To paraphrase a famous song, "On the 5th night of Hanukkah my family went to see... The Sound of Music."

Yes, it was the fifth night of Hanukkah, and my husband, younger daughter and I went to see the fourth and final student performance of "The Sound of Music" at Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, New York. Several friends of ours also went to this show (and a few had seen earlier performances during the week) for a number of reasons. One, my older daughter was a member of the Pyt Orchestra; Jessica was the guitarist and a Section Leader. Two, this high school has a many talented students who enroll in its screened theater, music and art programs. Three, I am an alumna of this school, and like to support its endeavors.

In addition to several of our friends (some of whom are Murrow alums themselves), the cantor and the executive director of our synagogue, the East Midwood Jewish Center, also came to this show. In fact, I knew several Jewish people who came to this show. While this may not seem too odd, think about it: The Sound of Music is essentially about a lot of Austrian Roman Catholics. Key scenes take place in an abbey, with nuns of various levels playing key roles. And the star of the show is a wanna-be nun who ends up becoming a governess, and then marries a man and becomes stepmom to his seven children.

In fact, dear readers, the student who played Maria in this theatrical run is Jewish; her last name is Greenberg. It may have been a bit jarring to some people to see her constantly crossing herself, in character, of course. And the student who played Kurt von Trapp is also a Jewish boy, who has been to B'nai Brith Youth Organization activities. Some of the other kids in the production, such as my daughter Jess, are also Jewish.

My old friend Erik, himself a Murrow alum and father to two current Murrow students (his third kid attends a different high school) made a wry comment: "My Jewish daughter was sewing swastikas on costumes, on the second day of Hanukkah." Indeed, his daughter Isabele, who was part of the costuming unit, was busy making nuns' habits and Nazi uniforms for this show.

Is this ironic? Is it just part of the American high school experience? There is some weird justice at play here: the Nazi regime tried to wipe out the Jewish people, yet here we are, still around, and our teenage children are portraying Catholics on stage; or even portraying Nazis. Whoda thunk it?


Of course most of our attention, while watching this delightful show, was absorbed by the action on stage; the revered songs, the acting, the music, and so on. But if you took some time to gaze at the side panels of the stage extensions, you would see reproductions of Nazi-era posters. And posters with anti-Semitic stereotypes. There were a few posters for the evil film "Jud Suss," from 1940, known as the most successful anti-Semitic film made. The man in charge of the stage crew at Murrow High School is also Jewish, and no doubt he wanted to recreate a certain atmosphere. I don't know how many other theater-goers noticed or clearly recognized these posters, but it was discomforting. And I guess ironic as well.

"The Sound of Music" is a much-loved musical and a few of its songs are very familiar to the majority of Americans. The movie won Academy Awards. The stage version is also cherished. It seems logical to stage it at a high school. But it is also remarkable on a certain level that it is a film about the dangers of pre-World War Two Europe, and in this rendition, it was peopled with Jewish teens and watched by many Jews in the audience. That's life, eh?

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