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Jerome Robbins, Norman Jewison & Fiddler on the Roof On September 22, 1964

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Jerome Robbins, Norman Jewison & Fiddler on the Roof

On September 22, 1964—the opening night of a new Broadway musical called Fiddler on the Roof—a man named Harry Rabinowitz sat in the audience “amid a crowd of cousins and family friends.” After the final curtain, Harry, “deeply moved,” went back stage to find his son. Years later, Gershon Rabinowitz—the man we now know as Jerome Robbins—remembered what happened next as follows: “When he saw me in the wings’ dim lights [my father] threw his arms around me and wept and wept and said how did you know all that.”

Who is “the Fiddler"… and how did he get on the roof? I started asking myself these two questions over thirteen years ago, in May 2000, on a trip to the Marc Chagall Biblical Message Museum in Nice. Now, after a decade of devotion to all thingsFiddler, I have some answers I would like to share with you as I prepare a new lecture for the Chicago YIVO Society’s Summer Festival of Yiddish Culture. (This will be the 5th in a series of annual lectures I’ve given for Chicago YIVO in honor ofFiddler’s 50th anniversary.)

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