True to its vertiginous title, “Fiddler on the Roof” has become the most elevated and exalted of all Jewish musicals. Now comes a touring production of “Fiddler” that seeks to bring the musical down to earth with a focus on the show’s simpler, purer aspects rather than its larger-than-life qualities.
The recent passing — just nine days apart — of Jerry Bock, 81, composer for “Fiddler On The Roof,” and Joseph Stein, 98, who wrote the musical’s book (based, of course, on Sholom Aleichem’s short stories), leads us — those old enough, anyway — to recall and honor the remarkable energizing impact that the show had on the Jewish community of 1964.
Jerry Seinfeld said the other week that his first visit to Broadway “was when my parents probably shlepped me to ‘Fiddler on the Roof.” So it was for a lot of us.
My story this week is about the scholars who are pushing hard against myths about the shtetl, especially the kind peddled by "Fiddler on the Roof."
As it happens, the composer of that Tony-winning classic died yesterday: Jerry Bock, at 81. Eerily, the writer of the musical's book, Joseph Stein, died ten days before. They both will be missed, deeply.
A new generation of scholars is upending traditional notions of Jewish ‘memory’ and why Jews left Eastern Europe.
When the historian Rebecca Kobrin began researching her book “Jewish Bialystok and Its Diaspora,” which came out this spring, she was struck by the strange way Eastern European Jewish immigrants used words like “exile” and “diaspora.” Between 1880 and 1914, when most of America’s Jews came over from Europe, they did not speak about exile in terms of Israel, as we often do now. They used those words instead in relation to the places they actually left: Bialystok, Vilna, Warsaw, Lodz.
Playwright Joseph Stein, who died at age 98 on Oct. 24 in Manhattan, was an original member of Minyan of the Stars. The organization encouraged show business personalities to celebrate Jewish holidays and traditions.
One of the first gatherings took place at Stein’s home on Park Avenue. It was Chanukah 1990. Lou Jacobi looked around and exclaimed, “We have show people here, even a scout from MGM. MGM—My Gantze Mishpocha [my whole family]!”