Yehoshua Wieder

Yehoshua Wieder1906 - 1964

Yehoshua Wieder 1906 – 1964

Chazzan Yehoshua Wieder was born February 12th 1906 (17 Shevat 5666  according to the Jewish calendar) in Miskolc, Hungary into the family of Asher  and Shprintza Wieder. As many Jewish families in Eastern Europe, they were a  Chassidic family, Satmar Chassidim to be precise. Before Yehoshua’s second  birthday the family moved to Hajdunanasz.The Wieder family was renowned in Hungary for producing high standard  Chazzonim for generations. Yehoshua’s father was a famous Chazzan, as were  all of his brothers. The Wieder family held positions in some of Hungary’s most  famous synagogues. His father Asher died during the Yom Kipur service in 1943  while reciting “Kol Nidre.” He was born 1880 and was Chazzan Rishon in  Hajdunanasz at the time. Due to his background young Yehoshua received a  thorough religious and musical education. He displayed a great voice and was  thought the art of Chazzonus by Hungary’s most prominent Chazzonim. Still at  a young age he gave concerts throughout Hungary as a “Wunderkind.” He also  performed for the Hungarian radio.

When he was almost eighteen years old he left his family to go and study music  and voice in Vienna. Here he studied with the famous teachers Ephraim  Shlepak, Yehudah Leib Miller and Emanuel Frankel, who encouraged him to  make a career in the vocal arts.

Yehoshua married in 1925 and at age twenty he accepted a position as Chazzan  in Debrecen, Hungary. Chazzan Wieder also served in Budapest and Vienna.  Chazzan Wieder was officiating as Chazzan Rishon in Miskolc (from 1931) at the Ancient Synagogue  when  WWII broke out (Chazzan Sheini of that particular shul in Miskolc was Chazzan  Josef Fisch). Chazzan Wieder and his family were transported to Auschwitz by  the Nazis. His wife Chana and his 3 youngest children were killed in the  concentration camp. Luckily Chazzan Wieder and his 3 other children, Chanoch  (Elimelech), Sara Bluma and Feiga, survived the Shoah. Almost all the other  Wieder family members were killed.

After Chazzan Wieder was liberated from Auschwitz, he became a travelling Chazzan throughout Germany, officiating at many DP camps. From 1945 till  1949 he served in Munich. In 1949 he and his 3 remaining children emigrated to  the U.S., where Chazzan Wieder remarried in 1954. In America he served a the  famous Talmud Torah of Flatbush Synagogue in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York  for five years (1949-1954). Then he officiated at the prominent Congregation  Ohab Zedek, Belle Harbor, New York for three years (1954-1957).

Due to his stay in Auschwitz, Chazzan Wieder had sand in his lungs. After he  had sung, he would cough up blood. Doctors advised him that mountain air  would do his lungs good. Therefore Chazzan Wieder accepted a position in  Snowdon, Montreal, Canada at the newly erected Chevra Shaas Adath  Jeshurun Hadrath Kodesh Shevet Achim Chaverim Kol Yisrael d’Bet Abraham  Synagogue, better known as Adath Jeshurun Hadrath Kodesh (1957-1964).  While officiating in Montreal he tragically suffered a fatal coronary attack from  which he died on August 22, 1964 (14th of Elul 5724). The upcoming Sabbath he  was replaced by the 13 year old boy Chazzan Chaim Eliezer Herstik. After that  he was officially replaced by Chazzan Moshe Leib Erblich.

Chazzan Wieder is burried at the Jewish cemetery of Montreal.

Although Chazzan Wieder was only 58 years old when he died, he left an  enormous impression on all the members of the congregations he served and  the people who heard him during his concerts. He made many concert tours  throughout the world, and was a teacher to many Chazzanim and singers.

Chazzan Wieder possessed a  magnificent lyric tenor voice with a dramatic  coloratura. His vocal range seemed unlimited and he had superb control over  his voice. He was known for coloring his voice to very low solemn tones.  Besides having a wonderful voice, Chazzan Wieder also had the capability to  write the most beautiful compositions. His compositions may be considered as  some of the most beautiful ever made in Jewish liturgical music history.  Chazzan Wieder was greatly admired among other Chazzonim for his  compositions, voice and his large knowledge on Chazzonus. This resulted in  him being one of the leading soloists out of 250 Chazzonim at the gala concert  at Madison Square Garden held by Der Khazonim Farband in 1960. Before a  capacity crowd of more than 20.000 people he sang his famous composition of  “Mimkomcho.”

Chazzan Wieder wasn’t really into making recordings, he just wanted to daven.  It was his children and admirers who encouraged him to make some  recordings. Thanks to their efforts the world is blessed with 16 professional  recordings on which Chazzan Wieder sings some of his most beautiful  compositions. Unfortunately the methods of recording were rather primitive.  Besides being a wonderful Chazzan he also was a great Ba’al Tefiloh and may  be considered one of the greatest Chazzonim ever.

(Many thanks to Jeffrey Lieuwen who wrote this biography)