Archive for August, 2012

Hava Negila: the Resurrection of the Most Jewish Song

During the summer I like to keep things light, so this morning I want to speak about a song called “Hava Negilah.” Hava Negilah is considered by many to be the most Jewish of all Jewish songs. Even Harry Belafonte is famous for having sung Hava Negilah and John Lennon said that Hava Negilah was the only Jewish song he knew!  A Jew may not be able to read or write or understand any Hebrew words, but he knows the words “Hava Negilah.”  Like just about everything else in Judaism, there are differences of opinion of where Hava Negilah came from.  It is generally agreed that the melody is not Jewish … not from its mother’s side or its father’s side!  Many believe the melody comes from a Ukrainian folk song. Yes, the same Ukrainians who gave the Jewish people the Cossacks gave us the melody for Hava Negilah. From there, sometime in the late 1800s, the tune traveled to Palestine where sometime in the early 20th century, Abraham Zvi Idelsohn transcribed it and added the words to it, expressing celebration and brotherhood.  And now nearly 100 years later it is still going strong … or so we thought. But in a front page article in the Monday’s Wall Street Journal we found the headline: “At Some Happy Events, Hava Negilah isn’t Invited.”  It seems that now at Bar and Bat Mitzvah and Jewish wedding celebrations Hava Negilah is on the outs. And the fact of the matter is, at most Orthodox weddings, while there are plenty of Jewish songs played, Hava Negilah is not one of them.  Hava Negilah – the most Jewish of Jewish songs – is considered by traditional Jews as being too goyish. READ MORE