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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

What U.S. Success in Syria Should Look Like

April 26 2018

Surveying the history of the Syrian civil war, Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka explain that Bashar al-Assad’s brutal rule and vicious tactics have led to the presence in his country of both Shiite terrorists, led by Hizballah and backed by Iran and Russia, and Sunni jihadist groups like Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda. Any American strategy, they argue, must bear this in mind:

The best option is a Syria without Assad, committed to a future without Iranian or Russian influence. This is not a Pollyanna-like prescription; there are substantial obstacles in the way, not least those we have encountered in Iraq. . . . [But] only such a Syria can guarantee an end to Iranian interference, to the transshipment of weapons for Hizballah, and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction of the kind we saw used at Douma. (Iran has been instrumental in Syria’s chemical-weapons program for many years.) And, most importantly, only such a Syria can disenfranchise the al-Qaeda and IS affiliates that have found a foothold by exploiting the Syrian people’s desperation.

How do we get there? The United States must first consolidate and strengthen its position in eastern Syria from the Euphrates river to the eastern Syrian border. This involves clearing out the remnants of Islamic State, some several thousand, and ultimately eliminating pockets controlled by the Assad regime and Iranian forces in northeastern Syria. This would enable the creation of a control zone in the eastern part of the country as a base from which to build a credible and capable partner that is not subordinate to the Kurdish chain of command, while effectively shutting down Iran’s strategic land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. A regional Arab force, reportedly suggested by President Trump’s new national-security adviser, would be a welcome addition. But we should seriously doubt [the Arabs] will participate without American ground leadership and air support.

In western Syria, the United States should rebuild a Syrian opposition force with advisers, weapons, and air power while upping the pressure on Assad and his cronies to select a pathway to a negotiated peace. Pursuing a settlement in Geneva without such leverage over the Assad regime is pure fantasy. Finally, the United States and other Western powers must impede Iran’s and Russia’s ability to be resupplied. Syria’s airfields must be destroyed, and Syria’s airspace must remain clear.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Hizballah, Iran, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy