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'Violins of Hope' uses restored Holocaust-era violins to communicate tragedy, recovery and love

Posted at 4:30 AM, Jan 22, 2018

CINCINNATI -- Seventeen million deaths -- the total number estimated to have occurred in the Holocaust -- is a statistic nearly impossible to grasp in its entirety. 

Who can conceptualize 17 million individual people in the first place -- all the aching loves and dreams and disappointments, the webs of connection that linked them to millions more? And who can truly comprehend the enormity of the loss the world endured in the first half of the 20th century, when the Holocaust silenced them all? It's too big. The numbers are too much.

That's why Avshalom Weinstein, whose extended family lost hundreds of members to the Nazis' purges of Jewish Europe, uses a different tool: The violin.

"We cannot understand the Holocaust," he said. "But if you take a single story and go from Point A to Point B, maybe it's easier to understand through music."

Weinstein, an Israeli violin maker and restorer, has recovered and rehabilitated over 65 Holocaust-era instruments, giving modern musicians such as Wyoming High School senior Aiden Holubeck the chance to play them again.

"I'm honestly still kind of shaking," Holubeck said after performing with one of the nine violins Weinstein brought to Cincinnati. "It was quite the experience. These violins, they brought hope to people. … It's all about hope and recovery and keeping those emotions alive."

Cincinnati's finest musicians will hold a concert titled "Violins of Hope" featuring those nine violins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Music Hall in Over-the-Rhine. Both the concert and Weinstein's visit to Cincinnati were sponsored by the Holocaust and Humanity Center.

"It's going to be a culmination of telling the stories of these violins that have survived amidst the darkness along with stories of survival connected to our own community," said Holocaust and Humanity Center executive director Sarah Weiss.

Tickets to the event are available online at the website here.