Alicia Keys to Perform in Israel Despite BDS Pressure

— by Steve Sheffey

Alicia Keys confirmed that she will perform in Tel Aviv on July 4 as scheduled, despite public pressure to boycott Israel from Alice Walker (who refused to authorize a translation of “The Color Purple” into Hebrew) and Roger Waters. “I look forward to my first visit to Israel. Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show,” she said.

Walker called Israel an “apartheid country,” said that the Israeli system is “cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil,” and called Israel the cause of “much of the affliction in our suffering world.” Walker refused to authorize a new Hebrew translation of “The Color Purple.” Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, also urged Keys to cancel. Waters previously convinced Stevie Wonder to cancel an appearance at a Friends of the IDF event in Los Angeles.

More on the anti-Israel BDS movement after the jump.
For an excellent refutation of the canard that Israel practices apartheid, read this op-ed from Richard Goldstone, a former justice of the South African Constitutional Court.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel is condemned across the pro-Israel political spectrum, even by those who strongly believe that Israel should find a way to extricate itself from the West Bank.

According to J Street:

For some, the BDS movement has become a convenient mantle for thinly disguised anti-Semitism” and “the BDS movement fails to explicitly to recognize Israel’s right to exist and it ignores or rejects Israel’s role as a national home for the Jewish people. In addition, the promotion by some in the BDS movement of the return to Israel of Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their families indicates support for an outcome incompatible with our vision of Israel and incompatible with a two-state solution to the conflict.

A statement signed by the National Jewish Democratic Council and 60 other Jewish organizations opposing the BDS movement explained that “Criticism [of Israel] becomes anti-Semitism, however, when it demonizes Israel or its leaders, denies Israel the right to defend its citizens or seeks to denigrate Israel’s right to exist.”

So what do we do about it?

My view is that if an artist or scientist attempts to economically harm or delegitimize Israel, we should not economically support that person.

As much as I used to enjoy Elvis Costello’s music, I can’t listen to him anymore. I have a long list of books to read. Why read Alice Walker when there is so much other good literature? We certainly should not reject the scientific ideas of Stephen Hawking, but why buy his books? (If you must read him or Walker, use the library).

I’m not suggesting that we deny ourselves art based on the anti-Semitism of its creators. If we did, we would deprive ourselves of a large portion of Western culture. I also suspect that if we knew what was in the minds of some of our favorite artists, we might not be too happy. Rather, I am suggesting that we single out the subset of artists who have chosen to single out Israel for boycott. If they won’t play for Israelis, we shouldn’t pay money for them to play to us. So you won’t find Elvis Costello, Santana, or Stevie Wonder on my playlist, and you certainly won’t see me at their concerts.

Perhaps most important, we should visit Israel or buy Israeli goods — no matter where we are on the political spectrum.

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Canadian Rock Star Steven Page Explores His Musical Jewish Roots

— Reprinted with permission from CBC/Radio-Canada

Steven Page, musician, and former lead-singer, guitarist and principal songwriter for the internationally acclaimed pop band the Barenaked Ladies (BNL), grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, feeling like he was the only Jew in the neighbourhood, and thus an outsider. He began his search into his ancestry with the goal of uncovering why his Jewish identity has played such an important part of his life.

Continued after the jump.
Steven was born in 1970 to a Jewish mother, Jo-Anne (Simmons), and an Anglo-Protestant father, Victor Page. When Jo-Anne and Victor married in the 1960s, Victor converted to Judaism to appease Jo-Anne’s strict grandparents, Nuchum and Chava Greenbaum. But it wasn’t enough; they disowned Jo-Anne, and as a result, Steven never met his great-grandparents.

According to Steven’s great aunts Annette and Beulah, Nuchum came to Canada from Poland in 1909. Later, he brought Chava and their daughter Shirley to join him. They lived in the Kensington Market district of Toronto, then a thriving Jewish community, and had seven more children.

Steven decided to investigate the Greenbaum side of the family by searching the 1911 Canadian census online. He discovered that Kalman Greenbaum, Nuchum’s father, was born in Russia/Poland in 1866. Kalman came alone to Canada in 1903. After being naturalized in 1909, he brought his family from Poland to join him, including Nuchum. When Kalman first arrived, he lived in an area of Toronto called St. John’s Ward, on Chestnut Street.

