INDEX FOR OUR TIMES
John S. Friedman’s “The Iraq Index” [Dec. 19] used research on military recruitment done by the National Priorities Project, but cited the Washington Post (which ran a lengthy front-page article based on our study) as the source. We invite Nation readers to our website and online database (nationalpriorities.org), where they can look up numbers on military recruits by their ZIP code, county, school or state and find out related demographic information.
ANITA DANCS, research director
National Priorities Project
FIDDLING ON THE ROOF?
Morris Plains, NJ
Where does Daniel Lazare get the idea that Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye “despises the United States” [“The Chosen People,” Dec. 19]? If it is from Yuri Slezkine’s book The Jewish Century, both of them are wrong. Tevye prefers to immigrate to Palestine rather than to the United States, but his plans are canceled because of the death of his son-in-law. Sholem Aleichem certainly did not despise the United States. He lived his last years here, and his last book, Motl the Cantor’s Son, expresses great affection for America.
New York City
If Bennett Muraskin would take another look at the Tevye tales, he’d find that the references to the United States are uniformly negative. In one story Efrayim the matchmaker complains of winding up “with a gangster for a son-in-law. He beat my daughter black and blue and ran away with all her money to America.” In another, Tevye is outraged when his own son-in-law, a crooked government contractor, tries to ship him off to the New World. But then the contractor goes bankrupt and, taking Tevye’s daughter, has to flee instead. As Tevye tells it, “he had to run for dear life from his creditors…and light out for never-never land–I mean for America, where else do all the hard-luck cases go? And don’t think they had it easy there, either. They ran out of what little money was left, and when the larder was empty they had to go to work–and I do mean work, the worst sort of slave labor, just like we Jews did in Egypt, both him and her! Lately, she writes, things are looking up, thank God; they’re both making socks in a sweatshop and doing well; which means in America that they’re breaking their backs to keep the wolf from the door.”
This is America as a place for gangsters, chiselers and super-exploited workers. Hardly the Promised Land, I’d say, despite Fiddler on the Roof‘s depiction of Tevye as a kind of Jewish Pilgrim. Instead of saying Tevye despised America, perhaps we can compromise and say that his attitude was one of pronounced dislike.