Wilmette, Community

‘A Powerful Tribute’: Violins that survived Holocaust to take the stage for local concert on June 4

History will meet the present on Sunday, June 4, when Chabad Wilmette, 2904 Old Glenview Road, hosts a concert as part of Violins of Hope.

In the project, musicians play instruments that Jewish people owned before and during World War II to deliver messages of hope, resistance, resilience and unity.

Click here to get tickets to Chabad Wilmette’s Violins of Hope concert

While dozens of Violins of Hope concerts take place in Chicagoland this summer, thanks to the efforts of JCC Chicago, the Wilmette performance is the only one with its particular program: Violinists Aviva Chertok and Dr. William Herzog will perform three duos and two solos of songs written by Jewish composers, both historical and contemporary. There will be a discussion throughout and after the concert about the music and the provenance of the violins.

“We are honored to bring these rare instruments to Wilmette and share their stories with our community,” said Rabbi Dovid Flinkenstein, co-director of Chabad Wilmette. “Violins of Hope is a powerful tribute to the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring power of music.”

Rabbi Moshe Teldon echoed these thoughts, reminding the community that the Holocaust is not far removed from history or North Shore neighbors.

“We have Holocaust survivors in the community,” he said. “Juxtapose that with our vibrant community. This is our victory. The music keeps playing. The people are strong.”

The concert program features music written by György Ligeti and Miklós Rózsa, who survived and escaped the Holocaust; László Weiner, who was murdered at the Lukov forced labor camp; and Jonathan Leshnoff and Stacy Garrop, both contemporary composers. 

Poster for the Violins of Hope concert June 4 at Chabad Wilmette

“Because of the way we did the program featuring composers who had both been persecuted from the Holocaust and survived, and these modern Jewish voices, I hope people will be inspired to learn about what happened to some of these people, but also see the modern Jewish spirit and the continuity of the people,” said Chertok, who both arranged the concert program and will be performing in it.

The instruments on which she and. Herzog will play are called the Berlin violin and the Wagner and Weichold violins. The Berlin violin belonged in the 1930s to musician Erich Winkel, whose communist sympathies made him and his orchestra frequent Nazi targets. The Wagner and Weichold violins belonged to members of the Palestine Orchestra, created in 1936. 

While musicians are accustomed to playing on historical instruments — Chertok’s personal violin dates back to 1760 — she still is looking forward to how special these violins paired with this programming will be, and commends the Violins of Hope project for not hiding the instruments behind a glass cabinet, but putting them in the community to be used and heard.

The concert will also end with a song called “Ani Ma’amin,” a melody created by a Hasidic Jew on the train to the Treblinka concentration camp that continued to be sung by survivors and has gone on to serve as an anthem for a brighter future.

“We here 75 years later are able to hear it again, think about the past, and be hopeful for the future,” Teldon said.

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Christine Hinkel Adams

Christine Hinkel Adams has been covering events and news on the North Shore since 2018. A former high school English teacher, Adams grew up in Wilmette and now lives in the area with her husband and two children.

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