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May 31, 2016 / 23 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘fiddler on the roof’

Stephen Colbert Sings ‘Matchmaker, Matchmaker’ with Broadway Neighbors on CBS Late Show [video]

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Americans from the Midwest are known for getting confused when they step into the Big Apple – but not that confused.

This week on the CBS Late Show with Stephen Colbert, viewers were treated to a rare Broadway performance by the comedian, who really has a great singing voice when he gets going.

Get going he did, once a little boy and his parents loudly expressed their lack of understanding about why the man on stage was talking in a suit, and not singing.

“He doesn’t look anything like Tevye … What scene is this?” the parents remarked loudly. In the comic bit they explained they had flown “all the way from Kansas” so their small son could see the revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” — but clearly, this was not it.

Colbert stopped his usual routine cold.

“Maybe you got confused,” he said, explaining deadpan that ‘Fiddler’ was at the Broadway Theater across from CBS’ Ed Sullivan Theater where his “Late Show” is filmed. “Sometimes people get mixed up and get in the wrong line.”

The child looked sad. “It’s my last wish,” he murmured. The last in a long line of wishes for the moment, his father added as explanation.

With that, Colbert agreed to try for at least one song, and swung into a few bars of “Matchmaker, Matchmaker – and suddenly was joined by the cast of the Broadway production from across the street. That scene then segued into “Fiddler on the Roof, with Colbert in full regalia, complete with fake beard and black Chabad-style fedora, dancing with the cast.

“Tradition!”

Hana Levi Julian

Farewell to Jewish Actor, Singer Theodore Bikel, 91

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

An icon of the stage, the silver screen and the Land of Israel has gone home.

Jewish actor, singer and philanthropist Theodore Bikel has passed away of natural causes at the age of 91. Bikel drew his final breath Tuesday morning at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, his agent Robert Malcolm told The Associated Press.

Bikel was the symbol of a generation – several generations, in fact.

Jews remember the songs of Theodore Bikel when he was still singing them in Yiddish on a 78 rpm record, spun on my parents’ record player. When he was Tevye, in Fiddler on the Roof. When he was a Jewish folk singer.

Born in Vienna in 1924, the young Bikel moved with his family to Palestine as a teenager.

He spent much of his youth there, discovering his passion for drama while living on a kibbutz. By 1943 was acting in Tel Aviv’s HaBima Theater. He moved on to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London in 1946.

Bikel sang in 21 languages, recording more than 20 contemporary and folk music albums, in addition to albums in Yiddish. He helped found the Newport Folk Festival in 1959.

His repertoire was endless. He appeared in opera productions, on television shows, on the Broadway stage and on the silver screen.

Bikel received an Oscar nomination for his 1958 portrayal of a Southern sheriff in “The Defiant Ones,” and played the grumpy Soviet submarine captain in the Oscar-nominated 1966 Cold War comedy “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming.”

A fierce supporter of Jewish causes, the Democratic Party and human rights groups, Theodore Bikel was one of six American Jewish Congress leaders arrested in 1986 while protesting outside the embassy of the Soviet Union, demanding “Let My People Go!”

Bikel is survived by his wife Aimee Ginsburg, his sons Rob and Danny Bikel, stepsons Ze’ev and Noam Ginsburg and three grandchildren.

Baruch Dayan Emet.

Hana Levi Julian

Tevye the Milkman Wins Israel Prize

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Chaim Topol, the actor who played Tevye the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof, in both the theater and movie has been awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement.

In 1997, Topol was nominated for a Best Actor award in the Oscars, and in 1972 won a Golden Globe award.

The 79 year old actor also starred in the movie Sallah Shabati, and had roles in Flash Gordon and James Bond: For Your Eyes Only.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Forty-One: War

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

After a year of prayer, and hard, back-breaking work on the soil, patches of greenery reappeared in the fields of Olat HaShachar. Fruit trees budded. Tomatoes sprouted once again on their vines. God’s anger seemed to have passed, leaving the settlers with a new hope for the future. Even Shilo was filled with a revitalized spirit. As it turned out, his eyes never feasted on the money-paved streets of New York. His Rebbe had answered his letter asking for permission to go to America with the command that he stay in Eretz Yisrael, where with patience, everything would work out for the best. With the Rebbe’s encouragement, the carpenter set back to work with a renewed belief in his mission of rebuilding the Holy Land.

While their life wasn’t easy, Tevye strove to be content with his lot. As the Sages taught, the truly rich man was the man who was happy with what he had. Tevye was naturally optimistic by nature, and it was important to be a beacon of faith for the morale of the community. True, there was a long list of things to complain about, but who had the strength? After a long day of labor, Tevye would eat and gladly collapse into bed. On the Sabbath, he studied a little Torah with Guttmacher’s son. But his greatest pleasure came from his son. The golden-skinned toddler could walk and even put simple sentences together. He spoke Hebrew, the language which his father and mother spoke in the house. With an indescribable pleasure, worth more than all of the wealth in the world, Tevye taught his son the words of the Shema Yisrael prayer. When Sharagi asked Tevye why he didn’t teach the boy Yiddish, Tevye answered that Yiddish belonged to the past. Their future was in the mountains and plains of Eretz Yisrael, and not any longer in the confines of a ghetto.

The east winds which had brought the locusts were replaced by winds from a different direction. Each time a wagon arrived from Jaffa, settlers ran to meet it to hear the latest news about the war which was raging in Europe. At the beginning of the bloody conflagration, the battle between Germany, Russia, England, and France didn’t affect the small Jewish colony in Palestine, but when Turkey became an ally of the German Kaiser, things began to change. At first, many of the settlers wanted Germany to win and crush the Czar’s army, to punish the Russians for their oppression of the Jews. But when the Turk’s secret pact with the Germans was revealed, the Jews sided with the British, hoping that England’s forces in Egypt would roust the Turks and expel them from Eretz Yisrael.

One Friday afternoon, Hava and Isaac arrived in Olat HaShachar for a family reunion. Hava was pregnant with a child, and her Talmudic husband was pregnant with news. The former Hevedke had changed so completely that he bore no resemblance to the Russian poet of the past. His beard was longer than Tevye’s. He wore glasses, and covered his barbered blond hair with a hat. His baggy black jacket hid his muscular build, and he no longer held himself straight, but rather stooped in a humble pose which made him seem much smaller than he was.

With shining eyes and great excitement, he spoke at the evening meal, telling them everything he had heard about the war, and about Rabbi Kook’s visit to Europe. Hodel and Hillel, along with Ruchel with Nachman, joined them for the meal, and of course, Nachman listened intently to every word which Isaac related about the revered Rabbi Kook. For Tevye, it was a supreme Sabbath joy to have his family together. Like the cluster of glowing Sabbath candles which his wife and daughters had lit, a radiance shone on his face.

“Before the war broke out,” Isaac related, “the Agudat Yisrael organization in Germany invited Rabbi Kook to come to Berlin to participate in a rabbinical congress against the Zionist movement. Agudah represents the German ultra-orthodox who are adamantly opposed to the secularists. They believed that by having Rabbi Kook at their assembly, they could deal a blow to the Zionists who had been trying to win world approval for the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine. At first, the Rav couldn’t decide whether to attend the congress or not. He said it was extremely painful for him to leave the Holy Land’s shores, but he felt he might be able to influence the Agudah rabbis to moderate their opposition to the Zionist cause. Finally, his doctor recommended that a few weeks stay in a Swiss sanatorium might be beneficial to the Rebbetzin’s ailing health, so the Rav agreed to make the journey for the sake of his wife. When the war broke out, the congress was canceled, and the Rav was stranded in Switzerland with no way of returning to Jaffa. Apparently, all passenger ships have been refitted and turned into ships of war.”

Tzvi Fishman

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Thirty-Nine: Winds of War

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Word arrived that boatloads of new Jewish immigrants from Russia were arriving in Jaffa. Rumors spread that a wave of bloody pogroms were causing thousands of Jews to flee from their homes. Every settler was anxious to learn which villages had been attacked. Everyone had friends and relatives in Russia, and, of course, all of the settlers were worried about their fate. Not only was the Czar’s empire in turmoil, all of Europe was quaking in the throes of a cataclysmic war. As if overnight, enlightened, “civilized” Germany had become a raging, bloodthirsty beast. At least for the moment, the remote Turkish province of Palestine was far away from the conflict.

More often than not, the Turkish authorities refused to grant permission to allow the boatloads of immigrants to disembark. Many Jews had to sail back to Russia or Italy. Others journeyed on to Egypt. The fortunate and the brave either swam, or were secretly ferried ashore along the desolate Mediterranean coastline. Among the Jews who received legal papers, and among those who didn’t, a trickle found their way to Olat HaShachar.

With all of the building on the settlement, and with the success of their first two harvests, a decision had to be made. To keep up with the rate of development and expansion, more workers were needed. If the pioneers of Olat HaShachar truly wanted to conquer the land, they first had to conquer the workload. Presently there were not enough hands. Acres and acres of farmable land lay untouched. Sand dunes waited to be leveled and turned into vineyards. Barren wasteland waited to be transformed into pastures. The possibilities for growth were endless, but many more workers were needed.

One afternoon, a group of thirty young Jews marched into the colony. None had beards, and many didn’t even wear caps. Their backpacks were filled with apples, bread, blankets, and coconut oil, which some used for cooking and others for protecting their skin in the sun. They were led by a distinguished gentleman named Dr. Arthur Ruppin. He explained that the new immigrants had all joined his workers’ union, which he fittingly called “The Workers of Zion.” The goal of the movement was to unite all of the Jewish labor in Palestine, secure favorable terms for the workers, and thus make the Jews of the land independent, without having to depend on Arab labor to survive. Ruppin told Shimon, Tevye, Elisha, and a crowd of curious settlers, that the worker’s union was willing to hire out the laborers to the colony for minimal wages and board.

While the veteran pioneers gathered around the new immigrants to learn what was happening in Russia, Shimon took Tevye and a small group of other settlement leaders aside.

“This is a godsend,” Shimon said. “We’ve been desperate for workers for months.”

“Now we can get rid of the Arabs we hired to work in the fields,” Elisha added.

“Hiring these Jews will surely cost us much more,” Baruch said. He was Shimon’s right-hand man, in charge of the administration of the colony.

“Not according to this Ruppin,” Shimon answered.

“It’s too good to be true,” Tevye said.

The others all turned to him.

“What do you mean?” Shimon said.

“I thank the good Lord for every Jew who steps foot in the Land of Israel. But, I am sorry to say, I don’t see any rabbis among them.”

“Tevye’s right,” Sharagi agreed. “Do we want so many free-thinkers living in Olat HaShachar? They nearly outnumber us.”

“They will only be hired workers,” Shimon answered. “They won’t have a say in how we run the yishuv, nor a vote in our general assemblies.”

“Even if they don’t have a vote, their presence is sure to be a dangerous influence,” Tevye said. “I’ve raised seven daughters, and I know the pitfalls of exposing young minds to their godless ideas. Thank the good Lord, all of my daughters are married, but there are others who could be courting disaster.”

The others were momentarily silent. Elisha realized the reality of the problem. He still had three unmarried daughters and half a minyan of young, impressionable sons. Everyone turned toward Nachman.

“First we have to look at the new arrivals as our beloved Jewish brothers,” he said. “Their desire to join us in rebuilding our land is a wonderful thing. By being here, they will be exposed to the treasures of Judaism and the beauty of the Torah. As the great Sage, Hillel, taught us – we should be like the disciples of Aharon, loving our brethren and bringing them closer to Torah. At the same time, we have to be careful to put a guarding fence around our sacred beliefs, as Reb Tevye has rightly observed.”

