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RNCM collaborates with ‘Performing the Jewish Archive’ project

David with pianist Vera Müllerová at Wigmore Hall

RNCM Research Bulletin, Summer 2017

A piece of music uncovered in a Prague archive by researcher and RNCM tutor in academic studies, Dr David Fligg, recently received a Wigmore Hall performance.

The piece, Topol (‘The Poplar Tree’) by the Czech composer and pianist Gideon Klein (1919-1945), was composed in 1938. It was never publicly performed, but secreted away during the German occupation of Prague before finding its way to the archives of Prague’s Jewish Museum. There, it was inventoried as part of the composer’s papers, but although his sister Lisa (Eliška) Kleinová supervised the publication of most of his completed works, Topol remained forgotten. When David came across the manuscript, not only was there a substantial sketch of the work, but a fair-copy manuscript. “It’s extraordinary that this significant work was never published along with Klein’s other works,” says David.

Read the whole article here

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Yiddish play manuscript draws attention to early Holocaust commemoration in Finland

European Holocaust Research Infrastructure project (EHRI) has published a blog article by PtJA Postdoctoral Research Fellow Simo Muir.

In 2005, when I was working at the National Archives of Finland, I was commissioned to do an inventory of archival material found in a cellar of a building owned by the Jewish Community of Helsinki. Amidst thousands of documents, I found the manuscript of a tableau called Muter Rokhl un ire kinder (Mother Rachel and Her Children) written by Helsinki-born Jac Weinstein in 1948. The tableau depicts the 2000-year-long suffering of the Jewish people culminating in the death camps of the Third Reich. This blog discusses the content and meaning of Weinstein’s tableau, and recent performances of the piece as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project ‘Performing the Jewish Archive’.

Read the whole blog here

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Opening exhibition of the new Centre

The official opening of Vienna’s Centre, and the accompanying exhibition, takes place next week 22 Monday 2017, at University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna.

Opening: Monday, May 22nd, 2017

19.00: Opening with music, Franz Liszt-Saal LS 0326

With compositions by:
Walter Arlen, Julius Bürger, Georg Tintner,
Vally Weigl, Egon Wellesz…

20:00: Exhibition open LS 0116     

For more information click here


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Conference, Collaborations, Coffee & Cake

David Fligg with Fritz Trümpi holding his new book, outside of MDW, Vienna.

David Fligg (PtJA Project Consultant) was a guest speaker at Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts (MDW) in February. His paper, ‘Gideon Klein – Musical Rupture and Jewish Migration’ was part of the ‘Musical Cultures of the Habsburg Monarchy and its Successors States’ conference, hosted by the University’s Department of Musicology and Performance Studies.

Drawing on archival documents, David’s paper investigated how the avant-garde artistic circles in Prague during the post-Habsburg Empire period affected Klein’s cultural aesthetic, and how Klein responded artistically to the erosion of personal freedoms under Nazi occupation. “In the debate that followed,” says David, “there was some argument about the phrase ‘Jewish migration’ in my paper’s title, and whether it was an appropriate term when discussing the fate of Klein and others in a similar situation. Various substitutes were offered,” muses David, “but I can’t help feeling, and as I pointed out, that semantic musings on this issue, within the bubble of academia, would have been of little solace to those on the brink of catastrophe.”

The co-convenor of the conference, Fritz Trümpi, with whom David is planning future collaboration, is the author of the recently-published and much-praised book ‘The Political Orchestra: The Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics during the Third Reich’ (University of Chicago Press).

David was also able to spend some time with the singer Elizabeth Hagedorn, whose memorable performances of music by Wilhelm Grosz concluded the PtJA’s Out of the Shadows festival in Madison last year. “Not only did we plan upcoming work in the Czech Republic, but I’m eternally grateful to Elizabeth and her husband, the conductor Andreas Stoehr, for introducing me to the delights and gastronomic wonders of one of Mahler’s watering-holes, Café Schwartzenberg!”




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Newsletter Issue 8

Our latest newsletter is now out. To read it click here 

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Performing the Jewish Archive Events in the York Festival of Ideas

The annual York Festival of Ideas returns from 6 to 18 June 2017 under the banner of The Story of Things. This year’s Festival programme includes two free events – A Comedy of Us Jews and Children, Conflict and the Arts of Hope – produced by the Performing the Jewish Archive project.

A Comedy of Us Jews (Mon 12 and Tues 13 June): A light-hearted short musical about a Jewish clothing merchant who falls in love with his Parisian mannequin. Written in 1940 by Jac Weinstein of the Helsinki Jewish community and performed by University of York students.

