Temple Beth El

December 2015

I came across this article from the Religion News Service by Lauren Markoe and thought I would share it with you. She writes: “Christians don’t seem to mind that so many beloved Christmas songs were written by Jews, and Jews tend to reel off the list with pride.

White Christmas, Let it Snow, Santa Baby, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Silver Bells….and there are many more!

But why didn’t the Jews write any similarly iconic songs for their holiday that falls around the same time of the year?  “I Have a Little Dreidl”? Great song, if you’re 4!

There are reasons that Jews are good at Christmas songs and why so many of these songs became so popular. And there are reasons why Jews didn’t write similarly catchy tunes for Hanukkah – or any other Jewish holiday.

In the first half of the 20th century, Jews flocked to the music industry. It was one business where they didn’t face overwhelming anti-Semitism, said Michael Feinstein, the Emmy Award – winning interpreter of American musical standards.

“White Christmas” is but one example of a secular Christmas single which Jews felt far more comfortable writing. It was far easier to write about sleigh bells and Santa.

And how about Hanukkah songs?  First, singers want an audience, and with Jews making up a tiny percent of the U.S. population, the natural market for Hanukkah tunes is relatively tiny. Feinstein, who was raised in a Conservative synagogue in Columbus, Ohio, said many people have tried to get him to lend his voice to a Hanukkah song, but he’s just not that interested. “They are usually are in a minor key, and there isn’t as much imagery”.

Some Hanukkah music has managed to break through, however. “Light One Candle”, performed by Peter, Paul and Mary, and “Miracle”,by Matisyahu are two examples”.

“I love all the Jewish performers that do Christman albums”, said Cantor Kenny Ellis of Temple Beth Ami in Santa Clarita, California. “But what’s the big deal about doing a Hanukkah album?  Does anyone think that if Barbara Streisand did a Hanukkah album, that her career would be finished?”

Lisa joins me in wishing you and yours a very Happy Hanukkah!

Hazzan Martin Leubitz