How “Fiddler on the Roof” Came to Israel in Yiddish

This summer, a Yiddish-language production of Fiddler on the Roof—itself an adaptation of the Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem’s series of stories about Tevye the Milkman—will debut in New York. Alisa Solomon tells the improbable story of the first time the musical was rendered into Yiddish:

The production was the brainchild of Giora Godik, the flamboyant, Polish-born impresario famous for bringing lavish American-style musicals to the Israeli stage. He had presided over the first foreign production of Fiddler, presented in Hebrew at the grand Alhambra Theater in Jaffa, which he refurbished after it had stood derelict for two decades, damaged in a 1947 mortar bombardment.

The Hebrew-language production met with tremendously popular success, running for fifteen months and seen, producers estimated, by a full quarter of Israel’s population. Kanar al ha-Gag opened in 1965 with the comic actor Bomba Tzur in the role of Tevye, though Tzur was replaced after about six months by Shmuel Rodensky, a sensitive and nuanced multilingual actor who’d been born in Vilna.

Godik, whose father had been an actor in the Polish theater, saw that Rodensky’s Yiddish abilities presented an opportunity to build on the Jewish Israeli public’s surprising enthusiasm for Fiddler—and also to sell more tickets. Shraga Friedman prepared quickly a brilliant translation of Fiddler into Yiddish (working in part from Dan Almagor’s Hebrew version). Among many glorious touches, Friedman evokes other Sholem Aleichem works.

For one delicious example, he begins [the song] “If I Were a Rich Man” with “If I were a Rothschild,” the title and theme of [Sholem Aleichem’s] short story about a shtetl Jew who can’t scrape together enough money for the Sabbath imagining how charitable he would be if he had the fortunes of the financier. And for another, Friedman turns the argument in the middle of the song “Tradition” over whether one Anatevka resident sold a horse or a mule to his neighbor into whether it was a billy goat or a she-goat—the issue at the heart of Sholem Aleichem’s short story “The Enchanted Tailor.”

Read more at Forward

More about: Arts & Culture, Fiddler on the Roof, Israeli culture, Sholem Aleichem, Yiddish literature, Yiddish theater


How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus