Jews wrote all the top Xmas songs

  • Jewish Santa1 HOME
"Rudolph, the Reindeer" by Johnny Marks; "White Christmas" by Irving Berlin & 20th Century’s #1 hit was Jewish too. Guess what that was?...
by ANT KATZ | Nov 19, 2014

Original author unknown - sub-edited by Jewish Report

At the 2014 Oscars, they celebrated the 75th anniversary of the release of the "Wizard of Oz" by having Pink sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", with highlights from the film in the background. But what few people realised, while listening to that incredible performer singing that unforgettable song, is that the music is deeply embedded in the Jewish experience.

Jewish SantaIt is no accident, for example, that the greatest Christmas songs of all time were written by Jews. For example, "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was written by Johnny Marks and "White Christmas" was penned by a Jewish liturgical singer's (cantor) son, Irving Berlin.

Most poignant

But perhaps the most poignant song emerging out of the mass exodus from Europe was "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". The lyrics were written by Yip Harburg. He was the youngest of four children born to Russian Jewish immigrants. His real name was Isidore Hochberg and he grew up in a Yiddish-speaking, Orthodox Jewish home in New York. The music was written by Harold Arlen, a cantor's son. His real name was Hyman Arluck and his parents were from Lithuania.

Together, Hochberg and Arluck wrote "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", which was voted the 20th century's number one song by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

In writing it, the two men reached deep into their immigrant Jewish consciousness - framed by the pogroms of the past and the Holocaust about to happen - and wrote an unforgettable melody set to near prophetic words.

Read the lyrics in their Jewish context and suddenly the words are no longer about wizards and Oz, but about Jewish survival:

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby. 

Jewish Santa3Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true. 

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?

Rooted in Eastern European culture 

The Jews of Europe could not fly. They could not escape beyond the rainbow. Harburg was almost prescient when he talked about wanting to fly like a bluebird away from the "chimney tops".

Jewish Santa2In the post-Auschwitz era, chimney tops have taken on a whole different meaning than the one they had at the beginning of 1939.

Pink's mom is Judith Kugel.

She's Jewish of Lithuanian background. As Pink was belting the Harburg/Arlen song from the stage at the Academy Awards, I wasn't thinking about the movie.

I was thinking about Europe's lost Jews and the immigrants to America.

I was then struck by the irony that for two thousand years the land that the Jews heard of "once in a lullaby" was not America, but Israel.

The remarkable thing would be that less than ten years after "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was first published, the exile was over and the State of Israel was reborn. Perhaps the "dreams that you dare to dream really do come true".


  1. 13 Samuel Shalom 20 Nov
    @ANT KATZ | Nov 19, 2014 said: "Jews wrote all the top Xmas songs"

    So what?

    Jews founded Christianity, since Jesus and all of his "12 apostles" were Jews living in ancient Judea!

    Jews were the most important founders of Communism since Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky, and almost all the eary, and many of the later, Bolsheviks were of Jewish birth!

    Jews have been the greatest...well...everything...but so what? Does that make them or what they created something "great" or something to be proud of? And what pray does it have to do with Judaism? Nothing!

    So how about focusing on something more Jewish, like say how Jews remained Jewish in modern times.

    No need to give "X-mas songs" more publicity than they already have especially in a news medium run by Jews catering to Jews.
  2. 12 ANT KATZ 20 Nov
    Well, user, that’s why we put it in our very popularly-read Our Whacky Jewish World section. You are obviously one of the 155 users who have read this piece. That makes it the 18th top read over the past two days. The average time spent on the page has been four minutes (3:59 to be precise) so folks seem to enjoy it. If you click on the green Whacky World bar on top of the section on the home page, you can read all the Whacky stories we have ever published there – almost 200 in the past year. They are all Jewish related. While we value your opinion, Google Analytics tells us that not everyone wants serious reading all the time.
  3. 11 Gary Selikow 21 Nov
    And what harm do Xmas songs possibly do? In a wold of mass terrorism and the hatred engendered by BDS and the Burn Israel climate Samuel Shalom sees Xmas carols as being the main threat, We've lived with Xmas being celebrated by our Christian  neighbors for many decades without it doing us any harm whatsoever
  4. 10 Gary Selikow 21 Nov
    This war against Christmas by some Jews is totally unnecessary and is designed to detract our energies away from fighting for Israel and against its enemies 
    How would we feel if people tried to prevent us celebrating our holidays?
  5. 9 Samuel Shalom 23 Nov
    In reply to @ANT KATZ 20 Nov:

    Of course these stories are interesting, and no one opposes humor, but when one admires a Christian celebration for no good reason, besides popularity on Google, as that has anything to do with the price of tea in China, it misses the point that it's also insulting to Judaism. If this was a more general non-Jewish news source then fine, but as a Jewish one, you can tighten up and not focus on Christianity in terms of praising it. They don't need anyone's help. Judaism and Christianity are opposite and rival religions and Jews have suffered greatly at the hands of Christianity over the 2000 years of Christianity's existence.

    May I suggest you look into a fascinating subject: Caesar's Messiah Documentary Trailer (
    3 minutes YouTube video and the fuller:
    Flavian Signature Presentation - Joseph Atwill ( 33 minute YouTube video.
    See a longer interview:
    TV Interview with Joseph Atwill - The Roman Creation of Christianity ( (55 minute YouTube video) that at least gets one thinking.

    In reply to @Gary Selikow 21 Nov. 1: Obviously Christians are free to enjoy whatever singing they like if it came from Jews fine. So what? Christianity ALSO came from Jews, it does not mean that Jews should  focus on that no matter how "cute" some people think that both Irving Berlin or Jesus were Jews. It does not make what they achieved something Jews should be proud of or happy about. Let the Christians be happy with their religion, but Jews need to stay away from it and be happy with their own Jewish religion and Jewish songs, or at least music and singing that is not so overtly and directly tied in with the most important festival in Christianity which is X-mas that celebrates the birth of Jesus. It is not such a far hop skip and jump from admiring X-mas carols, then on to admiring X-tians, then on to liking X-tianity and finally joining the X-ian bandwagon and becoming a full blown apostate (meshumad) to Judaism and then it's goodbye charlie there goes another Jew who joins the Jews for J or becomes a Hebrew X-tian or gets baptised in a church as the church organs play that lovely music by those lovely Jews who promoted the lovely X-ian melody by Irving Berlin you loved so much.

    In reply to @Gary Selikow 21 Nov 2: There is no "war" against X-tianity nor is anyone trying to stop any X-tian from celebrating it! It's just a discussion. So don't talk nonsense. The only point that is worth considering is that it's foolish that a respected and respectable Jewish publication, virtually a mouth-piece representing SA Jewry, is taking pride in the fact that some modern X-mas songs were composed by Jews. So what?  After all X-ianity was "composed" by Jews as well in its early days yet traditionally (and even according to Jewish Law it is a no-no) Jews and Judaism do not take note of things X-ian nor are they proud of anything to do with it. The ones who contributed to early Christianity such as Jesus and his followers and later composers who made money from writing clever ditties on the Xmas themes are not things that regular Jews take pride in (unless they have lost their religious and national moorings beyond hope). It is not a "war" it's just an observation about the way some things that go too far in praising non-Judaism which is something that loyal and smart Jews should not be doing. 
  6. 8 ANT KATZ 23 Nov
    Lighten up, "Samuel". The reason we follow Google Analytics so closely is to see what our users like best. Why? So we can give you more of what what you want.
    It says a lot to us if 100 users a day go to a page and spend an average of 10 secs there - just as much as the opposing message if 10 people go there in a day and spend an average of 10 mins on it.
    Ultimately, it is user-interest that drives what we publish. I am sure that if you read the S/Times and your neighbour reads the S/Times you are both interested in reading different sections and stories. We cater to what our users like. As they are very diverse, we need to be too. 
  7. 7 Samuel Shalom 24 Nov
    @ANT KATZ 23 Nov said: "Lighten up, "Samuel"."

    "Ant" old chap I am a very funny person, have no fear, so that is no problem my dear little "ant"! Let me regale you with my wit, hope you can take it, here goes:

    "The reason we follow Google Analytics so closely is to see what our users like best. Why? So we can give you more of what what you want."

    All of a sardine "Google" rules the waves, in that case let's write about any conceivable connection between any things that pop up in our heads and Jews. Let's see now, Google was founded and is headed by two Jews, so maybe everything on Google is now de facto "Jewish"? Now since porn is so popular why stop at posting how Google analytics tells you that modern X-mas songs were "invented" by Jews like Irving Berlin that is such a boring snoring subject (as if anyone under 50 has even heard about that or even cares) find out what Google analytics can come up with popular about Jewish porn on the web (or at least all the Jewish actresses that have gone topless in so many movies that every movie goer has seen) and post some interesting things about the connection between that and Jews. Why not? After all Google analytics rules the waves now, sail into that iceberg if you must! It seems so "not right"? So why is posting about X-mas songs any more "kosher" than about what Google analytics tells about Jews and porn or Jewish actresses that prance around with little on. Ag man, a song about Jesus and Rudolph the Red Nosed Rain Dear and a song about pretty Jewish meidels showing off their kosher knaidels, why is there such a big difference in theory or practice? This is 2014 after all!! Go for the big time. Bottom line, the reason is that it is just as bad if not worse to praise things connected with Christianity as it is to praise things to do with porn because there is a little thing known as "right" and "wrong" at the end of the day.

    "It says a lot to us if 100 users a day go to a page and spend an average of 10 secs there - just as much as the opposing message if 10 people go there in a day and spend an average of 10 mins on it."

    Aha yes, the ants know how to count, especially as they sing "hi ho, hi ho, it's off to Google analytics we go..." because, you know, the big "ant" is always counting what the little ants are up to since it has ways to count up digital statistics. Ants have no real brains, they will demolish friend or foe as long as they can bring food back to the nest. Ants don't care if they undermine houses or eat up trees or feast on dead people. There are in facts all kinds of ants in this world. In some places ants eat people up alive, red ants, black ants, carpenter ants, they may be small but they are all out for number one, to make ants happy as they count the other ants going about their business. Too bad ants don't have a moral conscience nor do they study anything. They certainly do not study Judaism and they don't care about the feelings of people or Jews. They just want their "pound" of flesh and to be allowed to be...well, ants!

    "Ultimately, it is user-interest that drives what we publish."

    Ah yes m'lord, always take the higher ground and talk down to the ignorant masses as if they can be treated like serfs. In truth this is saying that "let the tail wag the dog" since there is no "higher calling", but only as long as it suits us. Is journalism here to "make the news" or is it here to "report the news"? Tricky choice! On the one hand it would seem that "news" is being "reported", fine, but really now the cat is out of the bag, and it is revealed from up on high by m'lord the cyber press lord that  "selling the news" is like selling any other product, just figure out market trends and tell people what they want to hear. Is that "news"? No, it's manipulation and tricking people by first tracking them as if being stalked and then make it seem like they are being told something they want to hear about but really it isn't that at all, it's holding a mirror to their faces, like when Google tracks words in subscribers'  Gmail or Google searches and then puts ads based on those key words the users use themselves in their own Email that try to sell the same users that product.

    So if anyone is telling his Email friend a lot about "ants" or trying to Google about "ants" or trying to find someone who knows how to control "ants" then up pops ads trying to sell you things to do with ants or getting rid of them, all based on dear blessed Google analytics thank you. A tricky world we live in. Where cyberspace becomes as rootless and aimless and amoral and empty of meaning as outerspace!

    "I am sure that if you read the S/Times and your neighbour reads the S/Times you are both interested in reading different sections and stories."

    Wait, hold it right there, do people come to this news source because it's like the Sunday Times or because it is the SA JEWISH Report? Hmmm, let's think about that...people come to the web site because it's....about X-mas songs??? Hmmm, can't be it, can it?! Must be something else....let's see...gotta think, think, think....hey wait....I think I got the answer, they think this is a place to find JEWISH news? Oy, but we have a problem, how do we DEFINE "Jewish" is it one born of a Jewish mother or is it a religion, ag no man, not that, when something calls itself JEWISH, hang man, I am almost 100% positive it has something to do with the real Jewish, not the pretend Jewish, and not the Google Jewish, and not the "ant" Jewish, ja nee man there isn't such a dingus soos a Joodse "ant" so then what's up doc (did you know Warner Brothers was founded and owned by Jews so therefore Bugs Bunny (real name, Benjamin Benato from Benoni) was juslike (sorry, but it's that season if you didn't know) Jewish! Yes, yay, let's have a big celebration and article that Bugs Bunny and his buddy Porky Pig (no Jewish name for a chazir) are Joode from the Ou Vrystaat and that they met and married in Bloemfontein (yes same-sex marriage is allowed in pretend Hollywood animal land), is that what a "Jewish Report" is ek se?


