Anatoly Kaplan: The Enchanted Artist

Tevye the Dairyman

1957 - 1961

Sholem Aleichem wrote Tevye the Dairyman (טבֿיה דער מילכיקער) as a cycle of stories published between 1894-1914. Ostensibly narrated by Tevye himself to the celebrated author who spends his summers in Boyberik, each monologue is a tragicomic tale of disappointment, dissolution and displacement. Most of all, Tevye pours out his heart to his horse, his God and his confidant, Sholem Aleichem, about the fate of his beloved daughters: how each in turn follows the passions of her heart to marry a penniless tailor, a revolutionary, a Christian, a philanderer, and so on.

Despite his troubles, Tevye remains steadfast in his faith. Even when he and his family are banished from their village by Tsarist decree, Tevye proclaims, “Say hello for me to all our Jews and tell them wherever they are, not to worry: the old God of Israel still lives!”

Thanks to the Broadway hit musical, Fiddler on the Roof, and its film adaptation starring Haym Topol, Tevye came to symbolize the patriarchal, loving and lovable Jew; salt of the earth.