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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

Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC