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Stein’s aesthetics and cultural identity are also rooted in internationalism. Her Russian-born father played the baritone horn in the czar’s band in Imperial Russia and had a non-Jewish patron when that was virtually unknown. Still, when the czar’s final edict came down, dictating that all Jewish musicians in the band convert to Christianity or leave, Stein’s father left.
“In the arts, people are international citizens,” Stein said. “Think about Daniel Barenboim, with his youth orchestra of Israelis and Palestinians. They are not in agreement politically, but they are able to get together through their music.”
Stein believes that her Russian, Hungarian and Jewish ancestry all inform her music. But then, so does her life in America in general, and in particular New York City, where most of her music teachers and many of her colleagues were Jews. She also cited the feminist influence of her mother, a professional pianist who made more money than Stein’s father when that arrangement was socially frowned upon.
“I had had a sheltered life in McKeesport, Pa., where I grew up, but I was able to come to New York by myself when I was 17-years-old, thanks to the support of my family, community and culture,” Stein recalled.
Malina also came of age in a cosmopolitan family. Her father was a conservative rabbi for German Jewish congregations in New York, while her mother was an aspiring actress. Accepting the idea that she could not be a rebbetzin and a performer, she — and her husband — encouraged Judith to pursue a career in theater.
Malina sees the Living Theatre’s central vision as Jewish. She pointed to her necklace: “‘The Lord is one.’ It’s the fundamental concept of Judaism, which is the unification of everything and everyone.”
“My pacifism, my politics, my art, are all based on ‘The Lord is one.’ Holiness is our unification, and every play we do is about unification, reaching toward what I call the beautiful anarchist, nonviolent revolution. And for me that means unification.”