by Sara Wilhelm, Brooklyn NY

Sunday, Dec 30, 2018

Since we moved into our home in 1979, we've been blessed to host thousands of guests from all backgrounds and corners of the world. Yet our most recent guests were like none we'd ever met.

This past Friday my husband returned from his frequent trips to the airport with a very different sort of “guest”, 48 of them to be exact. We hosted 48 restored instruments, played by musicians during the Holocaust. My son Yossi and his wife Miriam Esther are bringing these violins to Knoxville, where they direct the Chabad House with their 5 beautiful children. We could have easily kept them in the garage out of sight, but I wanted them in the living room, nearby. I wanted to experience Shabbat with them, through their presence I felt connected to the members of my family lost in the Holocaust, to the relatives I had never known.

When it came time to usher in the warmth of Shabbat, I lit my candles on a table right near the violins. These violins bore witness to a time when the light of Shabbat Candles were being extinguished. My Candles were comfort and testimony that Shabbat Candles are still burning brightly. As I approached my Shabbat Candles the sight of the violins laying on the couch, and the pictures of my married children above was heartwarming. These violins now fill halls with music once again, and my children each establishing a home of their own, our victories. Each violin a symbol of resilience, each child a sign of Jewish continuity.

I lit my candles, covered my eyes, and was suddenly overwhelmed by the presence of the violins. I wondered, who had played each instrument? Who was uplifted or comforted by their beautiful melody? Under what conditions were people hearing their music? Under what difficult conditions were musicians forced to play? How many Jewish mothers heard the music of these violins as their final sounds before being gassed? How did the musicians find the strength to play, while watching family, friends being taken to their deaths?

While I couldn’t ask these questions to the instruments owners, and very few survivors are still alive to tell their stories – these instruments are living testimony that when there is hope there is life, and when there is life there is hope for a better future.

Shabbat Shalom! Am Yisrael Chai!