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To this day, his family is made up of his actor-friends, and they are his most constant visitors. “I never married,” he said. “I liked a lot of girls but didn’t connect with any of them the way I wanted. Without a family, my actor friends became my family.” Raised in an orphanage, he sees a “thread” between his beginnings and his current chapter.
While some of the residents hail from synagogue-going and kosher homes, others do not. Nonetheless, a connection to their Jewish roots is a constant.
Cherry credits the Jewish orphanage he was raised in for his sense of himself as a Jew — culturally, if not religiously — and for introducing him to theater through its annual Hanukkah pageants.
Without being religious, though she grew up in a conservative Jewish home, Schulman says that being Jewish has informed her life and career — not least her boycotting of German dance companies in the years following World War II, though in more recent decades she felt she could no longer hold contemporary Germans responsible for what their parents or grandparents may have done. Looking back, she believes she was ultimately able to review their productions fairly.
Likewise, she approached Israeli dancers with neutrality. Indeed, Schulman says the dancers she observed in Israel were not up to snuff. Asked if she was harsher on them precisely because she was a Jew, Schulman considers the possibility, but is not sure.
Stein suggests that much of her artistry and worldview emerged from her being a Jew. When she was growing up, her synagogue’s cantor said it was important that she know her history. But after Friday night services, “he’d come to the house and sing lieder while my mother played the piano. He called me ‘artiste.’”
Similarly, when she was slated to perform in a secular concert on Rosh Hashanah and worried if she should, an Orthodox woman looked at her and smiled. “She said ‘I think God would be pleased to hear you play.’ I believe when I play the piano, it’s my way of praying,” Stein said.