Tziporah H. Jochsberger
Having escaped the Holocaust on the strength of her musical talents, Tziporah H. Jochsberger went on to use music to instill Jewish pride in her students. Jochsberger’s 1939 acceptance to the Palestine Academy of Music in Jerusalem offered her an escape from Nazi Germany. While studying at Juilliard in 1947, Jochsberger was shocked to find how little American Jews studied or explored their heritage. In 1950, with a grant from the Jewish Agency, she began teaching Israeli folk melodies to Hillel students at colleges. In 1956 she began teaching and studying music at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Even after retiring to Israel in 1986 she remained involved in the field, founding the Israel Music Heritage Project to preserve and cultivate knowledge of Jewish musical traditions.
In March 1939, Tziporah Jochsberger’s musical talents won her acceptance to the Palestine Academy of Music in Jerusalem, good fortune that ultimately saved her life. Jochsberger then used her music to stir the Jewish soul.
Early Life and Family
Tziporah H. Jochsberger was born in Leutershausen, in southern Germany, on December 27, 1920, the only child of Sophie (Enslein) and cattle dealer Nathan Jochsberger. Their middle-class status enabled her mother to buy the first piano in their small village and start her seven-year-old daughter on the music lessons she herself had been denied. Tziporah attended Wurzburg High School and the Jewish Teachers Seminary, the only school of higher learning still open for Jewish students in Germany in 1934. Her love for Judaism and for music stem from this period, during which she taught herself to play the recorder and cello. In 1939, she entered the Palestine Academy of Music in Jerusalem, graduating in 1942 as a piano and school music teacher. Jochsberger was later elected one of five directors of the school, which would become the renowned Rubin Academy for Music and Dance.
Music Teaching Career
Reeling from the death of her parents in Auschwitz and the loss of millions like them, Jochsberger resolved to use music and Jewish melodies to waken the dormant Jewish soul of American Jewry. A 1947 summer of study at the Juilliard School in New York introduced Jochsberger to an American Jewish community scarcely acquainted with its heritage. With a grant from the Jewish Agency, Jochsberger returned to New York in 1950 and started what would become her life’s work by using Israeli folk melodies as the basis for teaching recorder to college students at Hillel Foundations throughout the New York metropolitan region.
In 1952, Jochsberger was invited to help establish the Hebrew Arts School. The school developed a strong Jewish profile, using Jewish values, holiday celebrations, and the music of the Jewish people to attract students and faculty eager to explore Jewish culture. An invitation to teach at the Seminary College of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America forced her to deepen her limited knowledge of Jewish music. In 1956, she began her own studies at the seminary, counting Hugo Weisgal, Max Wohlberg, and Johanna Spector among her teachers as she earned master’s (1959) and doctoral (1972) degrees in Jewish music.
During her years in New York, Jochsberger also used radio and television to reach a wider audience of students. She served as host and producer of three thirteen-part half-hour television series produced by the Tarbuth Foundation: Music of the Jewish People (1976), Experiences in Jewish Music (1977), and A Kaleidoscope of Jewish Music (1978).
In addition to her teaching and administrative responsibilities, Jochsberger found time for an active career as a composer. She combined her love for the songs of the Jewish people with her desire to reach children through music. In much of her work, she gathered, edited, and arranged traditional folk melodies for recorder or piano in settings appropriate for young players. As a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), she also published a variety of choral compositions. Her numerous unpublished compositions included works for voice and various instrumental combinations. Jochsberger’s compositions have been performed in major concert halls throughout the United States and Israel. Four Hebrew Madrigals, commissioned and recorded by the Western Wind Vocal Ensemble, was broadcast by Voice of America as part of Bicentennial celebrations in 1987. Jochsberger herself conducted the Hebrew Arts Chamber Singers in a recording of her A Call to Remember: Sacred Songs of the High Holidays. Jewish Choral Music, the first of a set of three compact discs of her choral and instrumental music.
Later Years and Legacy
Jochsberger “retired” to Israel in 1986 but remained active, providing opportunities for Israel’s people to understand their own culture. She founded the Israel Music Heritage Project (IMHP) to preserve, foster, and disseminate knowledge of the varied musical traditions of the Jewish people. Jochsberger was the executive producer of the IMHP’s eleven-part documentary video series A People and Its Music, which captures the authentic musical expressions of Jewish communities in Israel whose roots are in Eastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Jochsberger remained an active composer and was a member of the Israel Composer’s League and of ACUM, Limited, Israel’s affiliate of ASCAP. She was an active member of the governing boards of some of Israel’s most prominent music institutions, including Zimriyah: The International Assembly of Choirs in Israel, the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, and the Jerusalem School for Music and Arts. When she rejoined the board of governors of the Jerusalem Rubin Academy for Music and Dance in 1990, Tziporah H. Jochsberger completed her own life’s circle of devotion to the Jewish people and its music.
She remained a seminal figure in the teaching and expression of Jewish music throughout the United States and Israel until her death in 2017, at the age of 96.
Selected Works By Tziporah Jochsberger
Bekol Zimra: A Collection of Jewish Choral Music (1966).
A Call to Remember: Sacred Songs of the High Holidays (1978).
“Ein Keloheinu” (1992).
Experiences in Jewish Music (1977).
Four Hebrew Madrigals (1971).
A Harvest of Jewish Song (1980).
Hallel: Psalms of Praise (1958).
Hava N’halela: A Method for the Recorder Based on Israeli Folk Melodies (1987).
A Kaleidoscope of Jewish Music (1978).
Music of the Jewish People (1976).
Television series, host and producer; A People and Its Music (1991–).
Video series, executive producer; “Tzur Mishelo” (1992).
Video series, executive producer; “Yom Zeh Mekhubad” (1992).
Jochsberger, Tziporah H. Interviews with author.