Eurovision fiddler: is he really one of us?

By Keren David, May 21, 2009

He’s the Norwegian fiddler with the distinctive eyebrows who ended his country’s lamentable record at the Eurovision Song Contest when he won by scoring more points than any country before.

But is Alexander Rybak Jewish? Rumours are flying around cyberspace, but few seem to know the truth.

The evidence in favour of his Jewishness is patchy: at the age of five, he came to live in Norway from Minsk, Belarus, with his parents, both classical musicians. His father, Igor, played violin with Israeli musician Pinchas Zukerman.

Alexander has been hailed on the web as “a Jewish immigrant”, and a musician who favours Jewish music. But his spokesman, Simen Eidsvag, could not confirm whether he was Jewish or not.

Liat Melchior, wife of Oslo’s Rabbi Yoav Melchior, said rumours were flying around, but none of the Rybak family was involved with the synagogue. And at Oslo’s Jewish Community, a worker said she did not think he was Jewish.

His work showed a definite Jewish leaning when he triumphed as the fiddler in an Oslo production of Fiddler on the Roof, winning the Hedda Award for his performance.

Erik Arsland of the Oslo theatre thought Rybak was definitely not Jewish. “None of the cast was. They were only acting,” he said.

In Yohan, Rybak’s first film role, he plays a character called Levi. The film’s producer, however, was fairly sure Rybak is not Jewish. “But he’s a very nice boy, so who knows?”

Last updated: 12:27pm, May 9 2011