Category Archives: Entertainment & Pop Culture

Christian thriller “The Message” and “My Name is Paul” part of the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival


The Cape Fear Independent Film Festival this weekend will feature a Faith and Family Film block.

The Christian paranormal thriller “The Message” shows at 3 p.m. Sunday (April 29) at the Browncoat Pub and Theatre, 111 Grace St. It was written and directed by local filmmaker Thomas Clay and features a young mother who confronts her indecisive views about God after a serious car accident.

The short film “My Name is Paul” follows “The Message.” The film is a modern telling of the Apostle Paul’s journey to belief in Jesus Christ.

Tickets for the film block are $5.


From prime-time hearthrob to Hollywood ‘freak’

c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS) Kirk Cameron was once one of Hollywood’s babies, the spunky,

Photo taken at the 41st Emmy Awards 9/17/89

Photo taken at the 41st Emmy Awards 9/17/89 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

handsome teenager who starred in the 1980s hit “Growing Pains,” and whose picture was taped inside many a schoolgirl’s locker.

But now, Hollywood scolds and even mocks Cameron who, at 41, is a vocal evangelical Christian, and, in the view of many of his fellow celebrities, kind of a jerk.

Cameron’s more recent acting and directing projects almost always carry a deeply Christian message, and he knows he is now the darling of only a certain segment of America. He even seems to take some pride in the fact.

“I’m kind of a Hollywood freak,” he said in a recent interview. “I didn’t really turn out the way most people turn out growing up in this industry.”

Which raises the question: Can an actor be both a pop culture icon and an outspoken Christian?

The latest chapter of Cameron’s tense relationship with Hollywood played out as the actor promoted his new documentary, “Monumental,” in which he argues that American civilization will self-destruct if it continues to spurn its Pilgrim forebears’ God-inspired blueprint for a righteous society.

“You look at the state of the world that we live in and all signs say ‘panic,'” he said.

Talking about the film with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Cameron gave his unvarnished opinion when asked about homosexuality. It’s “unnatural,” he said on the April 2 show. “I think that it’s — it’s detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”

The response drew rebukes from gay rights organizations, and ridicule from several Hollywood stars, including an off-color video from a group of fellow former child actors.

As Morgan later summed up the backlash, many people were “shocked by the fact of this sweet nice boy from ‘Growing Pains’ has come out with what he clearly felt were perfectly normal comments but actually in the cold light of day are transparently offensive.”

“I just don’t think you can sit there with a straight face and say ‘I’m a Christian, God-fearing, all-around good person, but by the way, I hate these people who were born the way they were.'”

Cameron fans, rushing to his defense from both Christian and secular corners of the Internet, made the point that he never actually said he hated anyone.

To them, he was attacked merely for speaking his and their truth; the very secular forces that Cameron warns of in his movies and ministries had once again proved just how eager they are to silence a believer.

“Finally someone had the courage to speak up for the Word of God,” one viewer posted on Morgan’s website. “Thank you, Kirk, you made me proud to be a Christian woman.”

But Cameron’s choice of words still sounded mean and backward to many in a country where a slim majority now supports gay marriage.

Hollywood evangelicals work in all parts of the industry, said Patton Dodd, who writes on religion and culture and has worked closely with evangelical pastors Ted Haggard and Rick Warren. But Cameron takes a different approach than most.

“It’s kind of like the difference between Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow,” Dodd said. Both are NFL star quarterbacks and believers. “But Manning is quieter about his faith. It’s just as fervent and strong by every indication. But he hasn’t made it part of his public image and Tebow has — and Cameron’s the same way.”

Well before he appeared on Morgan’s show, Cameron had made himself a hero to many conservative Christians, in both his personal and professional life.

At 17 — still starring in “Growing Pains” — he was an avowed atheist raised in a family that did not attend church. Then he went to a service with a friend’s father, and, as he has attested many times, realized that he was headed to hell.

Soon after, Cameron became “born again” and married “Growing Pains” co-star Chelsea Noble. The couple adopted four children, had two more and founded Camp Firefly in Georgia for terminally ill children and their families.

The Cameron family still lives in Los Angeles, not far from the Hollywood sign. His acting and directing, though, has kept him almost exclusively in the realm of Christian media.

In the past 15 years, Cameron has starred in the “Left Behind” franchise, a series of Christian thrillers based on the end of days. The books have sold 65 million copies, and the movies have fared well within Christian markets.