What was life like for Jewish immigrants at that time? Steven met with the historian of Jewish Toronto, Stephen Speisman, at the Toronto City Archives. At the turn of the century, a Fifth Census of Canada 1911 showed that a huge influx of Jewish immigrants moved to Toronto. Inside ten years, the Jewish population of the city grew from 3,000 to 32,000. Out of necessity, most settled in St. John’s Ward, a slum with affordable rents. As soon as Kalman earned enough money as a peddler, he bought a house in Kensington Market, where he and his family lived for many years.

To learn more about Kalman, Steven visited his mother’s cousin Henry Green, a professor of religious studies at the University of Miami. Henry has discovered that Kalman belonged to the Hasidic dynasty of the Modzhitz, a group known as the singing Hasidim, who turned Hasidic melody into an art form. Steven never knew the Greenbaum side of his family was connected to music; it is exciting for him to discover he is part of a musical dynasty.

According to Steven’s great aunt Annette, poverty wasn’t the only challenge faced by the Greenbaum family. A tragic house-fire in 1928 took the lives of Nuchum’s sister Sarah, her husband, and two of her three children. Steven verified this information by searching the Toronto Star’s Pages of the Past. There, he finds a front-page story, headlined, “Parents and Two Children Perish in Fire: dying girl declares family was menaced by threats of enemy.” Steven was shocked to discover that the article suggests the fire resulted from a family or business feud. Chava was never the same after the tragedy.

Given the hardships they faced in Canada, Steven wondered why his family left Poland. He found a clue in Nuchum’s 1905 diary, where Nuchum referred to “a year of curses.” Steven decided to go to Poland to investigate.

Steven’s first stop was the regional office of the Polish State Archives in the city of Kielce, where the birth, marriage and death records of Kielce’s Jews are stored. In 1897, approximately 83,000 Jews were living in Kielce, constituting 28% of the city’s population. Steven found Nuchum’s 1894 birth record, and was surprised to see it is written in Russian.

In 1894, Poland was part of the Russian Empire. Discrimination against Jews was widespread. In Poland, Jews paid double taxes and were forbidden to lease land or go to university. Despite this, Jewish men aged 18 were still liable for conscription into the Russian army. When Tsar Alexander II was assassinated, in 1881, the Jews were blamed. Throughout the Empire, Jews were attacked in an infamous spate of officially condoned violence, known to history as the pogroms. It was out of this climate of fear that a massive wave of Jewish immigration to North America emerged. Leading up to the First World War, about two million Polish Jews left for North America.

Steven next visited Rakow, the hometown of his great-grandmother Chava. Before the Holocaust, over half of the population of Rakow was Jewish. No Jews currently live in the town, so Steven visited a group of Poles called “Friends of Rakow.” The group, dedicated to remembering the town’s Jewish past, cooks Jewish meals and maintains a memorial at Rakow’s former Jewish cemetery. Steven ended the journey into his ancestry at this cemetery. His trip to Poland has been powerful and disturbing. While Steven is moved by the efforts of the Poles to honour the memory of their Jewish friends, he finds little testament to just how horrible life was for Jews in Poland. His family, he now knows, was lucky to survive.

Israeli Folk-Rock Star David Broza to Perform in Bryn Mawr

— by Ronit Treatman

David Broza, one of Israel’s most famous singer-songwriters and peace activists, will be performing in Bryn Mawr on May 25 as part of the Bryn Mawr Twilight Concert series.  

Broza was born in Haifa, Israel. He grew up and was educated in England and Spain, with the latter notably influencing his songwriting. He served in the Israeli Air Force’s “Positivity Team,” and meanwhile performed with his guitar in cafes in order to earn money. His talent gained attention, and he was offered a record deal. He writes and plays folk rock.  

More after the jump.
Promoting peace between Israel and the Arabs is a major passion in Broza’s life. He is a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. He has also toured all over the Middle East, and collaborated with Arab musicians.  

