Watch: Hassidim watch 'Fiddler on the Roof' for the first time

45 years since iconic movie first released, Jew in the City website asks real-life hassidic Jews what they think.

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Ari Soffer,

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Jew in the City

It's been 45 years since Norman Jewison released the now-iconic musical comedy-drama Fiddler on the Roof - so it might surprise you to know that there are still some Jews out there who have never seen it.

To mark the occasion, the Jew in the City website showed the movie - which is set in a hassidic shtetle in Russia - to four real-life hassidic Jews who had never seen it before. 

Finding participants was a more challenging task than you might expect, as Jew in the City's Allison Josephs recounted:

"Although, to an outsider, it is hard to distinguish between one black hat and beard and another, not every black hatted man has the same beliefs or practices.  On the right- wing side of the modern Orthodox world, you will find men who wear black hats on the Sabbath. Within the Hasidic world, there is much diversity too.

"Two of our actors (the ones without the peyos [sidelocks - ed.]) are Chabad Lubavitch Hasidim, which means that in general, they are part of a more liberal sector of the Hasidic world and tend to interact more with the larger world. Because of this, it was hard to find guys who had never seen “Fiddler on the Roof” before!

"Our other two actors are part of Hasidic groups which are generally more conser- vative and less involved with the larger world, however even that group is divided into more “modern Hasidic” and more “ultra Hasidic” elements. So to find people who were willing to watch and be in the video but had not seen in before, too, was a challenge. Thankfully, we were able to find a couple of those guys too!"

While they all seemed to enjoy the film overall, the reviews were mixed, with some quick to note several inaccuracies in the portrayal of Jewish practices and social norms.

"The papa has the last word of the house? No way!" remarks one, while another questions why "all these Jews have long hair."

"I guess they just didn't have any barber shops," the other replies.

The two Chabad hassidim differed on whether the portrayal of Jewish women was offensive, while the other two hassidim raised their eyebrows at the portrayal of a Jewish wedding. 

"I think it's a nice movie, but if you really want to know what hassidim are all about you're not gonna get the real picture from this!"








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