Theodore Bikel, z”l, passed today and I was perusing Wikipedia which apparently describes him as an “Austrian-American” actor “born into a Jewish family.” Although the article mentions a lot of the work he did with Jewish organizations, it at no point actually says that Bikel was Jewish, which is … baffling, to be honest.
In addition to being the original Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music and the most long-standing Tevye in Fiddler, Bikel was one of the most prominent Yiddish folk singers and a dedicated progressive activist whose activism and music and support for other marginalized groups stemmed from his own Jewish culture & identity. (This quote I posted from a collaboration with SoCalled makes that fairly clear.)
I am nothing of the kind; I am an Austrian-born Jew. I refuse to let a country that so shamefully treated my people lay any claim to me, to my life, to my successes, to my failures, to my very identity.
So yeah. Austria and Germany and Poland and Spain and France and the rest of Europe never wanted us and you don’t get to retroactively define Jews’ primary identities as belonging to countries that persecuted and expelled and murdered us. Screw erasure.
Theodore Bikel wasn’t an Austrian born to a Jewish family. He was a Jew who happened to be born in Austria.