By now, if you live in New York City you probably heard that there is a Yiddish version of the famous Fiddler on the Roof playing at The Museum of Jewish Heritage, but perhaps you think you don’t know enough Yiddish to enjoy the show.
Well, in my experience I think you should run and get tickets before the show is sold out. Even though they extended the play to November 18, tickets sell fast. You probably will love it and if you had a Bobe or Zeide who spoke Yiddish at home please bring tissues as you will be crying.
If you are still hesitant, first, let me say that the play has English and Russian subtitles that are visible onstage and are very easy to read. Second, I guess you probably watched the movie with Haim Topol a hundred times so you already know Tevye the milkman and his family’s story. Or perhaps you saw it on Broadway in one of its multiple incarnations. And third, there is nostalgia and…THERE IS NOSTALGIA.
My grandparents in Argentina spoke Yiddish and I was very close to my Bobe Rebe. I remember some Yiddish words such as “meshuga”, “meidale” “yingale” but I don’t know the language and I can’t have a conversation. Yiddish uses the Hebrew alphabet, so there are different transliteration and spellings of the words in English or Spanish. My Bobe is Bubbe here. I’m very familiar with the play and it was amazing to hear the words in Yiddish; I began to try to match what the actors were saying or singing with the words I was reading onscreen. I was trying to remember words but in the end I was remembering my Bobe Rebe.
For me it was a chance to take my daughter to see the play before she went back to college. How do you pass to your kids who never heard Yiddish before, the feeling of an era? How to convey the idea of what it was to hear your grandmother speak this different language that she brought from Europe? She spoke Yiddish with my other grandparents and with some friends from the Old World who also immigrated to Argentina. My kids are the great grandchildren of my Bobe’s generation.
My daughter enjoyed the play and she said it felt it was good to share it with me. I think it was fun to hear Yiddish together.
The play is presented in Yiddish by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF) at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park. It is directed by Oscar and Tony Award-winner Joel Grey, who performed with his father and is familiar with Yiddish, with a rich Yiddish translation by the late Shraga Friedman. The play is based on the Tevye the Dairyman vignettes by Sholem Aleichem. Fiddler on the Roof has music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Harnick, and a book by Joseph Stein.
To buy tickets, visit NYTF.org or call 866-811-4111. You can show your ticket and get same-day admission to the Museum.
And if you have time don’t miss the LOX Café at the Museum. It has a great view of the Hudson River and offers Jewish delicacies including blintzes, borscht, herring and different kinds of lox cured in-house (OU kosher certified) and desserts like babka and Russian Coffee Cake.