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!

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2023

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2023

In their research on listening to survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides, Bronwen E. Low and Emmanuelle Sonntag note listeners’ problematic tendencies towards one of two responses.  On the one hand, they can regard the narratives as so unfamiliar and foreign that they must be pushed away as overwhelming, untouchable, and inaccessible.  On the other, the stories can be seen as familiar, to the point that the listener cannot separate their own experiences and emotional response from what they take in.

But another, preferable response exists: Roger I. Simon and Claudia Eppert talk about a “chain of testimony” and suggest that listening imposes a duty on the listener.  Listening to personal testimony at the crossroads of memory and history “imposes particular obligations on those called to receive it – obligations imbued with the exigencies of justice, compassion, and hope that define the horizon for a world yet to be realized.”  In this way, bearing witness and listening to testimony demands a number of actions and responses, including that we “transport and translate stories of past injustices beyond their moment of telling by taking these stories to another time and space where they become available to be heard or seen.”

If we take Simon and Eppert’s charge seriously, as I believe we should, those of us who have been privileged to hear the direct testimony of survivors of the Holocaust.  Their words come not just with the specific knowledge they impart or the emotional impact they have on us – sorrow, anger, fear, horror – but with a duty, an obligation of some kind.  

On many of our campuses, this week is Holocaust Education Week, and this Friday marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Given the significant number of Holocaust survivors and their descendants in Canada, the scheduled events and programs have a personal resonance for many of our students and their families, but their impact can be deep and meaningful for all of us, regardless of who we are and where we come from.  I encourage each of you to make time to participate in this week’s activities and to consider your place in the chain of testimony: what obligation does listening to narratives from the Holocaust place on you, and how do you carry those stories forward in time?

 

Weekly D’var: Shemot

Weekly D’var: Shemot

In this week’s parashah we learn the story of Moses, from his birth, through his flight from and eventual return to Egypt, to the acceptance of his role as leader of the Hebrew people.

After fleeing Egypt, for killing an Egyptian slave master, Moses was living rather peacefully as a shepherd in the land of Midian. The Torah describes for us Moses’s first interaction with G-d upon coming across a bush, “burning with a heart of fire [Exodus 3:3]”. G-d calls out to Moses and requests he take the Jewish people out of Egypt and eventually into the land of Israel. However, Moses argues with G-d, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh? Who am I that I should take the Jews out of Egypt? [Exodus 3:11]” After initially refusing four times, Moses eventually agrees to G-ds request, and as we know, the rest is history. But why was Moses so unwilling to take up the position of leader, to the extent that he would argue with G-d? And why was G-d so set on having Moses lead the Jewish people? 

Perhaps the answer can be found through the incident that led to his flight from Egypt, years earlier, when Moses, as mentioned above, killed an Egyptian slave master for beating a Hebrew slave. Immediately, he was met with opposition from some of the Hebrew slaves, “who made you chief and ruler over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian? [Exodus 2:14]” Moses felt discouraged and unsure of his ability to lead. However, it seems that G-d saw in Moses, a faithful shepherd, the ability to lead his people from slavery to freedom. Very often in Tanakh, the people that are most worthy to lead are the ones who deny that they are worthy at all. Moses may not appear to be the first choice for a leadership figure, suffering from a speech impediment and lacking charisma; however, Moses possessed certain qualities that made him the ideal leader to bring the Jewish people out of Egypt. We too possess qualities that can lead us to achieve incredible success and realize our full potential. We may often feel unmotivated or unsure of our own capabilities. Instead of feeling discouraged, I believe we can look to Moses who, despite all his doubts, stepped up to the challenge and became the greatest leader in Jewish history. 

Sam Virine
VP of Jewish Life at Hillel Waterloo & Laurier

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