The Short History of “I Have a Little Dreidel”

Dec. 30 2016

While the melody is nearly ubiquitous among American Jews, it is by no means ancient, as Albert Stern explains:

Samuel E. Goldfarb penned “I Have a Little Dreidel” (with Samuel S. Grossman) [in the 1920s], while his older brother, Israel Goldfarb, composed [a widely used melody for the Sabbath hymn] “Shalom Aleichem.”. . .

The Goldfarb brothers grew up on the Lower East Side of New York in a family of eleven children that emigrated from Galicia. Samuel was born in 1891, and learned how to read and play music from his brother Israel, who was twelve years his senior. In 1914, Samuel—who was making music in Yiddish theaters and other popular venues—entered into an arranged marriage with Bella Horowitz, from the family that owned Horowitz-Margareten, renowned makers of matzah and Passover products. . . .

While Samuel started out playing piano in theaters, Israel—a graduate of the Institute of Musical Art (now the Juilliard School), the Jewish Theological Seminary, and Columbia University—rose to fame as a noted cantor, and later became the long-serving rabbi at the venerable Kane Street Synagogue in Brooklyn. . . .

“Generally speaking, in America Yiddish music influenced the popular music of Broadway and Hollywood,” said [Samuel Goldfarb’s son, Myron Gordon]. “With these kinds of songs, it was the opposite—it was an American tone being brought into a Jewish context.”

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: American Jewish History, Hanukkah, History & Ideas, Jewish holidays, Jewish music

Israel Has Survived Eight Years of Barack Obama’s False Friendship

Jan. 20 2017

In his speech justifying America’s decision to allow passage of the UN Security Council resolution declaring it a violation of international law for Jews to live in east Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Golan Heights, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that “friends need to tell each other the hard truths.” John Podhoretz comments:

The decision in December by President Obama to abstain on the UN Security Council vote . . . marked the moment he crossed the finish line in the course he had charted from 2008 onward. The turn against Israel was complete. And, as he had when he began it, in farewell interview after farewell interview he characterized his assault on the legitimacy of the Jewish presence in the Holy Land as an act of tough love. . . .

Which raises the key question: why [only] abstain [from the resolution]? If “hard truths” define friendship, then by all means they should have made the truths as hard as possible. If Barack Obama and John Kerry truly believe the Jewish presence in east Jerusalem is illicit, then they should have voted for the resolution. Instead, they took the coward’s way out. They opened the vault to the criminals and placed the jewels in their hands while wearing white gloves so there would be no residual trace of their fingerprints. The abstention was in some weird sense the mark of their bad conscience. They wanted something to happen while maintaining some historical deniability about their involvement in it.

In the eight years of the Obama presidency, war broke out twice between the Palestinians and the Israelis and nearly broke out a third time. In each case, the issue was not the West Bank, or east Jerusalem, or anything near. . . . The idea that the settlements and the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem are the main barrier to peace between Israel and the Palestinians was proved to be a lie right before Obama’s eyes in 2009, and 2012, and 2014. And he didn’t care to see it, because he is blinded by an antipathy he wishes to ascribe to Israeli action when honesty would compel him to find it in his own misguided leftist ideology—or within his own soul.

Israel has survived the horrendous blessing of Barack Obama’s false friendship.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Barack Obama, Israel & Zionism, John Kerry, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations