Songs by American Jews

Many of the best-known American songs have been written by Jews--including many Christmas songs.

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- "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne

- "Silver Bells" by Livingston and Evans

- "The Christmas Song" (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) by Mel Torme

Some Jewish musicians changed their names to have an American career:

- Hyman Arluck became Harold Arlen

- Izzy Baline became Irving Berlin

- Asa Yoelson became Al Jolson

- Avrohom Arshawsky - became Artie Shaw

- David Kaminsky became Danny Kaye

- Jacob Gershwine - became George Gershwin 

In Philip Roth's Operation Shylock, the narrator observes, "God gave Moses the 10 Commandments, and He gave to Irving Berlin 'Easter Parade' and 'White Christmas.' The two holidays that celebrate the divinity of Christ–the divinity that's the very heart of the Jewish rejection of Christianity–and what does Irving Berlin do? Easter he turns into a fashion show and Christmas into a holiday about snow."

Sample the Tunes

Click to listen to samples of the following songs from the Zamir Chorale's CD "Jewish Composers in America":

 

Adon Olam

(Music by Charles Davidson, Lyrics by Solomon Ibn Gabirol)

 

And the Angels Sing

(Music by Ziggy Elman, Lyrics by Johnny Mercer (arr: Joshua Jacobson and Art Bailey)

 

Miriam

(Music by Elizabeth Swados, Lyrics based on Exodus 15 and Isaiah 6)

 

Music courtesy Zamir Chorale of Boston.


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Dr. Joshua Jacobson

Dr. Joshua Jacobson is Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Northeastern University and a Visiting Professor of Jewish Music at Hebrew College. He is also the founder and director of the Zamir Chorale of Boston, a world-renowned ensemble, specializing in Hebrew music.