Autumn, 2013, p. 76
Letter re Yiddish Theater, Rosenberg and Dershowitz
by Leonard Lehrman
+Message from Sheldon Harnick
Hershl Hartman's memories and insights are invaluable. The well-chosen 1959 photo of Jack Gilford as Bontshe the Silent resonates with thoughts of Arnold Rosner's beautiful one-act opera inspired by that play and that production, and Joe Gilford's wonderful play, Finks about his parents and their refusal to name names, the way so many others did. I do however take issue with the description of Fiddler on the Roof's melodies as "mostly major key." A few are, but most of them distinctly reflect the minor and/or Phraegisch (Jewish-modified Phrygian) mode. I remember in the 1960s when Yiddish theatre and folk music seemed distinctly on the wane, it was said that Fiddler had to be a success. "Else what would they play at Jewish weddings?" Which they still do, notwithstanding the welcome revival of the older stuff since then.
In the "Minorities" section, you wrongly alllowed Dana Cantor to assert, unchallenged, that "Julius Rosenberg was an atomic spy." He wasn't. It turns out his brother-in-law was, but he wasn't. True, he did bring David Greenglass into the CP, he did spy on other matters, and his conviction for conspiracy (not espionage) is harder to argue against than it used to be, but calling him an atomic spy is still not accurate.
Finally, Jack Nusan Porter is right to call William Kristal "right-wing," but wrong, I think, to lump Alan Dershowitz in with that crowd. I knew Alan at Harvard, and have met with him a number of times since. He's an ardent civil libertarian, and yes, he's also an ardent Zionist, but that doesn't make him "right-wing" [at least in my eyes].
LEONARD J. LEHRMAN Valley Stream [not Roslyn Heights], New York
Email message from Sheldon Harnick, Sun, Aug 18, 2013 at 1:35 PM
Thank you so very much for sending me your letter to "Jewish Currents".
One always hopes that someone will respond to those thoughtless comments
in the various media -- and you did! Thanks again.