Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A scene from the Semitic room in the New York Public Library, 1925

Here's an interesting little story about the reading room in the NYPL in 1925. An impressive, scholarly looking Chassidic man is spotted, and assumed to be reading some sort of lofty mystical text. It turns out, he's reading "Fiddler on the Roof" (Tevye der Milkhiger). The broader article is discussing leisure and the importance of childish tendencies in adults.


  1. Nowadays, reading "Tevye der Milkhiger" in the NYPL Judaica room would be considered a suitably scholarly activity, but it might be just as surprising to see a frummer Chasid reading it. Unfortunately, Sholem Aleykhem has lost his Yiddish popular audience. I'm reminded of Herman Wouk's observation, in The Caine Mutiny, that a taste for opera was considered highbrow among everyone except for Italian Americans, for whom it was popular entertainment.

  2. The first thing this scene suggests to me is Chaim Potok's Reuven Malter sneaking into the NYPL to augment his chasidic education in the 1940s.

  3. JOE_THE_PROFESSOR2:31 PM, August 21, 2014

    Where is this story taken from?



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