“Violins of Hope”, an Extraordinary Evening

Last Friday evening I had the privilege of attending a Worship Service to mark the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and to honor International Holocaust Remembrance Day at Temple Emanu-El. The Temple, home to the first Reform Jewish congregation in New York City, was founded in 1845 and with seating for more than 2500, is one of the largest synagogues in the world. Friday night every seat in the Sanctuary was filled as were all the seats in the surrounding balconies. The Service was followed by a Concert presented by NYC’s prestigious Orchestra of St Lukes. Hearing the concertmaster play one of the violins from the exhibit was deeply emotional and with the Temple’s soaring marble sanctuary the acoustics rivaled that of any concert hall (see photo below).

The performance was held in conjunction with the Violins of Hope: Every Violin Has a Story exhibition at Temple Emanu-El’s Bernard Museum of Judaica, January 31-March 28. The exhibit will showcase, for the first time, 60 extraordinary instruments that survived the Holocaust – even if their owners did not – …..and quoting the Temple website, they are testimony to the harshest moments in Jewish history. Each violin will be displayed alongside photographs and the story of its journey as their bittersweet music fills the museum.”

The website continues… “Violins of Hope” is a collection of restored instruments that were played by Jewish musicians interned in concentration camps during the Holocaust. These violins, 60 in total, have survived concentration camps, pogroms, and many long journeys to tell remarkable stories of injustice, suffering, resilience, and survival. Friday evening, in honor of the liberation of Auschwitz and Holocaust Remembrance Day, the story of one of these violins will be highlighted and played as part of the Memorial concert. The violin featured was owned by Max Beker who played his violin in some of the world’s most unusual musical ensembles, from the Tango Orchestra in Stalag VIIIA prisoner of war camp to the Ex-Concentration Camp Orchestra in Bavaria.

The violins on display in the Violins of Hope exhibition include a powerful series of photographs by Daniel Levin that document Amnon Weinstein, the man behind Violins of Hope, and his masterful restoration processes. The book accompanying this photographic series, by Daniel Violins and Hope: From the Holocaust to Symphony Hall, won the 2022 Independent Publisher’s National Gold Award for History.”

I take great pride in telling you that Dan Levin, (known to the Kranitz family as Danny) is the son of dear friends, our families have known each other since before our children were born. If you need proof, I have tons of photos, one particularly adorable one is of Dan(ny) and my daughter dressed as eensy weensy spiders in nursery school (sorry Wendy & Danny, I just had to add this).

I own a copy of his exquisite book and am greatly looking forward to March 2nd when Dan will be at Temple Emanu-El as the exhibition’s guest lecturer. Having heard him speak I can tell you that not only is he an award-winning photographer and writer, he is also a gifted speaker.

This photo of the Sanctuary, courtesy of my friend Debbie Landey, shows five of the Holocaust Survivors who participated in the Service. Their honored presence truly represented living examples of the word “Hope” in the title.
My ticket and the front of the program

The inside of the the program showing four photos from Dan’s collection

No Exaggeration, I’ve Been Waiting Almost a Year For This Book

Published by Simon & Schuster, available on Amazon on February 7th (available now for preorder).

People vs. Donald Trump is a fascinating inside account of the attempt to prosecute former president Donald Trump, written by one of the lawyers who worked on the case and resigned in protest when Manhattan’s district attorney refused to act.

Mark Pomerantz was a retired lawyer living a calm suburban life when he accepted an unexpected offer to join the staff of the district attorney of New York County in February 2021 to work on the investigation of former president Donald Trump….

These two paragraphs are direct quotes from the Amazon website’s book introduction. I, however, take issue with the statement that Mark was just “one of the lawyers who worked on the case”. They neglect to mention any of Mark’s impressive accomplishments which made him uniquely qualified for this role such as his having served as head of the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office where he oversaw major securities fraud causes, including the prosecution of mob boss John Gotti. He was also a white collar defense attorney working on behalf of Martha Stewart and Sam Wachsell contributing to his highly respected reputation as an expert on both sides

Full disclosure, the Pomerantz family lived next door to my daughter and son-in-law and their two children for 28 years. The families became friends as well as neighbors and over the years the two sets of Pomerantz twins (yes, two sets of twins!) babysat for my grandchildren. So, not only was this high-profile role he undertook (pro bono) of interest to me as a voracious political junkie but it was also personal. I was hoping against hope that Mark would write this book so I/we could learn, first-hand, exactly how this investigation unfolded then unraveled, and he did!

As you can see, my statement that I’ve been waiting for this book for almost a year is not an exaggeration!