He also headlined the 2008 drama “Fireproof,” the highest-grossing independent film of 2008, about a firefighter who saves strangers but neglects his wife. Christian critics loved it. Mainstream critics found it preachy.

As he has pursued his Christian film projects, Cameron also founded, in 2002, a radio and television ministry, “The Way of the Master,” with New Zealand preacher Ray Comfort. The two men joined forces to inspire and teach Christians to evangelize, and the shows have further endeared Cameron with committed, traditional Christians.

But the choice to partner with the often brash Comfort also helped define Cameron as the kind of Christian who is bound to find himself marginalized in Tinseltown, said Larry Poland, an evangelical minister whose Los Angeles consulting firm aims to bridge the gap between Christians and mainstream Hollywood.

“I wouldn’t have picked Ray Comfort,” said Poland. “Ray Comfort brought to the TV show and to their writing a kind of acidity and an attitude. That didn’t help Kirk perpetuate that image of the gracious, reasonable Christian.”

“Monumental,” which Cameron narrates, was released in 500 theaters on March 27. It promotes the gospel of American exceptionalism, rooted in the religious zeal of the Pilgrims who crossed the Atlantic to build a more divinely inspired society than the one they left in England.

Though educators who work on social studies curricula say most American public school children are taught of the Pilgrim’s religious motivation, Cameron complains of a nationwide campaign to strip Christianity from U.S. history. He refers to public schools as “government schools,” and deplores an “all-out assault on the Christian heritage of our country.”

In Plymouth, Mass., he finds the Pilgrims’ faith-based blueprint sculpted into a little-known, towering granite monument that was dedicated 123 years ago. Cameron spends a good part of “Monumental” walking around its base with an evangelist, trying to decipher its message.

“Monumental” does not rail against homosexuality or abortion. Cameron asks his audience to help the nation reclaim its godly heritage, but makes few specific demands. Perhaps when the project is nothing short of saving America, it’s best to speak as inclusively as possible.

But Cameron, despite his star status with some evangelicals, may never reach the larger, more diverse audience that made “Growing Pains” a prime-time hit. And maybe he doesn’t care. But given the monumental goal of his latest big-screen endeavor, it seems as if he does.

“The moral fabric of our nation is unraveling so quickly,” he said. “If we care about our kids and the world that they’re living in, we need to change course before the whole thing goes down the toilet in the next 20 or 30 years.”

BRIEF: Chadbourne gospel radio station to celebrate 50 years

Chadbourne’s The Voice of Ebony, Music with a Message gospel radio station will celebrate it’s 50th Anniversary at noon Friday (April 20) with food and fellowship at 1528 Old 74 in Chadbourn, NC. The station began on April 24, 1962. Mr. Willie J. Walls is owner and operator.

Details: 910-499-6436

Theater review – ‘God’s’ pain begets pleasure

By John Staton
Copyright © 2012

“God’s Favorite,” by Neil Simon. Presented by Big Dawg Productions.
When: 8 p.m. April 19-21, 26-28 and 3 p.m. April 22, 29
Where: Cape Fear Playhouse, 613 Castle St., Wilmington
Tickets: $20, $18 for senior citizens, students and military. Thursday shows are $15.
Details: 910-367-5237 or

There’s a fine line between pleasure and pain, and what’s pleasurable for the audience about the play “God’s Favorite” by Neil Simon is inversely painful for the characters depicted in it.

Funny how that works.

Not that the audience is all that sadistic. Simon, in his 1975 play that’s at once a retelling and a send-up of the Book of Job, does a brilliant job of making ridiculous the suffering heaped on businessman Joe Benjamin (Bradley Coxe, a thoroughly likable Everyman) by a God who supposedly loves him. Under the taut, tonally astute direction of Tony Moore, Big Dawg Productions delivers one of the strongest local productions of the year so far.

The plot has Joe, a successful businessman with a high-maintenance wife (Elaine Nalee) and three kids, visited by a very strange fellow, Sidney Lipton, who claims to be a messenger from God. Winningly portrayed by Ron Hasson, who combines an impishness with flavors of the Cowardly Lion and Curly (“Soitenly!”) in a way I’ve never seen before, Sidney predicts the financial, physical and emotional calamities that are preparing to befall Joe if he doesn’t renounce God.

