Saturday, December 27, 2014

Where are you from, Part II - or - Jewish Geography, anyone?

Remember when you went away to college, and your new neighbors in the dorm asked "Where are you from?"?   That was easy - you named your home town, and that was it.  I'm from Evanston, Illinois; here's a photo from my home town:

Ask me again why I moved to the Negev

Then you came to Israel, and when people asked "Where are you from?", you were an "American" [apologies to the Canadians, and the Mexicans, since we say American when we mean from the United States].

My [former] country tis of thee

Once you finally found LOGON and started coming to rehearsals, "Where are you from?" would again be more local - Ashkelon, Omer, Beer Sheva, the University [which is an entity separate from Beer Sheva, it would seem], Arad, a kibbutz, kishkeveldt......

Was going to post a map of Israel, but didn't want to get political, 
so here's a kitten 

HOWEVER - now we come to rehearsals for Fiddler on the Roof, and suddenly "Where are you from?" take on a whole new meaning -- where did your grandparents come from, or their grandparents - where is your family FROM?  This is about my 17th LOGON show, give or take an extravaganza or two, and never do i remember overhearing so many conversations about "back in the shtetle .....".  

So, dear readers, where are you FROM?  One of my grandparents came from Motele, same as Chaim Weitzman's family. My cousins claim that there was a strong strain of "genius" in Motele, but it sure as heck missed my family. 

 Photo credit:  Jeff Kronenberg

 Also Motele
Photo credit:

Another grandparent came from Mariempoler, somewhere between Minsk and Pinsk.  From there, we have two souvenirs. One is a joke, based on the fact that the town was in a border area often disputed by Poland and Russia:  One guy says, "I hear we've been conquered by Poland again", and the other replies "Thank goodness, enough of those Russian winters".   The other remnant of our roots there:  a certain melody interspersed between the chorus and verses of "Ki Lo Naeh", sung in four part harmony around the table at every family Seder.  Ay yai yai yai yai yai yai yai yai ayyyyyyy.  That's it, all that's left.......

Anyone else from one of these places?  Maybe we're related!  Feel free to write where you are from in the comments section below - who knows, we could end up finding long lost connections.  And don't try to tell me that you're from Kasrilivke, enough of your narishkeit!!!

PS - for performance and ticket information for FIDDLER ON THE ROOF:


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

So, where are you from?

There is something very, very special about being in the cast of Fiddler on the Roof.  You could already see it in the first rehearsals of the fall, with a cast that is twice the size of last year's show. 

You can feel it in the intensity of the discussions about how certain scenes "should" be staged - many of us (at least those over 40!) have strong feelings about what does and doesn't belong in a scene of preparing for Shabbat, lighting the candles, or celebrating a wedding.  And this time it isn't intellectual, or theoretical, or artistic - it's visceral, meaning you feel it in your kishkes.... this is how it SHOULD be.  We know. We know.  We saw it in our grandparents, and heard about it in the family stories told around the Passover table, and remember it from the old men who always came to the morning minyan at the shul.  

Being in this show does something to my awareness, my consciousness.  In Tel Aviv a couple of weeks ago, went into a McDonald's (please don't tell anyone) and ordered an Egg McMuffin*.  Bit into it and was transported  back 35 years and 6,150 miles.... a taste of "the old country".  Then started thinking about what that means, "the old country".  And how my relatives must have felt, all those years ago, when they landed in the Goldineh Medinah - and left behind, forever, "the old country".  What tastes, what smells, what images would have reminded them of what they left behind?  How did it feel to them?  Did they grow nostalgic, and long for "home", or were they glad to be out of there, and never looked back? That entire generation is gone now, and we didn't ask them when we had a chance, at least not in my family.  Even more astounding, i never thought about it all these years - until here we are, standing in the cold with our bundles and our babies, singing goodby to Anatevka, sweet little village little town of mine.

Another story:  a couple of weekends ago, we all got up in the middle of the night and went out to Kibbutz Urim to film a video clip promo for the show.  We found a spot in the kibbutz with trees and a wooden shed in the background, and spent several hours shooting the clip.

There was one elderly gentleman who came out on his balcony when the music started, and spent most of the morning smoking a cigarette and watching us from above. He later told someone that when he looked out the window, and saw us all standing there in our costumes, he felt as though he had been transported back to his childhood.... the memories came flooding back.

And this, then, is what's so special for so many of us about being in this show.  We've been ancient Romans (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), and flappers (Singin in the Rain), and soldiers (South Pacific), and cowboys (Oklahoma!) and Siamese princesses (King & I) and silverware (Beauty & The Beast) -- but in this show we're our own history.  This show is about us, who we are and where we came from.  This is about leaving a place you thought was yours, but wasn't, not really - and in that sense, it's about Jews from everywhere, and from all times.  Minsk or Pinsk, Aleppo or Cairo, Kundahar or Ethiopia, New York or New South Wales.... we are all from somewhere else.  Somewhere along the line, our relatives left somewhere.  And if they had not ...........

It is an honor and a privilege to be in this show, especially here in Israel. Home at last. Please come to see it, and be a part of it.  Please bring your children and your grandchildren. Tell them, "This is about us, when we went forth out of there".

* RELAX!  There is no meat, let alone ham, in an Israeli MacMuffin!!!