10 Christmas songs written by Jews

by | Dec 2, 2016 | Entertainment, Hillel Ontario | 0 comments

Jews tend to believe that Christmas has a big impact on the Jewish culture. However, most people are not aware how much Jews influence Christmas!

Here is a list of our favorite Christmas songs you didn’t know were written by Jews:

1. Winter Wonderland – Felix Bernard, Richard B. Smith

We all know the Christmas jingle ‘Winter Wonderland’ performed by Michael Bubblé, Dean Martin, Amy Grant, and many other amazing singers. What most people don’t know is that one of the co-writers, Felix Bernard, is in fact Jewish.
Felix Bernard was born in New York, and was a successful conductor, pianist, and composer. Amongst his most popular works are ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Dardanella’.

 

2.Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin

Ralph Blane, who was an amazing composer, co-wrote one of the most famous Christmas carols, which was part of a film musical from 1944, called ‘Meet Me In St. Louis’. Since then ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ was featured in movies, such as Die Hard, The Gremlins, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and many more.

 

3. Santa Clause Is Coming To TownFred Coots, Haven Gillespie 

Fred Coots, the co-writer of this Christmas hit, was another successful Jew, who impacted Christmas. He composed more than 12 Broadway shows and over 700 songs. After his co-writer came up with the lyrics to ‘Santa Clause Is Coming To Town’, it only took Coots 10 minutes to compose the skeleton of this world famous Christmas carol.

 

4. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It SnowSammy Cahn, Jule Styne 

Both writers of this Christmas classic are Jewish. Sammy Cahn, born Samuel Cohen, and Jule Styne, born Julius Stein wrote ‘Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!’ 1945. The composers do not only have this hit in common. Both Jewish family were originally from in Eastern Europe, and immigrated to the United States when their children were still young.

 

5.It’s The Most Wonderful time Of The Year – Edward Pola, George Wyle

We all know this song from Ellen DeGeneres’ segment of ’12 Days Of Giveaways’, but have you ever thought about the people who wrote this jingle? One of the co-writers is Edward Pola. Edward Pola was an actor, radio- and TV producer, and a songwriter. He was born in New York to his Jewish parents who immigrated to the US from Hungary.

 

6.Do you know it’s Christmas? – Midge Ure, Bob Geldof (Performed by Band Aid)

Do you know it’s Christmas, which is one of the best-selling singles of all time, was co-written by the singer, songwriter, author and political activist Bob Geldof. Geldof was born and grew up in Ireland with a Jewish grandfather.

 

7.Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer – Johnny Marks

Johnny Marks is famous for his many Christmas songs, including ‘Rocking Around the Christmas Tree’, ‘A Holly Jolly Christmas’, and ‘Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer’. Many of his Christmas works ended up being great hits. What most people don’t know about the American songwriter is that he was in fact a Jew from New York.

 

8.Sleigh Ride – Leroy Anderson, Mitchell Parish

The co-writer of Sleigh Ride, Mitchel Parish was born in Lithuania and immigrated with his Jewish family to the US at the age of one. The successful New York lyricist wrote, and translated songs to English. One of his works is the famous Christmas song ‘Sleigh Ride’.

 

9.White Christmas – Irving Berlin

The composer and lyricist of White Christmas, Irving Berlin, is considered one of the greatest song writers in American history. His father was a cantor in a synagogue in Imperial Russia until the Jewish family immigrated to the United States and moved to New York. There, Irving Berlin grew up and became a very successful composer and lyricist, writing and composing world famous songs and film scores.

 

10 . Channukah Songs – Adam Sandler

Last, but for sure not least, we will go back to Channukah. Adam Sandler is known for his funny Channukah songs. In collaboration with Saturday Night Life writers Lewis Morton and Ian Maxton-Graham, Adam Sandler published a total of four Channukah songs. Each of the songs wishes the listener a Happy Channukah, and lists all possible public figures who are Jewish.

In Adam Sandler’s words: Everyone at Hillel Ontario wishes you a happy, happy, happy, happy Channukah!

