‘Violins of Hope’ heated up the Romanian Athenaeum’s stage to mark Israel’s 69th anniversary


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A special concert -Violins of Hope- resounded at the Romanian Athenaeum on Tuesday evening to celebrate the 69th anniversary of the State of Israel in Bucharest, as well as 69 years of friendship between Israel and Romania, bringing along the enduring story of the Jews through music and hope.

In an event organized by the Embassy of Israel in Romania, the Lauder Foundation Romania and the Musical Society, renowned Israeli luthier Amnon Weinstein brought “the Violins of Hope” in Bucharest, the restored violins that were played by the Jewish musicians during the Holocaust, next to nine talented musicians of various nationalities: Gil Sharon (violin) from The Netherlands, Evgenia Epshtein (violin) from Croatia, Sevil Weinstein (violin) from Turkey, Romanian-born violinist Irina Simon-Renes, now living in The Netherlands, Miriam Hartman Beazley (viola) from Israel, Romanian-born Aida-Carmen Soanea (viola) from Germany, Romanian pianist Andrei Licaret, Teresa Beldi (cello) from Germany and Hillel Zori (cello) from Israel.

Ambassador Samash: Uneducated, uncivilized, evil people continue to act against Jews

In the opening speeches, Israeli ambassador to Romania, H.E. Mrs. Tamar Samash praised the “real, genuine and powerful friendship between our two countries, in countless fields.”

The political attitude of Romanians towards Israel has always been friendly and welcoming, and that is reflected in all domains: cultural and academic exchanges, military and IT cooperation, economic activities, mutual visits and meetings between high ranking officials; and of course, the strong and historic link between our two people, as there is a large and prosperous community of Jews originating from Romania living in Israel, and many Israelis visiting, investing and living in Romania,” said ambassador Samash.

She reminded ‘the long story of the Jewish people with Romania, with good times intertwined with dark ones’.

A community of 800,00 souls once lived here with renowned figures like Nobel prize winner Elie Wiesel, poets and writers Marcel Iancu and Tristan Tzara, the painter Reuben Rubin who was the First Israeli ambassador in Romania, and the famous Baal Shem Tov the fouder of Hassidism. Out of this community only few thousand live in Romania today.

However, looking onto the present and the future, this past year Romania took on the noble responsibility of heading the IHRA – the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. It did so in a remarkable way and I wish to thank the authorities for their commitment in acknowledging the role that Romania played during the war, and doing everything in their power to assure that this will never happen again,” the Israel’s ambassador pointed out.

The Israeli ambassador reminded of the commemoration of Israel’s remembrance day for the victims of the Holocaust, ‘a heinous period in history when six millions Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their allies, including in Romania.’

Alas, yesterday we also received yet another reminder that there still are uneducated, uncivilized, evil people that continue to act against Jews, when tombstones in the Jewish cemetery of Bucharest were savagely vandalized.

As we witnessed from yesterday’s events, there is still much more to be done, especially in the field of education. Which brings me to this special evening, as our concert tonight has an educational dimension: it is a way of taking the memory of the past trough these magical, sacred violins, and bringing it into our lives, today,” ambassador Samash concluded.

Credit photo: Zoltan Marton
Credit photo: Zoltan Marton

FM Melescanu: Let’s think of what has been and hope for a better, more peaceful common future

In his turn, Romanian FM Teodor Melescanu attending the concert, stated that this event “allows us to use a common language, the language of music, although we speak different language and have different culture and traditions.”

Cervantes used to say: Where there is room for music, there is no room for evil. The fact that tonight we have the instruments which belonged to Jewish musicians who had been arrested and sent to the Nazi camps where many of them found their death, represents a mix of pain and hope. As holding the chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, Romania has always militated for elimination of any type of racial discrimination, anti-Semitism, xenophobia or racism,” FM Melescanu said, while adding that we celebrate tonight not only some people who have suffered a lot, but at the same time we celebrate “our capacity to overcome such moments” so that “such thing should never happen again”.

The head of the Romanian diplomacy also underlined that Romania and Israel have a strategic partnership, solid political and economic ties. “But the most solid base is the relations between people (….) these are the real bridges that no one could ever destroy. Let’s think of what has been and hope for a better, more peaceful common future,” Teodor Melescanu concluded.

 Amnon Weinstein: The violins of hope, which saved lives

Credit photo: Zoltan Marton
Credit photo: Zoltan Marton

Israeli luthier Amnon Weinsten, who dedicated his life to restoring violins played by the Jewish musicians during the Holocaust in remembrance for the 400 members of his family who had murdered during the Holocaust, stated on the Romanian Athenaeum stage that he is very honored to be there, and to share with Romanians his life’s mission – ‘to save violins which belonged to Jews before and during World War 2, treat them with love and care, fix their sound and let them play in concert halls the world over.’

This week is Yom HaShoa. It not only reminds us of the past, but makes us think what should be done so it never happens again. It is also a few days before Israel celebrates it’s independence, 69 years of living in a democratic free state.

Here is where the violins come to life. We have here eight violins decorated with Stars of David, all symbolize hope, that no one could destroy a people and a culture. No matter what, the human spirit will always win, “ he stated.

According to him, Romania was for generations a land of folk music, Gypsy and Jewish, all connected to violin playing. “Romanian Jews had a major part in this tradition. I will later tell you about young violinist Alma Rose, niece of Gustav Mahler and daughter of Arnold Rose, who came from Romania to become a world famous virtuoso in Vienna. Romanian musicians have a huge presence in Israeli musical life to this day. I’m not going to mention all names, but just think of Gil Sharon who is leading this concert…”, Weinstein said.

He further explained the meaning of the Violins of Hope project. “Violins with history and personal stories. Some saved actual lives. Some violins survived while their owners – perished. Some were hidden in attics, one was buried under the snow. One was thrown out of a cattle train in France. Some come from and Romania or Transnistria, some from Poland and Holland. Many – from Germany and Austria. One violin was a part of the men orchestra in Auschwitz. All of them are restored as best we could and all 64 of them play concerts in Europe and America.

Since their premier in Istanbul, the violins do not lie quietly in their cases. After 70 years of silence, they refuse to keep quiet. They perform in large halls like this, and school auditoriums. They live. The talk. They send out messages of hope.”

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