Joining in the 20th anniversary celebration of Holocaust Museum Houston, the 1,100 guests attending the Lyndon Baines Johnson Moral Courage Award Dinner were treated to an evening of beautiful if poignant music, inspirational words, and a bit of unexpected humor.
All of this on an evening that raised $1.2 million for the museum's programs.
The gathering at the Hilton Americas-Houston began with a 25-minute concert in which eight violinists performed on violins that were played by Jewish musicians held in concentration camps during the Holocaust. The instruments came from the collection of Israeli craftsman Annon Weinstein, who located and restored 50 violins that had survived the era. Known as "Violins of Hope," the instruments were accompanied on this night by two cellos and a piano.
Three standing ovations followed the remarkable presentation. Weinstein, who flew in from Israel for the concert, also received an outpouring of gratitude with his own standing ovation.
The night's inspiration came from the heroic story of the honorees — brothers Tuvia, Asael, Aron and Zuz Bielski, whose resistance efforts during the Holocaust was the basis for the film "Defiance." The award was accepted by Asael's daughter, Assaela Bielski Weinstein.
The surprise humor came from keynote speaker veteran news anchor Ted Koppel, the son of German Jews who escaped the Nazis by immigrating to England. After his talk on serious issues including cyber dangers and changing media, he broke into song, performing his own "Battle of the GOP," a sonnet about the 17 Republican presidential candidates.
The successful evening was chaired by Kelli Cohen Fein and Martin Fein and Rosalyn and Barry Margolis. The program included remarks by museum board chair Gail Klein and museum director Kelly Zuniga.
Among guests were Joan and Stanford Alexander, Laurie and Dr. Milton Boniuk, David Bach and Pam Morris, Cathy and Giorgio Borlenghi, Tali and Eric Blumrosen, Stefi and Mickey Altman, Barry Mandell, Frann Lichtenstein and Jeff Hirschberg, Heidi and David Gerger, Terry and Martin Cominsky, Velva and Fred Levine, and Beth and Jeff Early.