Weekly D’var: Netzavim

Weekly D’var: Netzavim

This week’s parsha, Nitzavim, begins with an expression of the universality of God’s covenant with the Israelites. It wasn’t enough to say ‘all of you’ who are standing before God, rather, we are given a list of all those assembled before Moses as he instructed them before they entered the land of Israel. In this list, we see a hierarchy of social and religious significance; we are told that among those present are tribal leaders, elders, officials, men who have households, children, wives, and ‘strangers’, the servants.

Moses continues to remind the Israelites of God’s actions during their journey out of Egypt, the commandments they have been given, and the consequences of both living by and living against the conditions of the covenant. There are warnings of curses and anger and wrath and promises of blessing and sustenance and reward. This is, at its simplest, Moses’ final attempt to give the Israelites a moral compass, a sense of right and wrong in God’s eyes, as they finally cross into the land promised to their ancestors, but without Moses’ leadership.

There is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful pieces of language in the Torah towards the end of Moses’ instructions to the Israelites (Deut. 30 12-16):

[This instruction] is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity. For I command you this day, to love your God, to walk in God’s ways, and to keep God’s commandments, God’s laws, and God’s rules, that you may thrive and increase, and that your God may bless you in the land that you are about to enter and possess.

As Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur near again, this week’s parsha is a reminder that when we are celebrating, showing humility and remorse, asking one another and God for forgiveness, we are equal. The opportunity to act righteously, care for ourselves and others around us, and enjoy prosperity is accessible and within the reach of every one of us, regardless of privilege and position, as is the opportunity near to us to turn from our misdeeds and transgressions towards goodness in the new year.

Shanah Tovah U’metuka
A Happy and Sweet 5783!

A New Hillel Home in Kingston!

A New Hillel Home in Kingston!

Kingston, ON – September 21, 2022

For 50 years, the Otterburn House in Kingston, Ontario was the home of Queen’s Hillel. Since 2018, however, Queen’s Hillel has been without a permanent location, necessitating the use of temporary rental space on-campus.

Over the past year, Beth Israel Synagogue invested in an intensive rejuvenation project to give the Otterburn House its first major update since 1992. Today, with the invaluable support of two community visionaries, we are excited to share that our Queen’s Hillel staff, Yos and Leora Tarshish, will be making the Otterburn House both their own home, and a renewed base for Queen’s Hillel. By creating a welcoming community grounded in their own lives, Yos and Leora will serve as a model for what Jewish living in all of its dimensions can be, and leverage the successful models of Base and Moishe House.

On behalf of Hillel Ontario, Chief Executive Officer, Rabbi Seth Goren said the following:

“Hillel Ontario has been striving to ensure that Queen’s Hillel once again had a space to meaningfully engage Jewish students in Kingston. Yos and Leora Tarshish have been working tirelessly to nurture strong and resilient Jewish students, build innovative micro-communities, and empower the next generation of community advocates. With the invaluable support of community philanthropists who are committed to the Kingston community, and to the future of Jewish students at Queen’s, Hillel Ontario could not be more pleased to see Hillel once again have a permanent home in Kingston.”

On behalf of Queen’s Hillel, Director, Yos Tarshish said the following:

“Leora and I are incredibly excited to be moving into the Otterburn House, and welcoming a new generation of Jewish students into a space that holds such a special place in the history of Queen’s Hillel. The space has been lovingly restored by the hard work of the Beth Israel Otterburn Committee, led by Arnie Palmer, Michael Springer, Richard Kizell and Mark Malinoff, and it is a true testament to the vigour and tenacity of the Kingston Jewish community. Jewish student life has been steadily growing in Kingston for more than a decade, and Hillel is at the forefront of ensuring that the Jewish community on campus is both vibrant and inclusive. We are honoured to engage Jewish students on campus in Kingston, and are immensely grateful for the opportunity to bring Hillel activities back to Otterburn.”

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Hillel Ontario is the largest regional Hillel in the world, serving nine universities, with a combined Jewish student population of 14,000.

For additional information, please contact:

Jay Solomon
Chief Communications & Public Affairs Officer
jay.solomon@hillelontario.org

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