Julee Landau Shahon was never supposed to be a Scottsdale resident, let alone one of its most inspiring leaders.
“I grew up in Detroit and worked in merchandising and marketing before moving to New York to work for Transworld Entertainment, which back then had 1,100-plus music and video stores nationwide,” Landau Shahon says. “By early 2001, I saw that the digital evolution was coming and decided to make a change.”
But when Landau Shahon moved back to her native Detroit to begin the research and interview process, it snowed. And snowed. “After weeks being stuck under 18 inches of snow, my parents offered to let me stay with them at their winter home in Scottsdale while I virtually interviewed for opportunities nationwide,” Landau Shahon says.
She fell in love with Scottsdale, so much so that she purchased a house, thinking it would be a winter vacation home.
By September 2001, she had a major opportunity with a company out of Washington, D.C. Her flight to D.C. was scheduled for September 12.
“And then on September 11, 2001, friends from the East Coast woke me up, telling me to get up and turn on the TV,” says Landau Shahon, who did so, just as a plane crashed into the Pentagon and the south World Trade Center Tower collapsed.
Life changed in an instant – as it did for everyone that day – for Landau Shahon. “I decided to make my home in Scottsdale, near my family,” says Landau Shahon, who got into real estate and began volunteering at the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix to meet new people (not to mention eventual husband Robert Shahon) and give back to the community.
But her initial part-time volunteer effort blossomed into something much more.
Over the past 18 years, Landau Shahon – who will receive the Federation’s Medal of Honor in March – has taken on many leadership roles within the organization, including local campaign chair and women’s philanthropy chair, as well as serving in a national capacity on the Jewish Federation of North America’s Women’s Philanthropy board, for which she is currently serving a second term.
It was during a Jewish Federation event in 2016 that she met global philanthropist and speaker Jane Weitzman. During a dinner party, as guests discussed ways to expand the organization’s reach as well as promote more inclusion and acceptance across Arizona, Weitzman brought up Violins of Hope, which was at the time touring through Cleveland.
“Through concerts, exhibitions, lectures and more, Violins of Hope tells the remarkable stories of violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust,” Landau Shahon says, noting there are 60 violins restored from the actual Holocaust that make up the collection itself. “Today these instruments serve not only as powerful reminders of an unimaginable experience but also reinforce lessons of tolerance, inclusion and diversity.”
Landau Shahon sprang into action. For the past three years, she along with co-chair Rachel Hoffer, as well as the Jewish Federation, have fundraised and partnered with organizations to bring Violin of Hope to Arizona.
“This incredible program will be the largest collaborative project ever undertaken in Greater Phoenix,” Landau Shaon says, “with Jewish and non-Jewish community organizations partnering in celebrating music, education, history and culture.”
For Landau Shahon, it’s truly coming full circle in her adopted home of Scottsdale.
Violins of Hope
There are free, ticketed and even school events being held February 3 though March 26, including:
On February 19 at the Heard Museum, the Arizona Opera will perform “Defiance through Art,” operatic selections from the “Emperor of Atlantis” and “A Beautiful Place,” an original piece by Craig Bohmer. Featuring Assaela Bielski Weinstein (ticketed event).
On February 23, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts will host Arizona Musicfest Festival Orchestra. Opening concert with Grammy-award winning violinist Gil Shaham at 8 p.m. (ticketed event).
February 26 through March 24, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts will host a free Violins of Hope Exhibition with docent-led tours.
On March 19, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts will host a Violins of Hope Tribute Concert featuring the Red Rocks Music Festival String Orchestra honoring Holocaust survivors and those who perished (ticketed event).
On March 23 and 24, the Arizona Science Center Planetarium will host Chinese-American violinist Xiang Gao as he gives an exclusive preview of a multimedia production based on stories of the Shanghai Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.
For a full list of events, or to buy tickets, visit violinsofhopephoenix.com.