Is there something offensive about a church performing "Fiddler" at a joint Temple/Church dinner?

Every year we have a pre-Thanksgiving dinner with the Temple in the area. Earlier this year, I suggested to our choir director, that I had a copy of some music from Fiddler on the Roof. He seemed to suggest that this might be taken the wrong way, or somehow offend them.

Now, we are a pretty sensitive congregation when it comes to these things, but I wasn’t aware that Fiddler on the Roof had any negative connotations at all. It seems to me that it is about celebrating Jewish culture. Of course, I’ve never seen it. I’ve only sung parts of it.

I think this would be fun to sing. What am I missing here?

Speaking as a conservative Catholic…

I certainly wouldn’t be offended. “Fiddler” is a classic that’s been enjoyed by people of many ethnicities. Even Japanese audiences embraced it enthusiastically, and thought it perfectly captured the feel of a 19th century Japanese farming village.

Anyone who loves Broadway show tunes is going to know most of the songs, and will happily sing along.

I suppose the ONLY question would be, might the Jewish attendees think the songs are too stereotypical. If that’s a legitimate concern, all you have to do is ask a representative few members of the Jewish congregation.

As for me, I thin it sounds like fun. If it were solely up to me, I’d say, go for it.

I wouldn’t risk it.

If I, a nominal protestant, went to a synagogue, and they played selections from a musical “The Quaint Li’l Christians,” I wouldn’t be offended, but it’d be weird.

Nothing quaint about Fiddler, considering how it is based on Sholom Aleichem stories. My advice for the OP is to make sure that the church doesn’t include “Sunrise, Sunset” for fear that the Jewish guests would suddenly think they are at a wedding.

The biggest problem I could see is Tevye’s reaction to his daughter’s marriage to a non-Jew. He acts as if she’s committed the worst sin he could possibly imagine and essentially disowns her. He refuses to speak to her, even when he may never see her again after all of the Jews are expelled from the town. He does finally acknowledge her presence via her mother, but it’s a tiny concession.

I would imagine there are those who might be uncomfortable at the notion that a mixed marriage could cause that much strife. As in, “Wow, it’s really that terrible for a Jew to marry a Christian? Hmpf.”

Note I’m not saying I feel that way, but just that if you’re looking for things that could be potentially offensive, that may be one.

I don’t think it’s necessarily offensive, but it could be taken as patronizing. Almost like suburban northern white folks inviting a black family for dinner and serving fried chicken and watermelon. There’s nothing offensive about those foods per se, and it could even be what the white family eats every Saturday, but there is room for misunderstanding.

Yeah, you’re not going to run into any Jews who are unfamiliar with the sentiment. It might not be held by any in that particular group, but the idea wont be alien and offensive to them (at least, it wouldn’t be to me).

There are Jewish sects, and even individuals within more reform groups, who view marriage outside of Judaism as sinful*, and some groups simply will disown you for it.

Maybe not ‘sinful’ universally, but varying between neutral and sinful, with a full spectrum between.

I guess you weren’t aware that it WAS the custom (and among some Jewish communities it still IS the custom) that if someone marries out of the faith you have a funeral + mourning period for the person and they are to be shunned ever afterward?

No kidding - when my dad married my mom they held a funeral, sat shiva, did the year-long cycle of mourning ritruals, the whole bit. There are STILL relatives on that side shunning him, us kids, and the grandkids 60 years later.

In other words, that was an accurate portrayal of Jewish custom from that location and era. It WAS pretty much the worst sin she could have committed.

No, I am aware. My point was not that I thought Tevye was wrong, or that Fiddler was inaccurate. My point was that there are those who might find it offensive, and would probably find it irrelevant that it was/is the custom.

And, again, I am not stating I find it offensive. The OP asked for potential problems. I identified one, unlikely though it may be. I know it’s probably a bit of a stretch.

I participated in many of these interfaith dinners as a child, and always enjoyed them. HOWEVER there is nothing more annoying about being Jewish in an area where there aren’t too many Jews, than every person parroting back to you the one Jewish thing they know about. Songs from Fiddler are a pretty popular offender in this regard (the champion is “The Dreidel Song.”) Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to share something from your own culture and religion? If the Temple performed songs from “Jesus Christ Superstar” wouldn’t you find that slightly odd?

Plus, its just somewhat objectively inapporopriate as Thanksgiving material. It’s about the forces (internal and external) that destroyed a culture.

