Fiddler on the Roof is one of those stories that is both universal and specific. The story of an everyman trying to balance family and tradition in a changing world speaks to all of us, regardless of background or location.
The new production of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish is playing at the New World Stages in New York City. Directed by Joel Grey, Steven Skybell plays Teyve, the poor dairyman living in the Pale of Settlement in the early 20th century. He and his wife, Golde (Jennifer Babiak), they are raising five daughters under difficult circumstances.
Three of their five daughters are of age to marry. Tsaytl (Rachel Zatcoff), Hodl (Stephanie Lynn Mason), and Khave (Rosie Jo Neddy) marry for love instead of waiting for a husband to be presented to them. As each presents their potential spouse to their father, the thread of tradition begins to fray.
While Tevye is doing with familial issues, the outside is getting closer. Antisemitism is forcing reality all of the characters to face reality and the hard truth about their circumstances.
This production is fantastic. The fact that the characters speak in the mamaloshen (mother tongue) of Yiddish adds a level of gravity to the narrative. It is as if the audience is one step closer to the real people who called that time and place their own.
There is a moment (which I will not give away) that completely represents the message of Fiddler. It happens at the very end of the first act and as far as I know, has not been done in past productions. It is a breathtakingly horrible moment that I don’t think I will ever forget.
Seeing this adaptation in 2022 and knowing what is happening in Ukraine grounds it in a reality that I never expected. It is nothing short of a gut punch.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish is playing at the New World Stages in New York City until January 1st, 2023. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.
Every political movement, big and small, has a core ideal that governments their policies and legislation.
If we are to believe the current Republican party, they are governed by the idea of small government. As per Thomas Jefferson, it is as follows:
[A] wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.
On paper, it doesn’t sound hypocritical at all. It comes off as fairly reasonable. The powers that be should not be interfering in the day-to-day life of the average person on the street. But the reality is another story entirely.
In the wake of Covid-19 and the destruction that the virus has unleashed, some GOP-led states (Texas and Florida, again. What else is new?) have made it illegal for businesses to enforcemask mandate policies.
When they are called out for their duplicity, they claim “free speech“. What about my right to free speech? Why is it they are allowed to speak their truths, but if I do it, I am labeled a radical lefty snowflake?
If they want to live in a right-wing, sexist, and racist Christian theocracy, that is their choice and their decision. As we say in Judaism “Zolst leben un zein gezunt!” (Yiddish for you should live and be well!). but do not impose your beliefs on me and expect me to quietly give in.
We all know the image of women that Hollywood and Madison Avenue projects. Though we know that this image is completely unrealistic, we are told in both subtle and not to subtle ways, that this is who we have to be.
When we initially meet Becca Wasserman (Marissa Jaret Winokur) in the 2003 TV movie Beautiful Girl, she is content with her life. She is happy in her career choice as a 4th grade teacher and wants to teach her young students to be proud of who they are. Becca is what is referred to in Yiddish as zaftig. She has a supportive mother, Amanda (Fran Drescher), a loving fiancé, Adam Lopez (Mark Consuelos), and her grandmother, known as Nana (Joyce Gordon), who supports her unconditionally.
Becca’s perspective begins to shift when she runs into Libby Leslie (Reagan Pasternak), a former high school classmate who did not make those four years easy for her. With a limited wedding budget, she enters the local beauty contest to hopefully win a trip to Hawaii for her honeymoon with Adam. Will she win and more importantly, will Becca stay true to herself or conform to the image she is seeing around her?
The best thing I can say about this movie is that it is cute. The acting is good and the topic is as timely then as it is now. But it is a little too preachy for my sake. If I am to be honest, I prefer Winokur as the lead character in Hairspray. It has the same message, but the narrative has a subversive element that makes it appealing without being oversimplified.
P.T. Barnum is supposed to have once said for following:
“There’s a sucker born every minute.”
In Yiddish, the term for sucker is freier. On Thursday, an article in The Jerusalem Post stated that those who believe you know who (especially those of the Jewish faith) are suckers.
I couldn’t agree more with the article. We need a President who sees beyond himself and his needs. We need a President who is compassionate, open and is willing to make tough decisions. We need a President who genuinely believes in reaching across the aisle to those of the opposing party.
If we have learned nothing else about Covid-19 since March, it is that the virus neither knows or cares about the labels and boundaries that human beings have created.
In New York City, there are about a dozen zip codes in both Brooklyn and Queens in which there is a rise in Covid-19 cases. Most of these neighborhoods have a large population of Orthodox Jews. Some have claimed that the city’s response is anti-Semitic.
My personal reaction is the claim is mixed. If I felt it was truly anti-Semitic response, I would be direct in saying so. But it is not antisemitism, it is common sense. If anything, their reactions only amplify the anti-Semitic lies and imagery. Being learned in the text and customs of any religion does not stop this disease. Wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands frequently will stop this disease.
However, the residents of these zip codes are not completely to blame. If the news reports are true, there are not enough Yiddish speaking tracers to reach out to the community. That failure falls firmly on the shoulders of the Mayor and other officials.
The problem with Covid-19 is that common sense and logic are replaced by fear and anxiety. While those responses are normal, given the circumstances, they will not help us in the long run. We need a clear head and a well constructed plan if we are able to return to some sense of normalcy.