Hanukkah begins tonight with the lighting of the first candle on the Menorah at sundown. This is the celebration of the miracle of light that occurred when Judah Maccabee liberated the Temple in Jerusalem but only had enough purified oil to burn one night. But the oil was enough to light the Menorah for 8 days until more could be ritually purified. It is a joyful celebration of liberation and of enduring through dark and dangerous times. It is primarily observed privately over eight days in Jewish homes rather than being a synagogue ritual. It is especially treasured because it persisted through the darkest hours of the Holocaust and was even kept secretly in Nazi death camps.
This year this coincides with Human Rights Day, a United Nations celebration commemorating the adoption and proclamation, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on this date of that charter which was shepherded to adoption by former U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The declaration was deeply influenced by the horror of the Holocaust.
For years American Jews swamp upstream against the torrent of Christmas music this time of year. Only the children’s song about a traditional gambling game, Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel was commonly played. That is what encouraged comedian Adam Sandler to write and perform The Chanukah Song on Saturday Night Live in 1994. Since then a number of artists, including American singer/song writers and Israeli ensembles have added new music.
Today we will begin with a selection taken from the album Hanukkah Songs—a comprehensive collection of Hanukkah songs including songs in Hebrew, English and Yiddish featuring traditional and folk performances by leading artists from Israel.