Children, Conflict and the Arts of Hope (Sat 24 and Sun 25 June): The arts were a lifeline for young people during the Holocaust, helping them both to express their experiences and escape temporarily from their surroundings. This performance, a collaboration between Bootham School, the Anne Frank Trust and Performing the Jewish Archive, is inspired by children’s art of the past and present.

One of the largest free festivals in the UK, the York Festival of Ideas offers a huge range of events including talks, exhibitions, theatre, music, film, guided walks, children’s activities and workshops, all designed to educate, entertain and inspire. Be among the first to hear about the full 2017 programme by going to the York Festival of Ideas website and subscribing to the mailing list. The full programme will be available online from the end of April.


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When business and pleasure collide

By Libby Clark

I love working as the Project Manager for Performing the Jewish Archive – there is never a dull moment on this vast, varied and challenging project and I am learning all the time. One thing that has given me great enjoyment and pleasure is the overlap between work and one of my main passions and hobbies outside of work – singing soprano with the Clothworkers Consort of Leeds (CCL) who have been involved in performing at a number of PtJA events.         

It is not often that professional and personal life come together in such harmony and it means I have been able to play my part in planning and organising events such as the Leeds and York and Czech Festivals and have then gone on to perform in them too. This gives me a unique perspective on the project and has created many happy professional and personal memories – the opening Czech Festival concert at the Spanish Synagogue in Prague, for example, will long stay in my mind as both a wonderful singing opportunity and an excellent showcase for the project.  

Recently, the opportunity to sing at two high-profile Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations came up and, as a singer, I leapt at the chance. The first of these was for Music on the brink of destruction at London’s Wigmore Hall on 4 January and the second was the UK Commemorative Ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day on 26 January at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster (for a full report on these events, and other HMD commemorations involving PtJA please see Project Consultant David Fligg’s article here).

The Clothworkers Consort of Leeds at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster.

As a singer, there was much to gain from taking part in these events. Learning new repertoire, especially repertoire away from the mainstream in languages that I am much less proficient at singing in (Hebrew and Yiddish), was challenging and interesting.  Performing in a small, a cappella group with only one or two singers per part is something I am experienced at, but singing new repertoire, in prestigious venues, for large and distinguished audiences certainly focuses the mind in this regard!  The chance to perform at Wigmore Hall and sing for the Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t come up every day for the average amateur performer, and I certainly felt excitement and nerves in equal measures. Last, and by no means least, was the honour and privilege I felt playing a part, however small, in the HMD commemorations.

With my Project Manager hat on, I was interested and intrigued by the back stage arrangements at both venues. Slick professionalism and attention to detail were evident at every step of the way, leaving artists free to focus solely on performing.  I have been involved in event organising for a number of years, but I am always on the lookout for new tricks of the trade and different ways of doing things and I certainly came away with ideas for my own professional practice.  PtJA will hopefully be the recipient of these ideas over the coming months as we move ahead with plans for a number of big events of our own. See here for the next PtJA event involving the Clothworkers Consort.          

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Post Holocaust Cultures

Dr Joseph Toltz

Two team members from Performing the Jewish Archive (Dr Simo Muir and Dr Joseph Toltz) joined a special seminar session at the annual Association of Jewish Studies conference, held in San Diego from 18-20 December. Organised by Professor David Shneer (University of Colorado, Boulder), this “conference within a conference” was structured so that presenters would submit papers a month early, read each others’ work, and give a 5 minute summary before a robust discussion around the table. 

Top row (L-R): Anna Shternshis, Naya Lekht, Marat Grinberg, Joseph Toltz, Simo Muir Bottom row (L-R): Viktoria Khiterer, Nadya Bair, Gabriel Finder, Rachel Deblinger, Carol Zemel. Absent: David Shneer, Polly Zavadivker

The topic of the seminar was “Post Holocaust Cultures: The Many Ways of Bearing Witness”.  The brief was to explore cultural responses to the Holocaust and its relation to testimony. Two participants were sadly absent during the conference (David Shneer and Polly Zavadivker); the panels were chaired by Gabriel Finder (University of Virginia) and Anna Shternshis (University of Toronto). In the first session, Rachel Deblinger (University of California, Santa Cruz) gave a fascinating presentation on post-Holocaust survivor narratives on American Radio. Anna Shternshis gave an equally engaging paper on the way in which Soviet Russian and Yiddish folk music testified directly during the catastrophic years of 1941-1945.  PJA researcher Joseph Toltz presented on two early material accounts of Holocaust song making – a 1945 songbook printed in Bucharest, and the 1946 expedition by David Boder to the DP camps of Europe.  The second session began with Marat Grinberg (Reed College) demonstrating the hidden witness bearing of Jewish science fiction writers in Soviet Russia, while Victoria Khiterer (Millersville University) presented on the remarkable flourishing of Jewish culture in Kiev during a brief burst from 1944 – 1948. The panel concluded with Naya Lekht (UCLA) and a fascinating approach to measuring Holocaust subject material in Soviet literature.