Lower Merion Singer Aims High

— by Amir Shoam

If you’ve recently heard the name Max Gottlieb, you are not the only ones. For the last month, the 19-year-old singer of Lower Merion has been performing several times a week in pubs and festivals around Philadelphia. “I stared performing at open-mic events, got bookings as music managers saw me, and so it rolled on,” he explained.

Gottlieb has been playing guitar for five years, and first started performing with the Lower Merion High School a-capella group, but his career has taken a big step forward during the last four months. While on an immersion gap-year program in Israel, he started uploading home-made videos of himself singing and playing to his YouTube channel, and has already gained over 120,000 views.

More after the jump.
“My friends did an amazing job in spreading the word about my videos,” he said. “You can never know which videos will succeed. Some of my videos have got over 27,000 views, and some merely got a few hundreds. YouTube proved to be a good way to build a fan base quickly.”

“I get inspiration from new sources all the time,” notes Gottlieb. “John Mayer has influenced my approach for guitar playing and I also love the Beatles. Among my newer influences are Jason Mraz, Ed Sheeran and Michael Buble.”

As part of the Aardvark gap year program, Gottlieb was living in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, gained academic credit with the American Jewish University, and participated in two-day trips to historic sites such as Masada, where he also recorded one of his most successful videos. In Passover, Gottlieb flew home for the holiday break and decided to stay. “I had achieved anything I wanted to with the program, and I felt that I was ready to get serious about my music. I am hoping to record my debut EP, with original songs that I wrote, soon,” he tells.

After posting a new video on YouTube in each of the last 18 weeks, Gottlieb has now decided to switch to every other week. “Now I want to create more visual videos, with several cameras, which require more work. It’s frustrating to work with low-tech equipment, and I felt that it was a bottleneck for my videos,” he said.

Next year, the singer will study psychology at Drexel University. “I am not going to stop making music, but I know it may take many years before I can finance myself solely by it,” he explained. “I love psychology. I enjoy understanding people on a deeper level and how the mind works, so that’s my back-up plan.”

“I am really excited of where I am now. It’s the beginning of many things for me,” Gottlieb concludes. “I get a lot of support from the local Jewish community. It may sound like a cliché, but we are all like one big family. It’s a great blessing for me to be part of the Jewish people.”

Follow Max on Facebook and Twitter for information about his performances and videos.

Follow my tweets @amirshoam

Gala Concert “Celebrating Nelly: a Tribute to a Life in Music”

— by Elena Berman

Recently, I was sitting crossed-legged on the floor of my mother’s house, digging in her old green cardboard suitcase full of photographs and thank you cards. I poured over the black and white photographs from Odessa, depicting our family and close friends. There were also many pictures in color, of my mother surrounded by her former piano students, whom she taught over the years of her life in Philadelphia, which were proudly taken after numerous concerts my mother had presented. There were pictures of my mother’s students, and even her students acting in a musical play that she had directed based on the lives of Clara and Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt and Felix Mendelssohn. Strewn among the photographs were dozens of cards from the parents of my mother’s students, with words of gratitude for changing their children’s lives through her teaching. With deep sincerity they thanked her for bringing forth their kids’ potential and talent in music. They described her as being not only a teacher, but a great mentor and role model.

More after the jump.

Nelly Berman teaches two-year old Elena

We came to the U.S. 37 years ago with 3 suitcases. One contained precious photographs and indispensible music scores. Included was the Grieg concerto that I was working on, Chopin concerto I was hoping to learn, Rachmaninov Preludes that my mother loved to play, as well as a number of anthologies that my mother was hoping to use for her future American piano students. The other suitcases held all of the clothes and mementos that we could bring out of Russia.  In them, we also packed wooden cups and saucers, colorfully painted with gold and red flowers, and little black boxes, with miniature scenes from Russian fairy tales, painted with great skill. These trinkets were meant as souvenirs for our future American friends. Those two other suitcases were thrown out long ago, souvenirs given out, clothes discarded, but only this green suitcase, full of pictures of our former life in Odessa, and new life in the USA, was left as a keepsake.

