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Six great Yiddish Hanukkah recordings


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As Hanukkah approaches, listening to traditional songs of the holiday help create a warm, festive spirit as we light the candles each night.

So how can we set the mood? One way is to use more attractive candles than the low-priced drab-colored ones. I often buy the sleek, metallic-colored candles, made by Ner Mitzvah. They look so pretty flickering in the menorahs lining my dining room window sill.

After blessing the candles, we fill our home with Yiddish Hanukkah music. YouTube has some wonderful renditions, performed by talented artists. Here are some of my personal favorites:

Hasidic pop star Shulem Lemmer sings a medley of Hanukkah songs composed by the legendary American Yiddish actor and cantor Moishe Oysher. He’s accompanied by the Freilach Orchestra and Shira Choir, and I love the saxophone interlude:

The Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus performs a gorgeous version of the song, “Borekh Ate” [“Blessed Are You”]. (Full disclosure: the director of the chorus is my brother, Binyumen Schaechter.) This video includes English subtitles to enable viewers to appreciate the beautiful lyrics by author Abraham Reisin:

Lori Cahan-Simon, a jewelry-designer and Yiddish singer in Ohio, does a lovely medley of Yiddish Hanukkah songs, performed in a natural folksy style:

Few people know that the American classic, “Hanukkah o Hanukkah, Come Light the Menorah,” is actually a translation of the Yiddish version written by Mordkhe Rivesman at the turn of the 20th century. Here is the late iconic American folk singer Pete Seeger performing it, accompanying himself, as he often did, on the banjo:

Here’s a very different rendition of “Khanike oy khanike” performed during a Hanukkah concert at the JCC of Manhattan in 2016. Although this slower, more pensive style doesn’t really match the lyrics (you’d expect a more energetic voice singing the line: “Children, come here quickly and let’s dance!”), the singer, Ayelet Porzecanski performs it in a mesmerizing bluesy alto, and the Sephardi-inflected guitar and oud accompaniment is top-notch:

And here are the Klezmatics performing Woody Guthrie’s “Hanuka Gelt”, on “Late Night with Conan O’Brian” in 2011. The lyrics may be in English but the song has a traditional Yiddish flavor:

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