He won Eurovision – but is he one of us?

By Keren David, May 20, 2009

He’s the Norwegian fiddler with the striking eyebrows who ended his country’s lamentable record at the Eurovision Song Contest 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. He came to live in Norway aged five from Minsk , in Belarus , with his parents, both classical musicians. His father Igor Rybak has played violin alongside legendary Israeli musician Pinchas Zukerman.

He has been hailed on the internet as a Jewish immigrant to Norway , and a musician who favours Jewish music. But his spokesman Simen Eidsvag could not confirm whether Alexander Rybak was Jewish or not.
Rebbetzin Liat Melchior of the Oslo community said that rumours were flying around the Oslo community, but none of the Rybak family was involved with the synagogue. A worker at Oslo ’s Jewish Community said she thought he was not Jewish.

His work showed a definite Jewish leaning, though, when he triumphed as the fiddler in Oslo ’s Nye Teater’s production of Fiddler on the Roof, winning the Hedda Award for his performance. Erik Arsland of the theatre thought Rybak was definitely not Jewish. “None of the cast was. They were only acting,” he said.

Rybak’s first film role also has a distinctly Jewish name — Levi — in the Norwegian film Yohan, a tale of a young farm boy who endures many hardships. Alas, Levi’s name seems to be the only Jewish thing about Rybak’s character, he is described in the film publicity as a gypsy.

Odd Hynnekleiv, the film’s producer, speaking from Cannes was almost sure that Ryback is not Jewish. “But he’s a very nice boy,” he said, “So, who knows?”

Last updated: 12:29pm, May 9 2011