3: Video, Ruth Wisse's "Sholem Aleichem and the Resonance of Tevye," 2011.
A perspective on Tevye from Professor Ruth Wisse, a literary scholar.
Suggested activity: Have students watch this clip, as well as the ones in resources 4, 5, and 6, and ask them to compare Wisse’s understanding of Tevye as a fundamentally autobiographical character and Samuel Kassow’s of Tevye as “quintessentially Jewish” to Dan Miron’s understanding of Tevye as an “irking nuisance” and Pauline Kael’s as “a limited, slightly stupid common man.” Can these perspectives be reconciled? Why would Sholem Aleichem have made Tevye both representatively Jewish and also unappealing or stupid? What does it mean to choose Tevye as the representative, or quintessential, Jew? Are there other characters—real or fictional—that could, like Tevye, represent the modern Jewish experience?
Source: Ruth Wisse, "Sholem Aleichem and the Resonance of Tevye" (Yiddish Book Center's "Unquiet Pages" exhibit, 2011), video.