The Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne and Fort Wayne Philharmonic are leading a project that will bring to the city about 50 violins that were played by Jewish musicians before and during the Holocaust.
Violins of Hope Fort Wayne will include dozens of local organizations and events. The parent Violins of Hope project was founded by Israeli violin maker Amnon Weinstein, who collected and restored the instruments. The violins have traveled the world and will be in Fort Wayne from Nov. 9 to 24.
James W. Palermo, managing director of the Philharmonic, said he believes this is the largest community arts and cultural collaboration of its kind that has been done in the city.
He and Jaki Schreier, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne, have been working on the local project since speaking to Weinstein's son, Avshalom Weinstein, in January 2018.
Though the committee overseeing the project has looked at what similar-sized cities have done, Schreier said they have been given the creative freedom to make the project unique to Fort Wayne.
For example, there will be a lecture at the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library on Nov. 17 about researching Holocaust victims and survivors. It is unlike anything Palermo has seen other Violins of Hope host cities offer.
Other events include religious services, film screenings, lectures, a discussion at Sweetwater Sound about how violins are built and a production of Israeli playwright Joshua Sobol's "Ghetto" at Purdue University Fort Wayne. There are several concerts planned with the instruments such as a free performance Nov. 14 in the Allen County Courthouse Rotunda and a closing concert from the Philharmonic on Nov. 23. A schedule is available at ViolinsOfHopeFW.org and will be updated as more events are confirmed.
Palermo and Schreier say they have been getting a great response from local groups.
"None of the organizations we've approached have said no," Palermo said. "Everyone says 'We love this project. How can we help?' "
About half of the violins will be on display in the Weatherhead Gallery at the University of Saint Francis and another location yet to be named. The other half will be played by members of the Philharmonic and the Philharmonic Youth Orchestra in concerts and presentations at schools and other organizations.
The project is designed to have a strong education component, Schreier said.
Beginning in September, about 20 docents will be available to visit area schools and community organizations such as clubs, service groups and religious institutions. Docents will be trained to give a presentation about the Holocaust and music in German culture. Philharmonic ensembles will play the restored violins for some of the presentations taking place the week of Nov. 11. Groups can email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule presentations.
Schreier said the way to honor the people that lost their lives in the Holocaust is to make sure nothing like it happens again. But she has seen a rise in antisemitism and is concerned for any group, religion or culture that faces prejudice.
"Our hope is that this whole project will bring an awareness of how the whole world can be devastated," she said, pointing out that the affects of the Holocaust spread far beyond Germany. "We hope to make this a very impactful lesson to our community."
James A. Grymes, who wrote "Violins of Hope," a book about Amnon Weinstein and the history of his restored instruments, will speak Monday at a Yom HaShoah service at the Rifkin Campus, 5200 Old Mill Road. The service begins at 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.
Guests at the service will be able to see a number of works by New Tech Academy and University of Saint Francis students for a related project, "Instruments of Hope." The project includes artwork, documentaries and spoken word pieces demonstrating how music offered hope during the Holocaust.
The full "Instruments of Hope" exhibit will be on display at 6 p.m. May 13 at the University of Saint Francis' Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center, 431 W. Berry St.