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Professor Ruth
Wisse Teaches

SHOLEM ALEICHEM’S
TEVYE THE DAIRYMAN

  • Videos

    8 Episodes

    Tikvah master teacher Ruth Wisse brings the stories of Tevye the Dairyman alive like never before. You’ll laugh with Tevye, cry with him, and come to appreciate Sholem Aleichem’s greatest character in a whole new light.

  • Guide

    Study Guide

    Dive into each lecture in more depth with lesson summaries, probing study questions, and key passages for discussion. This guide can be used as part of your own private study or integrated into classroom or group study.

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Meet Ruth Wisse

Meet Ruth Wisse

Preeminent teacher and scholar Ruth Wisse recently retired from her position as Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, and is currently the Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Tikvah Fund.

Her books on literary subjects include an edition of Jacob Glatstein’s two-volume fictional memoir, The Glatstein ChroniclesThe Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey Through Literature and Culture, and A Little Love in Big Manhattan. She is also the author of two political studies, If I Am Not for Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews and Jews and Power. Her most recent book, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor, a volume in the Tikvah Fund’s Library of Jewish Ideas, was recently published by Princeton University Press.

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Episodes

01 The Creation of Tevye

Professor Ruth Wisse introduces us to Sholem Aleichem and his greatest creation, Tevye the Dairyman.

  • The Creation of Tevye | 53:02

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02 Making the Center Hold

By introducing the character of Menachem Mendl into Tevye’s world, Sholem Aleichem prompts us to ponder everything from the nature of modern capitalism to the defiant optimism of the Jews.

  • Making the Center Hold | 42:19

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03 Today’s (Modern) Children

In this third story, we begin the famous tales of Tevye’s daughters and explore the challenges they pose to traditional Jewish life.

  • Today’s (Modern) Children | 47:53

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04 Assault: Revolution

Published as imperial Russia began to feel the first pangs of revolution, “Hodl” explores the tragedy of those Jews who put their faith to the side in the name of Marxist idealism.

  • Assault: Revolution | 48:12

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05 Assault: Intermarriage

In this fifth episode, Sholem Aleichem tackles the challenges of intermarriage, assimilation, and conversion and finally makes clear the line that Tevye will not cross.

  • Assault: Intermarriage | 41:03

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06 Assault: Materialism

The wealthy Jews of this sixth installment are very different than those we met in the first Tevye story. And when Tevye and his daughter encounter them, the results are unimaginably tragic.

  • Assault: Materialism | 43:27

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07 America: The False Hope

After Sholem Aleichem became disillusioned with the promise of America, he wrote a story in which Tevye learns that getting what he always wanted might not be the blessing he expected.

  • America: The False Hope | 48:42

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08 Conclusion: Lekh-Lekho

As Sholem Aleichem came to understand that Jews had no future in Russia, he wrote of Tevye’s expulsion from his village. But this tragic ending is not without hope.

  • Conclusion: Lekh-Lekho | 53:56

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Discover Tevye—the most well-known Jew in fiction—in a whole new light.

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