Violins of Hope Reading is a collaborative effort by organizations across Berks County. Each instrument in this collection belonged to an individual with their own unique and personal story. We hope you will learn and share their stories, as an act of remembrance for the many victims of the Holocaust.

Just like our diverse community, these violins and the individuals who played them, came from many different countries and a variety of experiences and faiths. They are connected through music and its ability to speak beyond differences in language, politics or religion. We present Violins of Hope Reading as the start of a community-wide conversation on unity and understanding.

Violins from the collection will be on exhibit at three locations in Greater Reading; they will be played in concert; and their stories will be shared in lectures and various educational programs. This collection of over 50 string instruments has been restored by Israeli violin maker Amnon Weinstein and his son, Avshi who will be traveling with the exhibit. This will be the first time the exhibit will be shown in Pennsylvania, making this an extremely unique opportunity.

The mission of Violins of Hope is to promote unity and understanding in our community, utilizing instruments rescued from the Holocaust.

The Founder

Amnon Weinstein has spent the last two decades locating and restoring violins that were played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. He dedicates 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—400 in all—had been murdered during the Holocaust. The pain of this discovery led to his first heart attack. Moshe never spoke of his family again. When the young Amnon would ask Golda about their relatives, she would show him a book about the Holocaust. Pointing to photos of the dead, she would say, “This is our family.” She would break down in tears, unable to explain further.

After becoming one of the most respected violin makers in the world, Amnon determined to reclaim his lost heritage. He 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. He calls these instruments the Violins of Hope.

Violins of Hope Reading

Violins of Hope have toured many cities around the world and will now come to Reading from November 1-14, 2021. Organized by lead partners, the Jewish Federation of Reading/Berks and the Reading Symphony Orchestra, a steering committee of local professionals has been formed to work with area partners on a community-wide series of events focusing on these instruments. The sound, presence, and stories of Violins of Hope Reading will drive the creation of music, educational programs, public conversation, interfaith dialogue, and films throughout Berks County. Most importantly, Reading Symphony Orchestra musicians will bring to life the humanity and stories of those who owned these precious instruments through  performances on the instruments.

Goals and Partners

Violins of Hope Reading is especially imporant in an era where generations have begun to either forget about the Holocaust or question its existence. Violins of Hope Reading can be a transformative opportunity to bring people together from all backgrounds and unite us rather than further divide us. Our goals are to use the history of the Holocaust and its consequences, through Violins of Hope, as a transformative opportunity to bring people together from all backgrounds. We want to give hope and bring our community together by using the stories of the instruments to help promote understanding on antisemitism, racism and other divisions in our local community, as well as focus on unity and understanding.

The violin has become 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 an extraordinary role within the Jewish community. It is those stories Violins of Hope Reading will tell. It is the hope of all involved that these strings of the Holocaust will leave participants with a sense of purpose, strength, and optimism for the future.

To date, commitments have been secured from the following partner organizations: Jewish Federation of Reading/Berks, Reading Symphony Orchestra, GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, Alvernia University, Albright College, Kutztown University, Barrio Alegro, Friends of Chamber Music of Reading, Immanuel United Church of Christ, Christ Episcopal Church, Reform Congregation Oheb Sholom, Kesher Zion Synagogue, Chabad Lubavitch of Berks, and more than 14 public schools in Berks County. 

Special thanks to all the collaborative partners and generous supporters of Violins of Hope Reading. Each and every organization has played its part to make possible this unique community arts collaboration. 

About the Book

Violins of Hope: Violins of the Holocaust—Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind's Darkest Hour

A stirring testament to the strength of the human spirit and power of music, Violins of Hope tells the remarkable stories of violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust, and of the Israeli violin maker dedicated to bringing these inspirational instruments back to life.

The Author

James A. Grymes is an internationally respected musicologist, a critically acclaimed author, and a dynamic speaker who has addressed audiences at significant public venues such as the historic 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Dr. Grymes has been featured in interviews by the New York Times, ABC News, and CNN, and has written essays for the Huffington Post and the Israeli music magazine Opus.

He is the author of Violins of Hope: Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind’s Darkest Hour (Harper Perennial, 2014). A stirring testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of music, Violins of Hope tells the remarkable stories of violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust, and of the Israeli violin maker dedicated to bringing these inspirational instruments back to life. Violins of Hope won a National Jewish Book Award.

Dr. Grymes is Professor of Musicology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.