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    SUBJECTS — Drama/Musicals; Religions/Judaism; World/Russia;
            U.S./Diversity; Dance/Performance;
    MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Respect; Caring.
    Age 7+; MPAA Rating -- G; Musical; Three Hours; 1971; Color; Available from Amazon.com.

    Description:     At the turn of the 20th century, Anatevka is a small village in Russia populated by both Jews and Christians. One of the Jewish villagers, Tevye, has personal conversations with God but otherwise lives according to the traditions of his people. In the movie each of his daughters asks him to bend tradition to permit her to marry the man she loves. The film also recounts a pogrom and the expulsion of the Jews from Anatevka, as Tevye and his family begin their long trip to America.

    Benefits of the Movie:     "Fiddler on the Roof" describes the experiences of many Eastern European Jewish immigrants to the United States. It deals with issues of love, parenting, tolerance and tradition in ways which appeal to everyone. It is also a beautiful musical, possessing a compelling story line, enchanting music, excellent cinematography, and stunning choreography. This movie includes popular songs such as "Tradition," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," "To Life," "Miracle of Miracles," "Sunrise, Sunset" and "If I Were a Rich Man."



Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Selected Awards & Cast
Helpful Background
Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities

WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students' minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Movies as Literature Homework Project.

    Possible Problems:    MODERATE. Tevye's decision to reject Chava might make some children nervous about possible rejection by their own parents and send the wrong message about parenting. When showing this movie to young children parents should remark on the fact that Tevye's decision to reject Chava for marrying a Christian was wrong because it placed tradition, prejudice, and religion before a parent's love for a child. When showing this movie to older children ask the Quick Discussion Question and make sure that children understand the answer.

    There are many stereotypes of Jewish characters but they are all lovingly portrayed. There is one scene in which Tevye, Lazar Wolf and the other male villagers get roaring drunk and have a good time.

    Parenting Points:     For younger children this musical is all about the music and the dancing. For children 10 - 12, just point out how Tevye departed from tradition in allowing his first two daughters to marry the men they loved. For older children ask and help them to answer the Quick Discussion Question. Other good discussion questions for parents to review with their children are #s 5 and 8.

    Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

      Selected Awards:  1971 Academy Awards: Best Score, Best Cinematography, Best Sound; 1972 Golden Globe Awards: Best Actor - Musical Comedy (Topol), Best Film -- Musical/Comedy; 1971 Academy Awards Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Topol), Best Art Direction/Set Direction; Best Director (Jewison), Best Supporting Actor (Frey).

      Featured Actors:  Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Molly Picon, Paul Mann, Rosalind Harris, Michele Marsh, Neva Small, Paul Michael Glaser, Ray Lovelock.

      Director:  Norman Jewison.

      Choreography:  Jerome Robbins.

    Helpful Background:

      Many Jews lived in poor farming villages in European Russia in the late 1800s and at the turn of the 20th century. They were subject to periodic government sponsored pogroms and dispossessions. Millions emigrated to the United States in the period 1890 - 1920.

      At the end of the 19th century and in the first two decades of the 20th century, Russia was alive with revolutionary resistance to the Czarist government. There were many revolutionary groups, both Communist and capitalist, authoritarian and democratic. The character Perchik was a member of one of these groups.

      In Russia, anyone thought to be undesirable by the regime in power, especially criminals and revolutionaries, were sent to Siberia. This was a wild frozen land with little civilization. Many people sent to Siberia never returned.


QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION:   Tevye loved his daughters but he was also subject to the traditions and prejudices of his culture. How did this play out in the movie? For example, why could Tevye accept the marriage of Tzeitel to Motel (the poor tailor) and the marriage of Hodel to Perchik (the penniless agitator) but not the marriage of Chava to Fyedka? He told us. What did he say?