The final session opened with PtJA researcher Simo Muir’s presentation on his discoveries and revival of the post-Holocaust Finnish Holocaust tableau, Muter Rokhl un ire kinder (Mother Rachel and Her Children).  Carol Zemel (York University) provided the seminar with the first presentation on the visual arts, a fascinating survey of survivor works in the immediate decade.  The concluding paper by Nadya Bair (Ryerson Image Centre) conveyed the moving legacy of David “Chaim” Seymour, a founder of the prestigious Magnum photographic cooperative.  Chaim captured memorable portraits and photographic essays dealing with refugee children in Austria, Hungary, Poland and Germany.

All panelists agreed: this was one of the most intellectually rewarding and meaningful experiences we had encountered at a large conference.


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PtJA helps German students investigate music under the Third Reich

Twenty students from the Gymnasium Heide-Ost in north Germany attended a day of seminars delivered by PtJA Project Consultant David Fligg. It was hosted by the Terezín Initiative Institute (TII) in Prague on 14 February, and was part of the ‘Jewish music in concentration camps’ project that the students are currently engaged in. As part of it, on the following day, the students visited Terezín, after being prepared for their visit by David.

David Fligg and the Heide-Ost students outside of the former Jáchymova Street Jewish school. (Photo: Berndt Steincke)

“We looked at a whole range of subjects, from music-making in the camps, especially Terezín, to the ways in which some musicians in Nazi occupied Europe collaborated with the Nazis, via the fate of Prague’s Jewish musicians under occupation,” David explains. “There was an immense amount of lively debate, and I was struck by the maturity of these students, and their emotional involvement with some of the issues we discussed.”

The venue for the seminars, now home to the TII and other Jewish communal organisations, was the former premises of the Jáchymova Street Jewish school. From August 1940, after Jewish pupils were expelled from regular schools, Jáchymova became a place of refuge for Jewish pupils and teachers alike, and was one of only three schools in the occupied Czech lands where the Nazis permitted children to be taught. At end of the 1941/42 academic year, the school was closed down, and the pupils, along with their parents and teachers, were deported. Only a small number of them survived.

When David showed the Heide-Ost students the propaganda film that the Nazis made about Terezín, he explained, as was confirmed by one of the TII staff, that some of the children on the film would have been Jáchymova pupils. “I think it was at that point,” says David, “that the students realised that we were dealing with real people who probably sat in the same classroom where they were now sitting. And the room fell silent.”

Berndt Steincke, Honorary Chairman of the Heide-based Foundation Against Extremism and Violence, which is working with the students, attended the seminars. He said afterwards, “David captivated us with challenging short videos, archival documents and musical extracts. We were able to recognize the lies of the Nazi era. We sincerely thank David for coming and will continue to process his findings in our project.”

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Professor Dobbs at Yad Vashem

 By Teri Dobbs

Dr. Teri Dobbs and Dr. Juliet Hess, conference chair.

This past January, PtJA team member Professor Teri Dobbs, University of Wisconsin-Madison, spent two weeks in Israel and Jordan. During her time there, she was a guest at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, together with colleagues from UW-Madison’s Mosse-Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies. In addition, she conducted research in the Yad Vashem Archives, met with musicology/music education colleagues to discuss the possibility of future projects within Israel, and met with the family of piano prodigy and composer, Josima Feldschuh (d. 1943).

Professor Dobbs will present several conference papers this coming semester, most of which pertain to her work with Performing the Jewish Archive. Her paper, “Music Education and the Holocaust: So What?” was heard at the New Directions in Music Education Conference: Musicking Equity: Enacting Social Justice Through Music Education,” Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, February 17.

Further, professor Dobbs has been invited to present two papers, one in collaboration with soprano and PtJA performer Elizabeth Hagedorn of Vienna, at the 25th European Association for Music in Schools/6th European International Society for Music Education regional conference, JOINT (AD)VENTURE MUSIC: Network as a Challenge for Music Educators, at the University Mozarteum, Salzburg, Austria, April 18 – 22, 2017.

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