The Director and Choreographer of “Fiddler on the Roof,” and His Ambivalent Jewish Identity

During his long career, Jerome Robbins distinguished himself as one of America’s foremost choreographers for both classical ballet and Broadway musicals. For most of it, he tried to hide three facts of which he was ashamed: that he had “named names” to the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1953, that he was a homosexual, and that he was Jewish. Robbins’s best known work, however, might be the quintessentially Jewish Fiddler on the Roof, which—like several other plays—he directed as well as choreographed. Terry Teachout writes:

If anything, Robbins had even more equivocal feelings about his Jewishness [than about his sexuality]. Born Gershon Wilson Rabinowitz in 1918, he was the son of a Russian émigré who spoke with a heavy accent and wanted the boy to follow him into the family business (Harry Rabinowitz was a corset manufacturer). Longing for acceptance by his WASP peers, Robbins was ashamed of the fact that his father, for all his assimilationist aspirations, was still as unmistakably Jewish as the people of the shtetl in which he had grown up.

Robbins’s self-hatred grew more pronounced when he joined Ballet Theatre. . . . “The feeling of being a fake (Jewish),” he recalled in 1976, “prevented me from ever achieving the relaxed gentlemanly attitude.” Instead, he decided to make ballets of his own in which he could shake off “that fake ‘niceness’ I disliked about ballet” and be himself—or, rather, a heterosexual, non-Jewish version of himself.

And while he went out of his way to steer clear of explicitly Jewish subject matter in his dances, he found it difficult to ignore his Jewishness, thus planting a seed that in time would bear astonishingly profitable fruit. [He] managed to come to terms with his Jewishness by making Fiddler on the Roof, a musical that seeks to fuse a sentimentalized but nonetheless artistically serious portrayal of shtetl life and customs with the assimilationist dream of Jewish acceptance into American culture that would be central to Robbins’s own creative life. Significantly, he stopped working on Broadway after Fiddler, thereafter devoting the bulk of his creative energies to the making of ballets.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American Jewry, Broadway, Dance, Fiddler on the Roof

How to Turn Palestinian Public Opinion Away from Terror

The Palestinian human-rights activist Bassem Eid, responding to the latest survey results of the Palestinian public, writes:

Not coincidentally, support for Hamas is much higher in the West Bank—misgoverned by Hamas’s archrivals, the secular nationalist Fatah, which rules the Palestinian Authority (PA)—than in Gaza, whose population is being actively brutalized by Hamas. Popular support for violence persists despite the devastating impact that following radical leaders and ideologies has historically had on the Palestinian people, as poignantly summed up by Israel’s Abba Eban when he quipped that Arabs, including the Palestinians, “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Just as worrying is the role of propaganda and misinformation, which are not unique to the Palestinian context but are pernicious there due to the high stakes involved. Misinformation campaigns, often fueled by Hamas and its allies, have painted violent terrorism as the only path to dignity and rights for Palestinians. Palestinian schoolbooks and public media are rife with anti-Semitic and jihadist content. Hamas’s allies in the West have matched Hamas’s genocidal rhetoric with an equally exterminationist call for the de-normalization and destruction of Israel.

It’s crucial to consider successful examples of de-radicalization from other regional contexts. After September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia implemented a comprehensive de-radicalization program aimed at rehabilitating extremists through education, psychological intervention, and social reintegration. This program has had successes and offers valuable lessons that could be adapted to the Palestinian context.

Rather than pressure Israel to make concessions, Eid argues, the international community should be pressuring Palestinian leaders—including Fatah—to remove incitement from curricula and stop providing financial rewards to terrorists.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion