In the Bay Area, Fiddler on the Roof Raises Money for Refugees

By Gabe Cahn,

In the Bay Area, Fiddler on the Roof Raises Money for Refugees

Cast members of the Sunnyvale Community Players' 2017 production of Fiddler on the Roof.

(Sunnyvale Community Players)

When Steve Shapiro was thinking about which charity to raise money for as part of this year’s production of the classic musical, Fiddler on the Roof, he didn’t anticipate how deeply the eventual choice would resonate.

Shapiro is the president of Sunnyvale Community Players, an entirely volunteer-run nonprofit theater that offers four to five shows a year for an audience of more than 8,000 patrons. For each show, SCP tries to raise money for a charity that's thematically linked to the subject of the show.

“It’s more than entertainment, it’s about telling really important stories,” Shapiro told

After the curtain call for each show, a cast member comes out to announce that any donations made that evening following the performance will be split 50/50 between the Bay Area theater group and the designated charity.

For last season’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone, a show with a main character who lives alone in his apartment, they raised money for Meals on Wheels; and for a production of Shrek the Musical, SCP solicited donations for Imagination Library, Dolly Parton’s literacy organization that sends books to children across the country.

So when Rabbi Sheldon Lewis, rabbi emeritus at Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto, suggested matching the story of the Jewish village of Anatevka with HIAS, the 136-year-old global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees, it seemed like a no-brainer.[[{"fid":"3481","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false},"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"style":"float: right; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 4px;","class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]

Rabbi Lewis is one of 2,000 rabbis who signed a letter organized by HIAS in support of welcoming refugees to the United States, and is also serving as a production advisor on Fiddler.

Asked about producing this musical in light of the current political context surrounding immigrants and refugees, Shapiro explained, “when we chose this play, we had no idea how relevant it was going to become.”

“We get very emotional doing the show. We’re glad we can help tell a positive story in the middle of all that’s going on.”

If you are in the Bay Area, check out Sunnyvale Community Players’ production of Fiddler on the Roof, running September 16 through October 8, 2017.

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