JHM lecture to highlight musical testimony of Shoah survivors

Joseph Toltz, Ph.D. (Courtesy United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Musical memories have helped Holocaust survivors deal with their trauma, a connection Joseph Toltz, Ph.D., has researched for the past 14 years. Toltz will lecture on “The Accidental Pioneer: Music from David Broder’s 1946 Work in the Displaced Persons Camps of Europe” at the Tucson Jewish Community Center on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. His talk will be part of a Veterans Day program honoring the Jewish veterans of Southern Arizona, sponsored by the Jewish History Museum, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Holocaust Education and Commemoration Project and the JCC.

Growing up in Sydney, Australia, “I was surrounded by Holocaust survivors — the parents-in-law of my father’s brother, or married to my cousins, or members of my shul, or parents/grandparents of my friends,” Toltz told the AJP. “These survivors were heavily involved in the fostering of cultural life in Australia, and as I was a trained musician, I encountered them in many varied contexts.”

Toltz completed his Ph.D. dissertation, “Hidden Testimony: Musical Experience and Memory in Jewish Holocaust Survivors” at the University of Sydney. From December 2010 to May 2011 he was the Barbara and Richard Rosenberg Fellow at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. For 13 years he was cantor and director of pastoral care at Emanuel Synagogue, the largest non-Orthodox Jewish congregation in Australia. He also performs with Cantillation, Sydney’s only professional choral ensemble.

A lecturer and tutor at the University of Sydney and the University of Western Sydney, Toltz is currently on a U.S. speaking tour. In Tucson, he will also speak at the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at noon.

The role of music as testimony is a fairly new concept, says Toltz, but the arts may be the most lasting way for future generations to learn about the Holocaust. “History has a finite limit in terms of statistical analysis, factual explanation and recording of events. The creative arts can communicate a more varied set of experiences and be received subjectively by many generations to come as a powerful and distinguishing medium.

“In the Jewish context, we only have to look at the continuity of our prayer tradition and our Pesach Haggadah to understand that the places where we respond the most are in songs and poetry that accompany these rituals.”

For more information, contact Eileen Warshaw at 670-9073 or jhmtucson@gmail.com.