And why? Well, because God has a bet with the Devil, and He knows that His favorite human, Joe, would never renounce him, even when faced with all the torments of hell.

It’s a fairly hilarious concept, and Coxe does a yeoman’s job as Joe, who’s not the brightest bulb but is strong-minded and principled nonetheless.

It’s a well-cast show, from the not-always helpful help (Chase Harrison and Beth Raynor, both funny) to Joe’s clueless younger kids (Erika Hendrix and Jordan Stallings) to his drunken, resentful oldest son, David (Nate Kistler, balancing indifference and indignation).

“God’s Favorite” isn’t just about the comedy. Toward the end it makes an effective swerve into righteous anger that gives it some heft before ending on a lighter note.

John Staton: 910-343-2343
On Twitter: @Statonator


‘The Voice’: New Bible translation focuses on dialogue

Bruce Boling, holds a Bible open while participating in a Bible study group in Gallatin, Tenn., Sunday, April 1, 2012. RNS photo by Jeff Adkins/USA Today

c. 2012 USA Today
Reprinted with permission

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) The name Jesus Christ doesn’t appear in “The Voice,” a new translation of the Bible.

Nor do words such as angel or apostle. Instead, angel is rendered as “messenger” and apostle as “emissary.” Jesus Christ is “Jesus the Anointed One” or the “liberating king.”

That’s a more accurate translation for modern American readers, said David Capes, lead scholar for “The Voice,” a complete edition released this month by publishing company Thomas Nelson. Capes says that many people, even those who’ve gone to church for years, don’t realize that the word “Christ” is a title.

“They think that Jesus is his first name and Christ is his last name,” says Capes, who teaches the New Testament at Houston Baptist University in Texas.

Seven years in the making, “The Voice” is the latest entry into the crowded field of English Bible translations.

Unlike the updated New International Version or the Common English Bible — both released last year — much of “The Voice” is formatted like a screenplay or novel. Translators cut out the “he said” and “they said” and focused on dialogue.

So in Matthew 15, when Jesus walks on the water, scaring his followers, their reaction is immediate:

Disciple: “It’s a ghost!”

Another Disciple: “A ghost? What will we do?”

Jesus: “Be still. It is I; you have nothing to fear.”

“I hope we get people to see the Bible — not as an ancient text that’s worn out — but as a story that they participate in and find their lives in,” Capes said.

The title for “The Voice” came from the New Testament Gospel of John and from the Greek word logos. It’s usually translated as “word” in verses such as John 1:1, which reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” in the New International Version, one of the most popular English translations.

In “The Voice,” that passage reads: “Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God.” Frank Couch, the executive editor and publisher of “The Voice,” said that translation better captures what logos means.

Mike Norris of Franklin Road Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., disagrees. His congregation follows the belief that the King James Bible is the most accurate translation in English. Other translations, he says, don’t stick to a word-for-word translation.

“They say the other translations are easier to read and more accurate,” he said. “We disagree.”

(Smietana also reports for The Tennessean in Nashville. Heidi Hall of The Tennessean also contributed to this story.)


Local filmmaker raising money to capture “God in my fingers”

Artist Ivey Hayes. Photo courtesy of Sheena Vaught.


Sheena A. Vaught, filmmaker for The Ivey Hayes Project. Photo courtesy of Sheena Vaught.

Filmmaker Sheena Vaught has 13 days – just 13 days – to raise the $3,400 she needs to make  a documentary about the life and art of Pender County artist Ivey Hayes.

The 26-year-old graduate of University of North Carolina Wilmington‘s film studies program became interested in Hayes’ artwork as a child. Her mother who is an artist, was a fan of Hayes’ bright paintings of black jazz artists, dancers and scenes of rural Pender County farm life.

“To be young and for him to entrust me with leaving his legacy on film was major. I want to do this right,” Vaught said, adding that she’s started interview for her film around the state.

Her working title is “The Ivey Hayes Project: God in my fingers,” in reference to the artist’s belief that God’s spirit inspires his paintings.

“Hayes has paintings that celebrate, in my opinion, jazz and gospel and all around black American culture in our community,” she said in her introductory video on

For her fundraising, she went to, an all-or-nothing funding site for artistic projects where “a project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands.”

“His relationship with God reminds me of my relationship with God,” Vaught added. “I really do think God has led me to Mr. Hayes and this project. The fact that he can paint the way that he does, it’s a miracle.”

