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Cantor Yehoshua Wieder was born on 12 February 1906 in Miskolc, Hungary to Asher and Shprintza Wieder. Like many Jewish families in Eastern Europe, they were a Chassidic family, specifically of the Satmar sect. Before Yehoshua's second birthday, the family moved to Hajdunanasz.
The Wieder family was renowned in Hungary for producing high quality cantors. Yehoshua's father was a famous cantor, as were all of his brothers, and the Wieder family held positions in some of Hungary's most famous synagogues. His father Asher died during the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) service in 1943 while reciting the Kol Nidre prayer; he was chief cantor in Hajdunanasz at the time. Given his background, the young Yehoshua received a thorough religious and musical education. He displayed a beautiful voice and was taught the art of cantorial singing by Hungary's most prominent cantors. While still young he gave concerts throughout Hungary, performed on Hunagarian radio, and was considered a ‘Wunderkind’.
When he was almost eighteen, Wieder left his family to study music and voice in Vienna. 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 accepted a position as cantor in Debrecen, Hungary; he later also served in Budapest and Vienna. Wieder was officiating as chief cantor in Miskolc (from 1931) at the Ancient Synagogue when WWII broke out (Chazan Sheini of that particular shul in Miskolc was Chazan Josef Fisch). He and his family were deported to Auschwitz, where his wife Chana and three youngest children were killed. Cantor Wieder and his three other children, Chanoch (Elimelech), Sara Bluma and Feiga, survived, but almost all the other Wieder family members were murdered.
After his liberation from Auschwitz, Wieder became a travelling cantor throughout Germany, officiating at many Displaced Persons’ (DP) camps. He served in Munich from 1945 until 1949, when his remaining children emigrated to the United States. There, Cantor Wieder remarried in 1954. He served at the famous Talmud Torah of Flatbush Synagogue in Flatbush, Brooklyn, for five years (1949-1954) and then officiated at the prominent Congregation Ohab Zedek, New York for three years (1954-1957).
From his time in Auschwitz, Cantor Wieder had sand in his lungs. Doctors advised him that mountain air would do him good, and he accepted a position in Snowdon, Montreal, 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 suffered a fatal coronary attack and died on 22 August 1964. Cantor Wieder is buried in the Jewish cemetery of Montreal.
By Jeffrey P Lieuwen