On February 8th, we attended the Russian Gala. It was organized by the JFCS, which this year celebrates 170 years. In 1850, three years after a small village called Yerba Buena became known as San Francisco, August Helbing established the Eureka Benevolent Society with the purpose to help new Jews arriving from Europe to settle in the new land. In 1939, the organization was renamed the Jewish Family Service Agency. It not only helped Jewish people; but also helped people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. In the mid-70s, the JFSA helped to resettle Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees. By the time we arrived in San Francisco in August 1980, the organization, which became known as the JFCS (Jewish Family and Children’s Services) was helping thousands of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union to settle in their new home in San Francisco and the Bay Area. As time passed, many of those Jews who were helped by the JFCS, established themselves, became professionals and entrepreneurs, raised families and started paying back by helping those in need, and by giving their donations. And then nineteen years ago a group of successful émigrés decided to celebrate the organization’s good work with a party. As the years progressed, the event became known as “Russian Gala”, a sold out celebration that drew in many people of various backgrounds; not only Jews and émigrés.
Every year there were special keynote guests like Secretary of State George Schultz and celebrity attorney Alan Dershowitz. But this year, it was a different event. The presenter was a violin. Rather the violinist playing on one of the violins which survived the Holocaust. It was one of the Violins of Hope, which were a symbol resistance. They were played in the Jewish Gettos and concentration camps, and after the war were saved and restored in Israel by a father and son team – Moshe and Amnon Weinstein. We were shown a heart-touching video about them. The Violins of Hope are on the display at the San Francisco War Memorial Veterans Building. They can also be heard in a number of concerts. You can find more information at www.violinsofhopesfba.org.
One of the reasons for JFCS’ success, is its leadership. The organization is headed by Dr. Anita Friedman. In her opening remarks, Dr. Friedman pointed out that though the history of persecutions, extermination, pogroms, the Holocaust, and expression of Antisemitism in Europe and extremists’ killing of Jews in our country, the optimism is not a Jewish trait. However, Jews tend to possess a perpetual hope that in spite of the intentions of others, they survive and prosper and always will be in the forefront to make our world a better place to live.
P.S. Instead of showing images of the Violins of Hope, I decided to share with you four special bouquets of flowers to honor the memory of the musicians who played on those violins.
Do not give up hope and Share it with a Friend!