Saturday, January 9, 2016

And That's What Comes From Mixed Dancing: What can we learn from Fiddler on the Roof?

I've probably seen Fiddler on the Roof at least ten times between the movie and various school and community productions, but last night I had a very different reaction to the play. Not because the production was better, which it was, but because I suddenly was hit with greater meaning to this familiar musical.

The first thing that struck me was the need for change, both in Anatevka and in our own lives. Each of Tevye's daughters come to him and ask him to let them marry the men that they love, and Tevye begins by calling it "unheard of" and "insane." While these traditions and views may seem archaic, it is much harder for to look at our world and see what needs changing. This is obviously small, but it reminded me of John Green's explanation as to why we still have pennies. We like things that are familiar even if they seem illogical to an outsider. There is also a component of gender roles present in this very same example. Here, we no longer have arranged marriages, but women are still paid substantially less than men and almost 25% of women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Mixed dancing isn't a problem in american society.  The injustices we live with may be "comfortable" ones, that doesn't make them less unjust.

The second thing that struck me was the conflict between assimilation and tradition. In the play, there is an "us" and "them" mentality between the Russians and the Jews in Anatevka. While this has to do with the need for change, this one seemed more applicable to the Jewish community. After all, the cornerstone of the Reform Jewish movement is to be both a part of one's country and a Jew at the same time, and I think we've done a pretty good job at that. I would never say that tradition is bad, otherwise I would have no future job and be a total hypocrite. Tradition is important to me; I think that's why I love Fiddler so much, because it shows my traditions (aka how many Jews do you see in art, Transparent is the only other one that I can think of).  But I do think that our traditions need to evolve with the times. I'm not exactly sure what that looks like, but I'm open to all suggestions.

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