    Is that the "royal we" or just a teeny weeny we?

    "cater to what our users like."

    Yummy guys we just came to a lekker cafe, okay let's all sing what we want to get, "popcorn, chewing gum, peanuts and bubble gum, ice cream candyfloss and eskimo pie, sugar and licorice, pepsi cola, ginger beer and canada dry"? (words from Ag pleez deddy.)

    "As they are very diverse, we need to be too."

    A wise man once said, "show me a man with an open mind, and I will show you a man with a 'hole' in his head" and related to this is the expression "if you will be any more 'open-minded' your brain will fall out"!
  8. 6 ANT KATZ 24 Nov

    @SS - I grace this comment with this LAST REPLY simply to explain your obvious ignorance of the media and of what Google ANALYTICS is, then, from my side, this debate is closed.

    Firstly, let me say that I enjoy the very frequent and relevant comments you post on this website – even if they do generally seek to provoke the negative side of everything. Be that as it may, It seems that you are one of our many daily users and that tells me you like the website.

    Having spent my entire career in media, most of it community media, I do know how hard it is to please the diverse audience this community website serves. Working in print, one has very little idea who reads what, when, and how intensively.

    Now, it seems to me that you misunderstand what Google Analytics is. It is simply a tool which gives online publishers a massive array of real-time information, and back to day-one, of who reads THIS website, and adds a great deal of depth to that data to boot. A few examples of these are:

    - What devices and platforms the users of SAJR are on, from the basic cell, tablet or PC, down to specific makes what devices and software they are using;

     - What they visit on SAJR, and how much they like each item (based of length of time spent on the page);

     - Where in the world they are, which one can drill down to suburbs;

     - If they entered THIS site on a specific story page, known as a "referral", where they came from – social media, e-mails, our newsletter, etc.;

     - New users vs. returning users and, in the case of the latter, the frequency and loyalty of their usage, etc., etc.

    None of this information has names attached – it is simply a reflection of the “average” user. So, as the editor of THIS website, catering to a myriad of interest groups that visit THIS website, I am able to ascertain what OUR user-base likes and what they don’t. Of course we want to please as many users as possible as the object of any media is to satisfy its audience.

    (Aside: if one can please ten percent of the Jewish community ten percent of the time, one is doing well!)

    Sure, we do serve a niche market. But it includes young, working and retired users; one third live outside SA; they follow a multitude of streams of faith (including a strong SA Christian Zionist following, whose visits we enjoy but we do not write specifically for that audience).

    Therefore, as the online editor of SAJR Online, it behoves me to use Google ANALYTICS as an essential tool in establishing what OUR users like (so we can give them more of it) and don’t (so that we can improve on it or, even, cut it out). A simple example is that if 500 people go to a story and spend an average of 20 seconds on it, we know OUR users liked the thought but not the offering. In contrast, if 50 of OUR users go to a story and spend an average of ten minutes reading the page, we know OUR user-base loved the item, but that we didn’t market it well enough to attract more of them to it.

    By regularly interpreting Google ANALYTICS data on what OUR users like, and using that information properly does create a situation where "ultimately, it is user-interest that drives what we publish." What better measure can SAJR, or any other news website publisher, use to give THEIR audience what THEY want.

    FYI – we do not run any Google-based advertising or allow any Youtube recommendations about similar videos because that exposes OUR USERS to their servers innocently putting up offerings like: “Jew money runs America” or similar.
    Please, “Sam”, you do not put an email address when you post so I don’t have any idea who you are or where you are based, but please, if you want to engage further on this subject, mail me directly at [email protected] so that we do not need to bore OUR USERS with more on this subject.

  9. 5 Denis Solomons 24 Nov
    I don't think that many people know that Rashi composed " Jingle Bells ! "
  10. 4 Samuel Shalom 24 Nov
    @ANT KATZ 24 Nov

    Please indulge me one more time, and I agree with you that this debate has covered a lot of ground and we can all move on from here.

