Fiddler on Our Roofs
Question: why did we move to, or return to visit, Rehoboth? If you’re like me, and many of my friends I polled, the answer—surprisingly—isn’t the beach or the ocean.
It turns out, when you dig, there’s a deeper, larger answer, and it’s found in our downtown, including our beloved Baltimore Avenue, and of course, CAMP Rehoboth, and the type of community it’s helped build here.
The beach is why people come to spend a day, or a weekend, but the town is why you and so many others come to spend your life. Because in Rehoboth Beach, what we find is our town, is our family. And that town, our town, is now sadly under siege. And not so much medically from COVID-19 (wear a mask, please!) but from COVID-19 fallout—aka, economically.
Yes, Rehoboth (and Lewes and Dewey) are teetering in a precarious balance...not unlike a fiddler on the roof.
Many years ago, writer Sholem Aleichem wrote a series of stories about a man named Tevye, and his daughters. He wrote the stories in Yiddish between 1894 and 1914, about Jewish life in a Russian village at the turn of the twentieth century. In 1964, those books became the inspiration for the Broadway show, Fiddler on the Roof, which became the first musical in history to surpass 3,000 performances.
Even more than 50 years later, the brilliant, contemporary “Mr. Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda, cites Fiddleras an inspiration for his Tony winning musical, In the Heights.
So why exactly does this show touch so many?
Well, it’s about survival, and for those of you who have never seen any version of Fiddler on the Roof, the show opens with a wonderful monologue about life in a town called Anatevka:
“A fiddler on the roof....Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof. Trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn't easy. You may ask, why do we stay up there if it's so dangerous? Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word! Tradition!”
And if you take a pen and cross out Anatevka, and write in Rehoboth Beach, you’ll find the universal truth behind Fiddlerand also understand why our coastal town needs us now.
Because here in Rehoboth, our balance is maintained by having a busy, profitable summer which, with tight budgeting by businesses and good planning by the city, keeps the lights on and the doors open through the winter so we can get back to our next summer. Like that fiddler, our hometowns are trying to scratch out that pleasant, simple tune without breaking our necks.
And if in Anatevka they didn’t know the Cossacks would come the way they did, we in Rehoboth and environs certainly didn’t know a pandemic would arrive and thrust our summer season into a fight for survival. Our fiddlers—the shopkeepers and restaurant owners and even CAMP Rehoboth—are leaning further and further off already precarious perches.
And in Anatevka (spoiler alert) there was only one way to survive their fall, and that was to leave. But here...here, we have better survival options.
Like buying local. If it’s too soon for you to feel comfy dining out, order take-out, bring it to your porch, and dine “out” at home. The more meals a restaurant serves, the better the odds are they will hang in for now and be here for us down the road. “Hello Purple Parrot? Got a Mumbo Jumbo burger to go?” “Oh my God, Confucius, I am in desperate need of your scallion pancakes with smoked salmon. See you in 10!” “1776, I NEED a steak!” “Got some tapas for me, Azafran?” “What about some corn chowder, Agave?”
The same goes for our locally owned shops. Quasi-quarantine seems like a fine time to invite a few friends for socially distant book clubbing. “Hey Browseabout, what’s a fun read? And can we buy six of them from you?”
Order delivery or pick-up from your supermarket. Buy an extra can of beans or a box of pasta and drop it by our local food bank on the way home.
Because that’s what keeps our own Anatevka alive.
Amazon Prime is a great and wonderful thing. But even greater, and more wonderful, is supporting our friends, our neighbors, our town. For without our shops and our eateries and our CAMP Rehoboth, our lives will be as shaky as...a fiddler on the roof! ▼
Stefani Deoul is a television producer and author of the award-winning YA mystery series Sid Rubin Silicon Alley Adventures, with On a LARP and Zero Sum Game. Her third in the series, Say Her Name, came out in December 2019.