Tzvi Fishman

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Thirty-Eight: A Love Song for Hodel

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Months passed. Yankele and his family boarded a freighter and headed back to Russia. Guttmacher’s brother either never received, or didn’t bother to answer the letter Tevye had written to him, so Guttmacher’s two orphaned children became permanent fixtures in Tevye’s home. Another addition to the family also arrived. Ruchel and Nachman had a baby – a princess of a girl whom they named Sarah Tzeitl.

Buildings continued to sprout up in the Olat HaShachar colony. The dry beds of the swamp land were plowed. Crops were planted, wheat, barley, maize, and rye. Looking out from the hilltop synagogue, fields and vegetable gardens decorated the landscape like a colorful patchwork quilt. Wagon loads of water melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, cabbage, beets, and onions were shipped off to the Jaffa market. Citrus trees were planted, but the religious law of orlah, one of the agricultural laws which God had commanded the Jews to obey in the Holy Land, forbade the settlers from eating the fruit for the first three years of its growth. Laws requiring that gleanings and the corner of fields be left for the poor were also strictly observed, as well as the rules governing mixed plantings and tithes. Nachman, who had spent several days in Jaffa studying the agricultural laws with Rabbi Kook, was appointed to oversee their enforcement on the yishuv.

As if it were another law of the land, Arab marauders made periodic raids on the colony, stealing whatever they could lift or uproot. When two bulls were stolen, the settlers began chaining the legs of their livestock at night, but the measure didn’t foil the Arabs. Instead of leading the bulls away, they chopped them up with machetes and hauled them away in pieces. Once again, the Jews complained to the local Turkish officials, but nothing was done to apprehend the offenders. Past experience had taught Tevye that only a decisive response by the Jews would discourage the Arabs from further encroachments. His motion to organize an ambush was accepted. For a week, the Jews hid at night in the small forest of eucalyptus trees which had been planted to dry up the swamp. On the sixth night, a group of armed Arabs snuck out of the sand dunes bordering the colony. Silently, they darted through the darkness toward the barn. With a roar, Tevye rose to his feet and charged forward. Like a platoon following its commander, the other Jews raced out from their hiding places. Their shouts startled the Arabs. Only four of the settlers had rifles, but the roar of their gunfire terrified the thieves. Dropping their weapons, they ran to their horses and fled. Though none of the marauders had been wounded, the Arabs learned a lesson. Half a year passed without a further incident of trespassing or theft.

For the time being, life was a pleasure. A long stretch of spectacular weather arrived. Work progressed in leaps and bounds. At the end of the day, Tevye collapsed into bed in happy exhaustion. He felt that his sins, as well as the sins of the land, had been granted atonement. New life sprouted up everywhere. In his heart, in his house, and in the once desolate fields. Like the fruit of the sabra cactus which grew wild in the hills, the land was thorny and hard on the outside, but sweet and juicy within. As if overnight, wherever the eye looked, instead of swamp and sand, blossoming gardens and orchards covered the landscape.

“Blee ayin hara,” his wife Cannel said.

Anytime Tevye would praise their good fortune, his wife would whisper, “Blee ayin hara,” hoping that the evil eye would not cast its glance on them. It was an expression she had learned from her father. In this world, a man could never be certain what lay ahead. He could never take credit for his achievement and success, believing that his own wisdom and strength had brought him his good fortune. Everything was a blessing from God, and a man had to keep his head humbly bowed and always give thanks to his Maker.

At least for the moment, Tevye’s heart was at peace. As the Rabbis said, why should a man look out for a storm on a clear, sunny day? Or maybe Tevye had said that. Sometimes he couldn’t remember which words of wisdom the Rabbis had written, and which expressions he had coined on his own. Be that as it may, the only small worry that Tevye had was his unmarried daughter.

