A cast member recalls bringing together her Anatevka after 54 years.
We came to be together after decades of separation: from the four corners of the United States, from Canada. We came all the way from Israel, despite the shelter-in-place orders.
This was not for Holocaust survivors. This was a Zoom reunion of performers and crew gathering to recall our all-Hebrew production of Fiddler on the Roof at Adas Shalom Synagogue (now Adat Shalom) in 1966.
What motivated us to come together after 54 years?
“That Fiddler production bonded us in a way that few other experiences could do,” explained Rabbi Dorit Seligson Edut of Huntington Woods (who played Grandma Tzeitel) to me when she asked me to help organize the event.
Because I’m a retired fundraiser, I knew if could track down lapsed donors, I could track down our old friends. My biggest challenge was finding those who had left Michigan physically. But I knew if I could find them, their hearts would still be at the synagogue’s original location in Detroit, on Curtis St. near Livernois.
Our “stars” were the first to be found. Rabbi Daniel “Tevye” Shevitz responded “Yes!” from Venice, California. Michal Tamuz (known as Michelle Sinkoff when she was Golde) was happy to resurrect “Tevye” from her home in Brooklyn, New York. Rabbi Ralph Goren in Atlantic City shared an amusing story about how he hated singing “Wonder of Wonders” in his role as Mottel Kamzoil. Marley Weiss, a law professor in Maryland, was one of Tevye’s daughters.
Other cast members had joined the rabbinate: Chorus member Gordon Fuller is a rabbi in Maryland. I reached him through Elizabeth Cahan, widow of Rabbi Leonard Cahan, who had been one of the show’s directors. Joel Kaplan of Vancouver, British Columbia, was an executive in Jewish community institutions across the U.S. and Canada.
Connections made during the play continued for many years. Chorus member (now retired Judge) Susan Moiseev had her first job in the legal world in the firm of the play’s Assistant Director, Marvin Berris.
Dr. Jerry “Fyedka” Kohen, a dentist in Chicago, recently moved back to the Detroit area. Cast members Maxine Finkel Kane logged in from La Jolla, California; and Howard “Perchick” Berris and Michelle Sher Newman greeted the group from Florida. On opposite ends of the Atlantic, Susan Newman Barr has stayed close to home — and is still a member of Adat Shalom in West Bloomfield. From Jerusalem, crew member Ava Goldberg stayed up late to participate in the reunion.
A high point of the gathering was looking at black-and-white snapshots of the production. I was amazed at how young we were, but, comparing those faces with the ones in the Zoom gallery, I could still see those same kids in the eyes of our gray-haired and sometimes wrinkled faces.
I think Rabbi Edut put it best when she called me after the reunion. “It was a great party! Thanks to Zoom and modern technology for bringing these old friends and former ‘temporary residents’ of Anatevka together! A blessing on all our heads — and treasure every ‘Sunrise and Sunset!’”