Why an anti-Semitic outburst at 'Fiddler on the Roof' is particularly notable

The Baltimore Sun

A man shocked theatergoers and alarmed members of Baltimore’s Jewish community when he shouted a pro-Nazi and pro-Trump salute during a performance at the Hippodrome Theatre on Wednesday night.

The incident, during which the man shouted “Heil Hitler, Heil Trump,” was especially notable because it took place during intermission of a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof,” a musical about a Jewish community in tsarist Russia.

The Hippodrome is hosting the national touring production of the Broadway revival, directed by Bartlett Sherr, through Nov. 18.

“Fiddler on the Roof” tells the story of a milkman Tevye, his wife and five daughters. The musical is based on series of stories by Sholom Aleichem and was adapted for Broadway in 1964.

Throughout the show Tevye often breaks into songs and monologues, sharing his thoughts on love, tradition, wealth and faith. Russia becomes increasingly hostile toward Jews as the story progresses, prompting the family to leave for other countries by the end of the musical.

The show — notable at the time for focusing completely on a Jewish community — was a hit and nabbed nine Tony Awards, including best musical.

Audience members told The Sun the man who shouted the anti-Semitic salutes did so during intermission, immediately following a scene that depicted a wedding interrupted by a pogrom — an attack on Jewish people which can range from destruction of homes or property to outright massacre.

The word pogrom is Russian, meaning “to wreak havoc, to demolish violently,” according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia published on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Audience member Theodore Casser said the incident at intermission made the following act all the more poignant for him as a person of Jewish faith.

“It is a story inherently about Jews being made not to feel welcome, and here is this bozo who decided to express that he felt we should not be welcome here either,” Casser said.

Sheldon Harnick, the 94-year-old lyricist for “Fiddler on the Roof” spoke with The Sun earlier this month about the musical’s lasting cultural impact.

The Baltimore Sun investigated 2 years of hate incident reports in Maryland. Here's what we found. »

When asked if he felt the issues of prejudice, violence and hate were still relevant, Harnick said he does not think many things have changed since he wrote the lyrics 54 years ago.

“The problems we face seem to be permanent,” Harnick said. “As a citizen, it gets very frustrating to see what’s going on. I wonder when people are going to wake up and behave themselves.”

After the show concludes in Baltimore, the company of “Fiddler” is scheduled to head to Pittsburgh, a city still raw from its own anti-Semitic incident in which 11 people were fatally shot at a synagogue.

lireed@baltsun.com

twitter.com/LillianEReed

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
25°