Inside the synagogue of the East Meadow Jewish Center crooned two violins, a viola and a cello whose melodies had once been stifled by destruction and woe, but now resonated as if they were brand new.
During the temple’s Holocaust Remembrance Day service on April 11, congregants learned of the instruments’ history. Each belonged to Jewish people during the Holocaust and lay silent until last year when David Herman restored them.
One of the violins belonged to George Arthur Schneck, a Jewish man who was raised in Belgium and registered to attend the Chemical Institute of Toulouse in 1942. Three weeks into his education, however, he was expelled for not declaring that he was Jewish.
His daughter Arianne Schneck told his story to the East Meadow congregation, explaining that his expulsion had led him to follow a family passion and pursue music. When the German government invaded Belgium that year, he became a revolutionary at 18.
Arianne explained that Schneck became a leader of Zionist youth organization, with whom he created false certificates of identification for other Jewish people. On weekends, she added, “They met to receive Jewish education, dance the hora and prepare for their future life in Palestine.”
Schneck was given a violin by fellow resistors as a 20th birthday gift — the same violin that had been played for the East Meadow congregation at their Yom Hashoah commemoration.
In addition to the instruments, another artifact rests inside the Jewish Center. Each year Rabbi Ronald Androphy reads from a torah that once belonged to the people of Rychnov-nad-kneznou, a town in the Czech Republic that congregants visited for the first time last May.
“I think the most moving part of our visit was our praying in the synagogue,” Androphy said. “There had probably not been a service there since the holocaust.”
According to Rabbi Androphy, all the Jews living in Rychnov-nad-kneznou during the holocaust had been killed. The community living there now had restored their synagogue and, 25 years ago, the Jewish Center acquired a torah from it.
“The education and history I witnessed had become etched into my memory,” said Irwin Kahn, who also visited the community with the Jewish Center. Susan Bernstein, another congregant, agreed and said, “When we visit the places we’ve read about, heard about or seen in movies, we can really relate and understand them.”