Hayes has a degenerative rheumatoid arthritis which has left him with just three bones in his fingers.

For Hayes, doing a documentary of his work as his career closes is about leaving a legacy.

“I want to leave to the next generation work that they can see physically, work that will hopefully inspire them and enlighten them to say, ‘Hey man, I really enjoy this,'” he said in Vaught’s introductory video. “And then they can ask the question what can I do to improve on what now is left before them so they can become better equipped to become better artistic people.”

Amanda Greene: 910-520-3958 or on Twitter @WilmFAVS

BOOK REVIEW: “Jitterbug Perfume”

By Contributor Gwenyfar Rohler

Tom Robbins’ “Jitterbug Perfume” might be a surprising book to see reviewed on the faith and values website. But I think it is quite appropriate.

His 1984 opus about immortality – or ultimately mortality – follows two

Jitterbug Perfume

Jitterbug Perfume (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

people who decide not to die and their friend Pan, the goat god.

The book’s central question is: What is it about death that we find so terrifying?

There was the wonderful joke circulating several years ago about the Pope traveling in an armored car. The joke was if he was scared to die – what did that say to the rest of us?

Robbins’ readers are familiar with his lyric use of word play that comes alive on the page. Through Alobar and Kudra seeking immortality, Robbins does ask questions about what real immortality is?

Is it avoiding death? Or is it making a lasting contribution to society for which you will be remembered ever after?

Alobar and Kudra have found the secret to avoiding death through a series of breathing exercises, diet and bathing rituals- all of which sound a lot like yoga. “Jitterbug Perfume” explores many of the questions westerners have about eastern philosophy and its realistic applications while weaving in healthy doses of comparative mythology.

In the book, deities survive only as long as people believe in them, so after several thousand years, when Pan’s following has faded, people can’t see him anymore. They can only smell him. Or to adapt from General Douglas MacArthur, another person concerned with the questions of immortality or mortality – “Old Gods never die; they just fade away.”

As with many books from this period of Robbins’ writing, lust and embracing our visceral desires plays a big role in not only the character’s lives but their ultimate successes or failures in their quest. The presence of Pan, a deity who encouraged and enjoyed such celebrations himself, as a main character in this book also leads to comparisons about how modern Protestants interpret not only deity, but also the expected code of behavior by that deity and its followers.

Robbins is an unabashed hedonist in both his writing and his lifestyle. In “Jitterbug Perfume,” that shines through with a beautiful and delicate passion. Many of his books celebrate mythologies and cosmologies different than the monotheistic world he and many of his readers grew up in. He time travels across the page to visit places he would like to see and many of us never imagined were possible.

What is the life of an old Greek God like in late 20th century New Orleans? It’s not a question that keeps many people up at night, but it’s a fascinating one to answer.

For an affirming, delightful and entirely sideways look at this planet through the last 1,000 years, pick up a copy of “Jitterbug Perfume.”

Group says ‘Titanic’ film gets ‘women and children first’ doctrine all wrong

c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS/ENInews) A spate of books, films, TV programs, and commemorative events are seeking to capitalize on Sunday’s (April 15) 100th anniversary of the RMS Titanic’s sinking, especially the new 3-D version of James Cameron‘s 1997 epic movie, “Titanic.”

But for one Texas-based Christian ministry, Cameron’s film still delivers a decidedly un-Christian message: That “class warfare” aboard the doomed ocean liner resulted in the disproportionate deaths of poor, female and young passengers, thus sinking the “Christian doctrine” of “women and children first.”

That’s why Vision Forum Ministries in San Antonio and the Christian Boys’ and Men’s Titanic Society are sponsoring “Titanic 100: An International Centennial Event” in the resort town of Branson, Mo., which is also home to a Titanic museum.

Using drama, music and interactive events, including an “Edwardian Ladies Tea,” the group aims to “set the record straight” by disproving Cameron’s portrayal of the ship’s demise, and to showcase “the legacy of heroism” aboard the Titanic, “as men and boys on board the ship gave their lives so women and children might live.”

On the group’s website, Vision Forum Ministries argues that as the ship foundered, the “Darwinian notion of survival of the fittest was rejected in favor of the age-old Christian doctrine that the ‘strong sacrifice for the weak.'”

“The Christian doctrine of ‘women and children first’ was firmly upheld.”

Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum, founded the Christian Boys’ and Men’s Titanic Society the same year as Cameron’s original film, and each year, the society hosts a gathering on the anniversary of the disaster to commemorate the legacy of “male chivalry” demonstrated while the ship sank.

Cameron’s film, which won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, advances “a false image of Marxist class-warfare,” the ministry claims, “with the rich seeking to bribe their way to freedom, the poor deliberately prevented from reaching safety, and the nobility of Christian sacrifice minimized and ridiculed. … Such depictions are historical nonsense.”

The ministry cites Lee Merideth, author of “1912 Facts About Titanic,” saying that of the 706 survivors of the disaster, almost as many Third Class passengers survived (174) as did First Class (202) and crew (212). “Other than ‘women and children first,’ there wasn’t any attempt to save one class of passengers over another,” the ministry argues.

The Titanic Historical Society in Indian Orchard, Mass., which bills itself as the world’s largest such group, offers a more nuanced view.

According to George Behe, the society’s past vice president, 52 percent of First and Second Class passengers were saved while 26 percent of Third Class passengers survived. In First and Second Class, 94 percent of women and children were rescued, while the rate was 47 percent in Third Class.

Far fewer men did survive than women. The official inquiry into the sinking noted that the overall survival rate for men was 20 percent; for women, 74 percent and for children, 52 percent.

Kontras Quartet to play local church – Romanticism and Impressionism round out evening

The Kontras Quartet: Violinist Dmitri Pogorelov, cellist Jean Hatmaker, violinist Francois Henkins and violist Ai Ishida. Courtesy photo via The StarNews.

By Bob Workmon
StarNews Correspondent
Copyright © 2012
Reprinted with permission

If the thought of attending a brief history of the history of the string quartet whips trepidation into an intellectual dust storm, then perhaps a fresh attack led by an attractive group of young musicians can nudge open the door to this music for you.

Kontras Quartet is the group and a brief history of great quartet music is exactly what’s planned for its first concert with Chamber Music Wilmington on Sunday at Church of the Servant in Wilmington.

Kontras comes to town, in a sense, on the shoulders of Ludwig van Beethoven and Maurice Ravel, carrying the banner of Romanticism in music by Franz Schubert as well as the late 20th-century’s fusion of musical genres in a work by Astor Piazzolla. Together, it exemplifies the meaning of the quartet’s name, from the Afrikaans word for “contrasts.” The group’s spokesperson is South African-born Francois Henkins.

“We tend to pick programs that contrast musical styles and periods,” Henkins said during a phone interview. “This program has four standards – well, three standards and a work that is becoming a standard – a kind of brief history of the quartet.”

Henkins will be joined by violinist Dmitri Pogorelov, violist Ai Ishida and cellist Jean Hatmaker.

Henkins said that Kontras will open its performance with the last of Beethoven’s early quartets, the Opus 18 No. 6 in B-flat major. In this music Beethoven was on the cusp of breaking away from the Classical influence of another great composer of string quartets, Joseph Haydn.

Franz Schubert was an accidental iconoclast, whose single-movement “Quartettsatz” in C minor may have started out as part of a scheme for a large scale work, Henkins said. But it was left to stand on its own by the Romantic-trending young composer.

“Schubert had developed more of his own style than Beethoven at about the same age,” Henkins said. “It is a lyrical piece, showing off Schubert’s gifts as a writer of melody set in a beautiful landscape of harmony.”

Having established a Romantic mood before intermission, Henkins said it will be time for a little Impressionism: “Music by composers such as Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel matched the art of the period so well that the comparison was inescapable even if unwelcome.”

Becoming a modern classic isn’t easy, but “Four, for Tango,” composed in 1989 for the acclaimed Kronos Quartet by Argentinian Astor Piazzolla, has found an audience beyond its debut. Piazzolla’s sinewy melodies and acrid harmonies are wedded to the rigor of counterpoint inspired by Bach and the freedom of jazz in a singular style called “Nuevo Tango.”

The Kontras Quartet will play an open dress rehearsal prior to Sunday evening’s performance. “If you want to know why a particular piece of music was selected or why it’s played a certain way, this will be a great opportunity to ask those questions,” said CMW artistic director Barbara McKenzie.

What a great way to get know music that, for many of us, looms as a distant object.


What: Chamber Music Wilmington presents Kontras Quartet, with music by Beethoven, Schubert, Ravel and Piazolla.

