The incredible journey of "Joe's Violin"

Music student Brianna Perez discusses a Holocaust survivor's life changing gift

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published February 10, 2017 11:37PM (EST)

This Salon video was produced by Kevin Carlin

In director/producer Kahane Cooperman's quietly stunning, Academy Award nominated short documentary "Joe's Violin," 94 year-old Holocaust survivor Joseph Feingold strikes an unlikely friendship with a Bronx student nearly 80 years his junior. It's a bond formed by music, hope, resilience and one very special violin.

Feingold originally purchased his violin with a carton of cigarettes shortly after the end of World War II — and the deaths of his mother and younger brother in the Treblinka concentration camp. Feingold played it for nearly 70 years, but when could practice no more, he decided to donate it to a program putting instruments in needy schools. That's how it found its way to Brianna Perez, a promising seventh grader at the Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls, located in the nation's poorest congressional district. Kokoe Tanaka-Suwan, one of Brianna's music teachers, said, "We knew that Brianna would appreciate playing on Joseph's violin, and we couldn't be prouder of her."

Brianna is now a high school student, still pursuing music, and she and Joe still correspond. She said the film has a timely message.

"There is some type of connection with the stranger you walk with," she said. "There is some type of way you can relate. And it doesn't have to be though an act of hate, but through an act of love instead."

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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