Avenue Jew

Staged as a benefit for World AIDS Day in 2005, this performance is a coproduction of the 2004 Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof with the cast of the popular satirical puppet-human musical Avenue Q. The video merges the music and plot of both shows using sly rephrasing of the plays’ lyrics to create a feeling of intimacy with the audience—if you get these punchlines, these jokes seem to say, then you’re one of us. Reflecting the political concerns of its day, the clip protests conservative views against same-sex marriage, which were then more prevalent on the national scene. The closing number of the video, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Jewish,” seeks to form an explicit connection between the Jewish and LGBTQ+ communities through a common history of persecution and the shared culture of New York urban life. The song also underscores the transformative and inclusive nature of the acting world, noting that “in theatre you can be whatever you wish to be,” and that anyone can belong if you “embrace the Jew in you”.

Such a radical blurring of the boundaries of Jewishness undermines one of the central tensions in Fiddler and in Sholem Aleichem’s original texts, where intermarriage and ethnic mixing seemed the last straw in Teyve’s accommodations to the outside world. Yet here Teyve’s anxieties about her daughter “leaving the fold” and breaking with Jewish continuity are inverted. Instead of departure, here we have a flood new arrivals to the Jewish community, who join in a joyous gesture of solidarity with the downtrodden.