If this is an every year thing, it doesn’t sound like either of the congregations is that overlsensitive. If it was a one year thing maybe, but his doesn’t seem like a problem to me.

Offensive? No.

Sublimely ridiculous? Absolutely.

I think it’s not so much a matter of offending them as making fools of yourselves.

Luckily, that issue doesn’t come up in any of the songs. If they were putting on the play, that is one thing, but just doing the songs is another.
The intermarriage thing can be a problem, but not for everyone. 70 years ago my grandfather had no problem with one his daughters marrying a Catholic. He was a Dodgers fan, which was far more important. My grandfather was probably an atheist anyway, though in those days you didn’t advertise it.

Are you just singing the songs from Fiddler? To put on the entire play would take some time, indeed… Why not do songs that are appropriate for the season (look in the blessing or giving thanks section of the hymnal). Perhaps ONE song from Fiddler, but I don’t see the crying need to do several.

Would you expect a Jewish congregation coming to your church for a dinner to do Jesus Christ Superstar or Godspell? Music can be a unifier, but surely there are other selections that can be made.

Does the Temple host the event on alternating years? Would they do *Jesus Christ Superstar *for you?

I think you run the risk, not of necessarily offending the audience, but getting a lot of :rolleyes:s.

There are plenty of songs about tolerance and brother/sisterhood and respecting each other’s differences. Your local Gay Men’s/Women’s Chorus can point you in the right direction.

Exactly. Not offensive, just … odd. Kinda wierd.

I would think the church would do something out of their own traditions - that wasn’t prosylatizing - not something that explored how older Jewish traditions die out and how children give up the traditions and perhaps even the religion. It’s not an offensive subject, but an odd one for a church to present, especially in a musical that presents the old Eastern European shtetl Jew as the archtype Jew.

I’d find it very very odd.

I’d echo DSeid and Allesan and say it would come across very weird. As odd as if you sang the Adam Sandler Chanukah song. “OJ Simpson, not a Jew!” indeed!

Since it is so easy to come up with something less patronizing, and to simply ask the Congregation in advance, I’d guess it will set your intra-congregation relations back a long way if you simply surprise them with it.

Oh, they will be polite, and clap and thank you for the effort all right. They will tell you how beautiful it all sounded, and they will be right, I am sure.

But afterwards, a certain chilliness and distance will set in, the very thing you are working to get past.

Why risk it?

PS - I note you haven’t specified your own denomination here. I live in an area where Jews are so few as probably most people have never met one, or if they did, they don’t know it. There are some weird Churches here with some weird ideas about Jews, Judaism, and Israel, let me tell you!

Recently, I went to an event that a large Church had what was ostensibly a panel discussion among leaders of other religions, so the faithful could learn about “ecumenism”. Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslim were represented, in addition to this particular Protestant Church representing “all of Christianity” (what no Catholics could make it?)

But the last speaker in each round was the local pastor, who basically explained away the previous answers each time so as to reassure the faithful that all was OK and that having heard what they just heard from the others, they would be able to avoid falling into those traps.

Oh of course everyone was super polite and acted interested and all. But they learned nothing.

I can recall few times in my life when I had a harder time keeping my dinner down, and also suppressing uproarious laughter, all the while feeling pity for the Hindu Scholar who tried to explain that his religion shared the same God as the Church did as an obvious act of appeasement or very dry humor at the Church’s expense.

But I was polite and smiled too. I went home and took a hot shower for about 2 hours to scrub off the misguided crap I heard. I think I need another one now just writing about this.

If your Church is even flirting with that line of thinking about other’s faiths, please ask yourself what is the true goal for your congregation in having these events in the first place. Ask if it really is aligned with the Temple’s goal. Because it might not be!

It’s a little tacky, as though this was the only piece of Jewish culture you knew, and you brought it out so they’d have something to appreciate. It just looks like you’re trying too hard, and like you haven’t the faintest idea what real Jews are like. If you mixed in one Fiddler song with a bunch of other songs, both Broadway and not, well, it’d be better but would still look a little tacky.

I married into a Jewish family and though I haven’t converted I go to temple with my wife and kids.

I’d also vote for “kind of weird”. It smacks of trying too hard. I doubt anyone will be offended, but it there will probably be a lot of rolling eyes in the audience. It’s not going to do anything that will draw the congregations closer together.

He wasn’t an atheist. He was a Dodger fan, which required faith in continual Divine intervention.

drop, a Cubs fan