Tzvi Fishman

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Thirty-Seven: A Son at Last!

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

“I think it’s coming,” Carmel said. Tevye opened his eyes. As far as he could tell, it was the middle of the night.

“What’s coming?” he sleepily asked.

“The baby.”

“Go back to sleep,” he said, rolling over onto his side. Tevye was no great scholar, but he was knowledgeable about two things in life — cows and babies. After all, he had fathered seven daughters. And with Golda, it was always the same hysterical false alarms until the real moment arrived. Tevye knew from experience that the birth of the baby could he hours away. Even days.

“Tevye. . .Tevye,” Carmel called in the dark.

Tevye grumbled. The next moment he was snoring.

“Tevye,” Carmel called urgently, poking her husband in the back. “Are you ready to be the midwife?”

Tevye stirred and sat up in bed.

“Midwife? What midwife?”

“I need a midwife, Tevye. I’m having the baby.”

“You’re having the baby?” Tevye asked, still groggy from sleep. He reached over to the table, found the matches, and lit a candle. On the other side of the tent, Guttmacher’s two children were sleeping. Carmel’s eyes were wide with a mixture of fear and wonder. Her forehead was sweating.

“You have contractions?” he asked.

She shook her head yes.

“For how long?”

“For hours,” she said, biting her lip as another painful contraction seized a hold of her hips.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” he asked.

“I tried to. Three times.”

Tevye attempted to think clearly. If that were the case, his wife was liable to give birth to the baby right then and there in his lap. Wasn’t it written that the Hebrew women in Egypt gave birth in a lively fashion before the midwives would arrive? Maybe his Yemenite wife was like them. He stood up and thought about what he should do. In Anatevka, he would go and get Shendel, the midwife. But who knew where Shendel was now?

“Whom should I call?” he asked his wife as he hurriedly pulled on his trousers.

“My mother,” she answered.

“Your mother is a midwife?”

“All Yemenite women are midwives.”

“All of them?”

“Well, maybe not all of them, but most of them. Will you please hurry and call her before the baby comes out!”

“My shoes,” he said. “Where are my shoes?”

“Outside the tent,” his wife answered. Her back arched in pain and she let out a long anguished sigh. She clutched the bed with both hands and whimpered. Sweat shone on her forehead.

“Hurry!” she whispered. “But first check your shoes for scorpions.”

“What a saint,” Tevye thought. His wife worried about him, even when she was in the middle of labor. Quickly, Tevye hurried out of the tent. He didn’t bother to put on his shoes. He ran straight to the tent of Elisha.

To make a long story short, as the great writer, Sholom Aleicheim, would say, Carmel gave birth to a boy! When the moaning and groaning were over, Tevye had been blessed with a son! After seven daughters, a male child was born to Tevye, the son of Schneur Zalman! In the middle of the night, the whole settlement turned out to wish the proud father mazal tovs and L’chaims! While Carmel embraced her precious baby in the tent, Tevye danced outside. Everyone shared his great joy. Hillel was so happy, he played his accordion, stamped his feet, and blew into his harmonica, all at the very same time. Liquor and refreshments arrived as if by magic. Everyone joined in the party.

In the middle of the dancing, Tevye felt he had to make sure that this happiness wasn’t a dream. He simply couldn’t believe his good fortune. After so much hardship and sorrow, how could there be such great joy? He hurried to his tent and demanded to see the baby. The crowd of women made way. Pushing the cloth diaper aside, the father took a glimpse to be certain. There was no doubt about it. The good Lord had blessed Tevye with a boy! Holding his newborn son triumphantly up in one hand like a freshly baked loaf of challah, Tevye carried the bundle toward the door of the tent.

Tzvi Fishman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/the-book-shelf/tevye-in-the-promised-land-books/tevye-in-the-promised-land-chapter-thirty-seven-a-son-at-last/2013/05/01/

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