author of “Violins of Hope: Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind’s Darkest Hour, was the featured speaker via Zoom.

“Today we commemorate Yom HaShoah here in Richmond,” said Samuel Asher, VHM director, in welcoming the online attendees. “We join other communities around the world in doing so.”

A print screen photo of four of the Survivors who lit candles – (Clockwise from top right) Halina Zimm, Inge Horowitz, Roger Loria and Odette Cook. (Top left) Virginia Holocaust Museum Director delivers opening remarks.

He continued, “In today’s atmosphere of political, cultural, ideological and racial divisions, here in America, the mission of the Virginia Holocaust Museum has never been more relevant and vital to our society. The Museum preserves and documents the history of the Holocaust. It employs the history of the Holocaust and other genocides to inspire future generations of Virginians to fight prejudice and indifference.

“The pledge of never again is made by all of us.  We pledge to remember the Holocaust and pledge to continue Holocaust education, through our Teacher Education Institute, small group tours and our contact with over 10,000 visitors who have come to the Museum since we re-opened in July of 2020, even during these difficult times. We want our students and everyone who visits the VHM to learn about the horrors of the Holocaust so that it can never be repeated.

He shared some details on new exhibits and events.

In May, a new Children’s Memorial will be opened at the Museum. “The Exhibit will have an infinity mirror,” Asher noted. “It is one of the only exhibits like that on the East Coast. We thank Dr. Donald and Beejay Brown for the generous contribution to make this new Children’s Memorial happen.”

Violins of Hope Exhibit

Rabbi Dovid Asher delivers the Invocation.

Asher added, “This year, we will bring the Violins of Hope Exhibit to Richmond from Aug. 1 – Oct. 25, with the help of the Virginia Museum for History and Culture and Black History Museum. The opening concert will be held at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Sept. 9.”

For all details, visit violinsofhopeRVA.com.


Candle Lighting

During the Yom HaShoah Observance, six candles were lit in memory of the six million

Cantor Sarah Beck-Berman recites the Mourners Kaddish.

Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

Matt Simpson, director of Guest Services at VHM, offered commentary on each of the candle lighters.

Lighting candles at their homes were Survivors Halina Zimm, Odette Cook, Inge Horowitz,  Roger Loria, Henri Maizels and Second Generation Survivor Maurice Schwarz. They were assisted by family members.

Student Art Contest

In addition, the winners of the annual VHM Student Art Contest were announced by community leader Carole Weinstein who is a generous supporter of the Museum and art contest.

A total of 53 entries from students from 20 schools were represented in an effort to win the Carole Weinstein Prizes for Tolerance and Justice in the Visual Arts. The winners will receive their awards via mail.

Keynote Speaker

In his remarks, Dr. James Grymes shared remarkable stories of Jewish musicians who played violins during the Holocaust and of Amnon Weinstein, the Israeli violinmaker, who spent some two decades locating and restoring many of these violins.

The violin maker, Grymes said, has dedicated this important work to 400 relatives he never knew. These grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins remained in Eastern Europe when Weinstein’s parents, Moshe and Golda, immigrated in 1938 to Palestine, where Moshe opened a violin shop.

After the war, Moshe learned that his entire family of 400 had been murdered during the Holocaust.

Weinstein started locating violins that were played by Jews in the camps and ghettos, painstakingly piecing them back together so they could be brought to life again on the concert stage.

Although most of the musicians who originally played the instruments were silenced in the Holocaust, their voices and spirits live on through the violins that Amnon has lovingly restored.

‘Violins of Hope’

Grymes said “Violins of Hope” tells remarkable stories of defiance, resilience and legacy of the Jewish musicians.

He noted the violin has formed an important aspect of Jewish culture for centuries, both as a popular instrument with classical Jewish musicians and as a central factor of social life, as in the Klezmer tradition.

“But during the Holocaust, the violin assumed extraordinary roles within the Jewish community. For some musicians, the instrument was a liberator; for others, it was a savior.”

Following his remarks, there was a special violin and piano concert performance by community member Jocelyn Vorenberg of the Richmond Symphony and David Fisk of the Charlotte Symphony (formerly of the Richmond Symphony.

To view a replay of the Yom HaShoah Observance, visit www.facebook.com/VHMrichmond/.

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