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 15. Open dress rehearsal at 5:30 p.m.

Where: Church of the Servant Episcopal Church, 4925 Oriole Drive (near UNCW campus)

Tickets: $25, $12 for students

Details: 962-3500 or

Features: 343-2343

Holocaust violins live to play another song

Amnon Weinstein holds a Kelzmer violin. RNS photo by Ken Lambla

c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (RNS) Another voice from the past is telling the stories of the Holocaust.

Violins that outlived the owners who played them in the death camps and Jewish ghettos are being brought back to life by Amnon Weinstein in his shop in Tel Aviv. As Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance) gatherings occur around the world in April, 18 violins tracked down and repaired by Weinstein will be unveiled in Charlotte, N.C.

A dozen public concerts, worship services and other programs throughout the month are expected to attract thousands who are drawn to the music, and the history behind each instrument — the first time the violins will be shared with the public in North and South America.

Weinstein hopes he can bring the violins to other communities, in a bid to recall the 6 million Jews and 5 million others who perished at Hitler’s hand.

Weinstein, 72, lost some 380 relatives in the Holocaust — “cousins from here to eternity,” he said. These violins, he said, symbolize the power of music to outlive evil. They represent the dead, and speak for the aging survivors whose voices are being silenced by time.

“Nothing is like it was in 1945,” Weinstein said. “The only thing that didn’t age is the violin. It’s the same, the sound of the violin. It speaks by itself. It gives you another open door to try to understand.”

Like a detective, Weinstein, a violin-maker, has spent more than a decade scouring the Internet, talking to survivors’ relatives, literally searching attics and basements for violins presumed lost to time.

One of his many triumphs: A violin played in the men’s orchestra at Auschwitz in Poland was sold by an unnamed survivor for $50 to a man named Abraham Davidovitz in 1946 near Munich, Germany. Years later, the Davidovitz family gave it to Weinstein after inscribing on the label: “The violins continue to play for all those who did not live to make music.”

Several violins are believed to have belonged to some of the thousands of klezmer musicians who played traditional Jewish folk music across Eastern Europe. These violins are inscribed with the Star of David. Today, klezmer music remains popular in synagogues and at festivals across the U.S. and Europe.

One of the violins tracked down by Weinstein is beyond repair, no longer able to make music. Weinstein believes it was played in the rain at one of the camps. It, too, bears witness, he said.

Nick Strimple, a Holocaust music scholar who teaches at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, said music played in the camps and ghettos has a complicated legacy.

The Nazis ordered inmate musicians to play marches as other inmates were sent off to forced labor assignments. “It was easier for the Nazis to keep them regimented,” he said. At the Dachau camp, Strimple said, inmates would put on secret concerts in the barracks and latrines, sometimes on homemade instruments.

In the ghettos, though, not everyone wanted to make music. Some Jews likened it to “dancing in a graveyard.” Others, Strimple said, picked up their instruments for comfort, even adapting songs to suit the times. In the ghetto in Lodz, Poland, for example, Jewish mothers would sing a traditional Yiddish lullaby, “Raisins and Almonds,” to help their children fall asleep. In the ghetto, the title of the song was changed to “No More Raisins, No More Almonds.”

USC’s Strimple, who is not Jewish (he directs the music at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church), is moved by Weinstein’s crusade, and what he believes it symbolizes.

“The survival of these instruments,” he said, “prevents the Nazis from having any kind of victory after the fact. It’s a way for the dead to communicate with us.”

Dan Napolitano, director of teacher education and special programs at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, appreciates the power of artifacts to bring the story to life. The display of more than 3,000 shoes taken from people who died at the Majdanek camp in Poland, for example, is one of the most talked-about by the 33.2 million people who have visited the museum since it opened in 1993.

In synagogues and community squares this month, candles will be lit and prayers said to remember victims and survivors of the Holocaust. In that same spirit, Napolitano believes the violins can help people better understand the scope of what happened.

“They are unique touch points on the history,” he said. “They capture our imagination and get us to ask hard questions: Who owned them? Why did they lose them?”

Weinstein likes to tell of the violin he was working on one day in his shop in his native Israel. He found himself scraping away black gunk until he realized what it was. The violin had been played by an inmate in the orchestra at Auschwitz, a short walk from the gas chambers and chimneys.

It was ashes.