Suggested Response: Motel and Perchik were Jewish by ethnic origin. Fyedka was an ethnic Russian who went to the Orthodox Church. Chava married him in an Orthodox Church. This was not only a rejection of the Jewish tradition, (Perchik too rejected Jewish tradition in favor of revolutionary ideology) but also the adoption of what was, in Tevye's mind, something "alien" and antithetical to everything he stood for. Rejection of Chava and Fyedka was a bad parenting decision by Tevye because it put tradition, prejudice, and religion ahead of his love for his child. The question that Tevye should have asked about Fyedka was, whether Fyedka loved Chava and whether he would make her a good husband. It would not have been easy for Tevye and his wife to accept Fedya and Chava. Because religious observances were such a strong part of their lives, the amount of time and number of family activities that they could share with Chava would be limited. In addition, their community and the Christian community in the town may not have approved or made it easy. It would have hurt everyday, but then again, the daily hurt would be worse after banishing Chava from the family. The movie does not condone Tevye's choice.

There are many who take a different approach. They assert that some marriages are simply incompatible with the family's culture or religion. Their position is that a child making such a choice should be excluded from the family or be treated as having died. We come to a different result based on the following: (1) Millions of mixed marriages of all types have succeeded and made the couples involved very happy. (2) No matter how much a parent might object to a particular marriage, the parent will continue to love their child or at least want to continue loving their child. Any grandchildren produced by the marriage will also be loved. (3) Every major religion and ethical system enshrines forgiveness as one of the highest and best virtues. Forgiving one's child is an excellent place to apply this doctrine. (4) Acknowledging the love of a child and keeping that child in the family does not mean that parents must condone the marriage or relinquish their ideals. It does not prevent the parents from grieving the loss of family unity or regretting the fact that their son or daughter is not complying with the parents' ethnic, religious or family values. It means only acknowledging their love for their child and acting as a family, as much as possible.


    Discussion Questions:

    1.  See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

    2.  Why would Tevye continue to follow traditions when he didn't know the reason for them?

    3.  Tevye talks about the importance of tradition but does he follow it most of the time?

    4.  What was the significance of the fact that Perchik was sent to Siberia and Hodel went to accompany him?

    5.  Remember the Rabbi's blessing for the Czar: "May God bless and keep the Czar ... far away from us." Why did he say this?

    6.  What did the parents mean when, in the Sabbath prayer, they asked God to protect their children: to "Strengthen them, oh Lord! And keep them from the strangers' ways"? Who were the "strangers" that the parents were referring to? Did something happen later in the story that related to this?

    7.  When everyone was drinking in the tavern, did you notice that Tevye was not sure whether he should dance with the Russians? Why was that?

    8.  What did America mean to the villagers?

    9.  Do you think that when Tevye agreed to marry Tzeitel to Lazar Wolf, Tevye's judgment was clouded because he had been drinking alcohol? We all know that alcohol makes people lose their coordination. What does drinking alcohol do to someone's judgment?

    10.  Why did the Czar's government incite the pogrom?

    11.  Why did the villagers beat the Jews and destroy their homes?

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

For suggested answers:    click here.

For English Language Arts classes, distribute TWM's Film Study Worksheet. Teachers can modify the worksheet to fit the needs of each class. Ask students to fill out the worksheet as they watch the film or at the film's end.

Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.

BUILDING VOCABULARY: Sabbath, tradition, pogrom, Czar, matchmaker, yarmulke, diaspora.

    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


    1.  See the Quick Discussion Question and ask what this decision tells us about good parenting.

For suggested answers:    click here.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


    (Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don't threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements)

    1.  Is respect for tradition an important value? How does it relate to other values such as "caring"?

    (Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)

    2.  See the Quick Discussion Question.

Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

For suggested answers:    click here.

    Bridges to Reading: Books recommended for middle school and junior high readers include: Sworn Enemies, by Carol Matas is a historical novel concerning relations between Jews and Christians in Russia during the rule of the Czars; The Night Journey by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman; and A Russian Farewell by Leonard Everett Fisher.

MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: For children ages 6 - 10, see An American Tail. For a movie about the experiences of a Russian Jewish man who was not as family centered as Tevye and who emigrates to the U.S., see Hester Street .

    Links to the Internet: None.


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