Violins and hope

Last Sunday after worship, several members of Amistad Chapel UCC traveled to the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in an eastern suburb of Cleveland to view –– to experience –– the special exhibit, “Violins of Hope,” a collection of restored violins that “survived” the concentration camps of World War II. 

Maltz.jpgLast Sunday after worship, several members of Amistad Chapel UCC traveled to the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in an eastern suburb of Cleveland to view –– to experience –– the special exhibit, “Violins of Hope,” a collection of restored violins that “survived” the concentration camps of World War II. We wandered from one display case to the next, reading about each violin, watching a film of the artist who lovingly restored these remarkable works of art, and listening to the voices of guides who told the stories of the people who played them in the most tragic circumstances one can imagine. There were entire orchestras in the ghettos and camps, playing for the captors who demanded to be entertained, or providing a few last moments of beauty for prisoners on their way to their deaths. One musician handed his instrument to someone for safekeeping, saying, “At least the violin will survive.”

I left the museum with a heavy heart, but deeply moved by the stories I had heard: running through my mind were the words of Psalm 137, “On the willows there, we hung up our lyres …” The heartache and desolation of ancient exile resonated down through the centuries, but so did the persistent spirit that called the people of Israel to remember –– remember what God has done and what God has promised to do. Remember who you are, and remember to tell your children these stories so that they will remember, too.

Perhaps the greatest gift of remembering is the way it keeps something alive within us, and maybe even brings something back to life when all hope seems lost. Our city is also the home of the magnificent Cleveland Orchestra, and part of the story of these violins is a very important remembering: members of our orchestra have performed wonderful concerts with these musical instruments, brought back to life and purpose, and singing anew an ancient song. Do we often get to feel the kind of thrilling joy that one feels, listening to these violins playing their soaring melodies of hope? Who could ever have imagined it?

As I left the museum that day, holding all these things in my heart, I turned back and looked at the building I was leaving. It occurred to me that its simple beauty and graceful strength might suggest the loveliness of the Temple long ago. I don’t know if that’s what the architects intended, but watching the people walk into the building that held a part of their heritage, I remembered the things I learned in school about the Bible and those old, old stories. And on that day, I thought I heard a song of hope playing, softly but so persistently, underneath it all.  

Sparking Ministry Conversations

In what ways does remembering bring you and your congregation hope? Why are stories told in your church –– to remind listeners of what they ought to do, or to remind them of what God has done and will do?

About the Author
The Rev. Kathryn Matthews (Huey), Dean of Amistad Chapel, came home to a recording of an amazing news story about the Violins of Hope at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/violins-of-hope/.
Categories: Congregations Weekly

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