LaReeca Rucker has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and her work has appeared in newspapers across the nation. She spent a decade as a features writer and multimedia journalist with The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, where she was also a USA TODAY contributor. She is a freelance journalist and support journalism instructor in the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media in Oxford, Mississippi.

Violins, music: Remembering the Holocaust

LaReeca Rucker
The Clarion-Ledger

In 1996, Israeli master violinmaker Amnon Wein-stein embarked on a spiritual journey to collect and restore musical artifacts that once belonged to Jewish musicians killed by Nazis.

He put out a call asking for violins with histories, some of which had been played by concentration camp prisoners.

His mission was to restore the violins in his Tel Aviv workshop, as well as the memory of the victims.

Weinstein's efforts will be shown during a Holocaust Remembrance event at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Jackson's Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson.

Event organizer George Glass said he first saw the film last year during the Jackson Jewish Film Festival.

"We felt like it was an important movie that people needed to see," he said. "It's about a guy who went around the world collecting Holocaust violins - violins that were either played in the camps or played by Jewish musicians during the war. He thought there was a story just inherent in the violins themselves."

The film ends with a gala concert in Jerusalem, marking Israel's 60th anniversary. Musicians play 16 of Amnon's restored "Violins of Hope."

The Jackson showing of the film will end with a live performance by Ensemble Polonaise, a three-generation musical family from Jackson.

Ensemble Polonaise features violinist and concert-mistress of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, Marta Szlubowska; her mother, pianist Danuta Szlubowska; her father, accordionist Janusz Szlubowski; and her daughter, violist Julia Kirk.

Glass said the family will perform Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, the theme from Schindler's List by John Williams and other works.

"The Szlubowski family are Polish emigrants," Glass said. "Poland lost more of its Jews during the Holocaust than any other European country."

Time to reflect

Rabbi Valerie Cohen, of Beth Israel, said there will be a moment of reflection to honor the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust.

"This included over 1 million Jewish children," she said in a news release. Others killed by the Nazis included Soviet POWs, ethnic Poles, Romanians, the disabled, Freemasons, Slovens, gay men and women and Jehovah's Witnesses.

"We also pay tribute to those who fought back in the ghettos and in the camps against overwhelming odds," she said. "As we remember the victims of the Holocaust and the lessons this singular tragedy teaches us, let us remain vigilant in the face of hatred and injustice. This fight is as relevant today as it was then."

Gilbert Metz was Beth Israel's only Holocaust survivor, Glass said. In 1943, his family was arrested by the Gestapo and taken to concentration camps.

His parents died in Auschwitz gas chambers, but Metz survived until, at age 16, he was liberated from Dachau Moreso in 1945. Metz eventually came to Mississippi to live with his aunt in Natchez and later became a member of Beth Israel. He passed away several years ago, and family members will light candles in his honor during the event.

Beth Israel also administers The Gus Waterman Herrman Holocaust Memorial Fund that helps pay for Holocaust educational programs and remembrance activities.

According to the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion website, the late Herrman was a Mississippi native, philanthropist and decorated World War II veteran who served as a tank commander in the Army under Gen. George Patton.

He was in the Normandy invasion and received both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star medals of honor.


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