    Thanks for the very detailed response, the effort is greatly appreciated. I think that most users and surfers do not have any real idea of the technicalities behind what goes into and on and out (the old "input-output") of the computers they use in various ways. It does not really matter what all the "widgets" are or what they do and what they mean. Nobody really cares. Meaning the average online user who comes to a website or blog or uses Facebook or any app etc does not care about what goes into it all, they just come as busy people to use it and they are therefore known as "end users".

    There are many types of end users just as there are many types of humans. No doubt if you started focusing on Chinese subjects you would get Chinese end users and most of the Jewish ones and the South African-connected ones would go away because most Jews and most South Africans don't care about things that have to do with China or Chinese.

    Thus, those end users who come to this website for news and views relating to what relates to South African Jews find of interest and that is why this website has the word "South African" and "Jewish" in it, we are assuming that this publication works within those basic parameters and metrics.

    Of course using technology and Google whatnots you-name-it should be done and is very important BUT guiding all of that is that they are HUMAN BEINGS and presumably they are JEWISH or have a good sense of what being South African and Jewish is all about.

    There is also a concomitant sense of responsibility for someone in such a position running a website or webservice not abuse or mishandle or misunderstand what their invisible unspoken "mandate" is or what the "will of the people" is either. True the Internet is basically not censored (expect in places like Red China), but website owners and end users must use their own moral sense and sense of values and yes, Yiddishkeit, to guide them through the waves of real life and also in cyber-digital-life.

    The average Jewish person is not a Jewish scholar nor are they computer fundies either, unless they have chosen to study in those fields. People rely on this publication to be responsibly Jewish and South African. They are curious about many things. It is easy to present articles and subjects that while they may seem of "help" are in fact dangerous. Like second hand smoke or contaminated food in a restaurant where one may have the superficial impression all is okay but in actual fact they are being slow-fed Jim Jones type "cool aid" that does not help them as either Jews or South Africans.

    So it is very important for you and others who run and own Jewish publications not to fall victim to modern-day jargons and try to cough up interesting things that in fact run counter to Yiddishkeit and being Jewish and undermine your stated mandate and mission. It is not easy and it is a fine line. But X-mas songs and jingles even if invented and promoted by Jews does not make them "kosher" and certainly there needs to be a careful assessment if this is "good" or "bad" -- yes, when a subject deals with things "Jewish" it has to make such decisions, because being Jewish is NOT "value neutral"!

    I encourage you to go on and yasher koach for all the good work you do. A "free press" is VERY important and it truly serves as a valuable counterweight to possible corruption and abuse of power and helping to give a voice to the voiceless.

    Thank you for the contact info, if there is need it is good to know where to reach you. Thanks for publishing my comments and I have never complained when you censored them either, because you have your job to do and you do do it excellently!

    By the way: Posters' rights should be respected and therefore your policy of allowing posters to express themselves as they may wish to do should be adhered to as long as you do not have an official policy requiring otherwise. Your current policy and practice allows for more freedom of expression. Thank you.
  11. 3 Gary Selikow 27 Nov
    Although some fellow Jews will not like this, I wish all Christian supporters of Israel a very Merry Christmas 
  12. 2 Akiva Peretz 02 Dec
    Oh my, Samual, you are putting WAY to much emphasis into this little story. Get over yourself man. You are providing nothing more than a strawman argument. (google it if you don't know what it means)

    Secondly, Christians are the only friends Jews have in the world right now. Bible Christians are the only other people who support Israel. So stop pushing our possible allies away and turning them into enemies. Grow up and go find another way to vent.
  13. 1 steve marks 24 Dec
    jesus man, what a lotta hot air over a blinkin story ...
    lighten up and have a merry chistmas


  1. RadEditor - HTML WYSIWYG Editor. MS Word-like content editing experience thanks to a rich set of formatting tools, dropdowns, dialogs, system modules and built-in spell-check.
    RadEditor's components - toolbar, content area, modes and modules
    Toolbar's wrapper 
    Content area wrapper
    RadEditor's bottom area: Design, Html and Preview modes, Statistics module and resize handle.
    It contains RadEditor's Modes/views (HTML, Design and Preview), Statistics and Resizer
    Editor Mode buttonsStatistics moduleEditor resizer
    RadEditor's Modules - special tools used to provide extra information such as Tag Inspector, Real Time HTML Viewer, Tag Properties and other.


Follow us on