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Violin that survived Holocaust unsilenced at NSU concert

Sergio Carmona
Contact ReporterFlorida Jewish Journal

The sounds of a Jewish violin that survived the Holocaust moved audiences at two sold out performances of the concert Unsilenced, that took place recently at Nova Southeastern University's Alvin Sherman Library in Davie.

The concert, presented by the Holocaust Learning and Education Fund, Inc., was the first time in roughly 75 years that this violin had been played. Russian-American violinist Yefim Romanov, a violin fellow at New World Symphony in Miami Beach, had the honor of performing with this historic violin as he played the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” and music from "Schindler's List," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Exodus," "Yentl" and more. He was accompanied by John Wilson, a piano fellow at New World Symphony.

Craig Weiner, president of the HLEF, which he co-founded with his wife Barbara Weiner in 2013, was very pleased with the turnout for the concert as the room was filled to capacity both evenings it took place.

"Both performances were extremely well attended with full audiences both nights. The musicians from the New World Symphony were beyond outstanding. The reaction from everyone was fabulous."

The HLEF conducts a number of educational programs for middle and high school students throughout South Florida. These programs include visits by both public and private schools to the Craig and Barbara Weiner Holocaust Reflection and Resource Center located at NSU's Alvin Sherman Library.

Craig and Barbara Weiner located the violin in Israel and had it restored by Israeli luthier Amnon Weinstein in Tel Aviv. It was made in Germany circa 1875, and the word Germany inside is partially scratched out from a knife. The violin is engraved with a Jewish star, and there is a note inside it dedicating it to the victims of the Ponary massacre in Lithuania where roughly 80,000 Jews were murdered at the forest just outside of what was then called Vilna, now Vilnius. The violin is now permanently displayed at the Craig and Barbara Weiner Holocaust Resource Center.

Romanov was grateful to perform with this historic instrument to what he felt was an interested and energetic audience.

"The audience was great as people are very excited to see the violin."

Although Romanov has performed in big concerts before, he said that nothing has compared to the historical aspect of the violin that he used for the recent concert. He ranks this performance with the violin as one of his top three career highlights.

"It's top three based on how much I've done with interviews, the audience and just the whole historical aspect behind it."

Concert attendee Michael Balaban, president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Broward County, said, "I was fortunate a few years ago to see some of the restored violins in cases, so it's just incredibly meaningful to actually hear one."

Craig Weiner said, regarding the goals for these performances, "The entire mission of our organization is to keep awareness of this horrible history of humanity alive so that we, as human beings, can all understand how vitally important it is for us all to stand up against all forms of hate, intolerance, bullying and prejudice."

This is precisely what we emphasize to the many classes of students that visit the Craig and Barbara Weiner Holocaust Reflection and Resource Center at the Sherman Library of NSU."

Weiner continued, "Unfortunately, we have been witnessing various forms of hate and prejudice permeating within society both here and abroad."

"As such, it is critically important that society remembers what happens from hate and intolerance and that we all have the courage to stand up against it and not let it spread like a horrible cancer. By having events such as this, and through special exhibits like the Visions of the Holocaust exhibit now on display in the Sherman Library of NSU through January, it reminds us of the consequences of allowing hate to go unchecked and to spread it’s ugliness through society."

Visit holocausteducationfund.com for more information on the organization.

The concert was sponsored by Oceania Cruises.

scarmona@sun-sentinel.com or @serge0514

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