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The Tikvah Summer Institutes

 for University Students and Young Professionals

Tradition and Freedom:
A New Look at the Tevye Stories

with Ruth Wisse

New York, NY | June 26 – 30, 2017 | $500 Stipend & Housing
For current undergraduates, graduate students, and young professionals


200x200-topol_fiddlerHow did a village dairyman become the most famous character in a culture that prides itself on literacy and refinement? Why did a traditional father emerge as the hero of a work that highlights the momentum of modernity? When the Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem created Tevye in 1895 he modestly showed how a Russian Jew could deal with challenges like poverty, inequality, and religious doubt. By the time Sholem Aleichem wrote the ninth and last episode of the Tevye stories in 1916, his spokesman had become a Samson in reverse, holding together a disintegrating Jewry and a toppling civilization.

wisseRuth Wisse

Full Bio

Through the lens of these seminal Jewish stories, we will study the strains of Jewish life and modern experience. Tevye is a comical Rashi who navigates between quotations and their homespun application; he is the first Jewish stand-up comic in a comedy with an exceptionally serious purpose. Since Tevye is known nowadays through his adaptation in Fiddler on the Roof—the musical that enchants audiences from Topeka to Tokyo—we may also explore the difference between kosher and kosher-style, or what happens when a Jewish work goes universal.

In our thinking about tradition and freedom from the vantage of the nineteenth century’s most entertaining and clear-eyed father, we will be guided by Tikvah’s distinguished senior fellow Ruth Wisse, recently retired from her position as Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard University.

Who should apply?

  • Current undergraduate students, graduate students, and young professionals interested in moral, social, political, or strategic thought.
  • Jews of all backgrounds and denominations, ideas and persuasions, who are committed to serious inquiry, moral discourse, and the future of Judaism.
  • Alumni of previous college-level Tikvah programs are not eligible to apply, but will be invited to attend select sessions at a later date.

Apply now →

All applications are due February 15, 2017.