I came upon an old picture of me, not more than two years old, an age completely erased from my memory. I am holding my hands carefully placed over the keyboard of our old Bechstein upright piano we had in our apartment in Odessa. My young mother Nelly is standing over me, showing me how to touch the keys properly. Excited to see this picture, I had it scanned at the NBS school office and emailed it to my mother.  “Look at your hand position,” she exclaimed proudly, glancing at the picture. “Most little kids’ fingers stick out in all directions, and they bang on the piano with such force. On this picture you already have a perfect round shape of your hands, with your wrists high and your fingers beautifully round. And you are focusing carefully on what I am teaching you.”

That is my mother Nelly, in that statement, always conscious of what is important in teaching music to students. In Odessa, she had been teaching piano hour upon hour, in a music school in our district, called “Music school No. 1”.  There, she had to follow a specific, mandated plan for assigning pieces to her students, based on the Ministry of Culture’s graded programs for all music students in the Soviet Union.  My mother would constantly rebel and assign the music that she felt would open the minds of her piano students. She would be reprimanded for it again and again. Music education was free – one of the special perks the Soviet Government allowed their citizens. Students, starting from the age of 7, had two lessons per week in their instrument. If not pianists, they were required to study piano as a secondary instrument. They also had weekly classes in theory, solfeggio, music literature, choir, and chamber groups for advanced students. All students had to pass an examination twice a year to continue their music education.

My mother was famous as a teacher in Odessa, her students not only won competitions but they adored her. I leaf through our old Russian music books that my mother still has. They are piled up on the Steinway in her house, a beautiful instrument she purchased in the USA. I see my mother’s writing in English on different pieces in the books – this Mozart Concerto was meant for Kyle Cesar Luo, the Debussy “Claire de Lune” was meant for Allison Klayman, the Beethoven sonata was for Ellen Morris, the Mozart Fantasy was assigned to Felix Zhang, the Prokofiev Vision Fugitives was intended for Daniel Schlosberg, the Chopin E minor concerto was intended for Nandira. Those students’ names bring memories of the years when I would sit at her lessons trying to pick up on all her skills of being able to inspire her students, achieving beautiful phrasing and dazzling technique.

Nelly, left, with NBS students, circa 1985.

I remember these children’s wonderful music making and their dedication and excitement about playing their instrument. Kyle has played with the Philadelphia Orchestra as a soloist not once but twice, and while attending Medical school, he played a Rachmaninov Concerto with the Rochester Philharmonic. He has become an eye surgeon like his father. Allison Klayman spent 5 years in China, learned Mandarin, and recently received a prize at Sundance Festival for her full length documentary called “Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry” which was screened at the Ritz and Bryn Mawr movie theaters this summer. Ellen Morris studied Physics at the University of Chicago and minored in piano performance, and then reversed the order. Felix Zhang was named one of the top twenty All American High school students in 2007 by USA Today, played a Tchaikovsky Concerto and is now graduated from Harvard, having done research on Alzheimer’s disease.  Daniel Schlosberg is working on his Master’s Degree in Composition at Yale University, has written an opera for the Yale Opera company, and is working at this moment with a famous Broadway musical theater composer, orchestrating his scores. And then, I found a picture in the suitcase of my mother hugging her two new little students, Nina Hartling and Nicolas Lu, whom she started to teach last year, after her stroke. There are so many others whose names I have forgotten, and whose path in life would love to discover!

In the Soviet Union, it was realized that students required at least2 lessons per week plus other instructional classes in order to become musically proficient, and this support was provided by the State. The U.S. does not support music in this way. It is left for parents to make their own decision to provide such financial support for these extra lessons. In many cases they cannot do it, and very talented students cannot realize their musical desires. The NBS Classical Music Institute was thus established in 1996, because the level of support needed to satisfy all of the worthy students that we had by then attracted, was not sufficient. It was then that the generosity and devotion to the advancement of classical music education came to us from Elaine Kligerman. She was willing to satisfy this need, and so the Scholarship Fund was developed.  Because of her generous support, just about every student who is worthy and desirous of having the additional lessons per week can have them. Mrs. Kligerman herself is an established pianist, having attended both the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music. With her great knowledge of music and education, including 15 years of serving as adjunct piano faculty at Temple University, she recognized the importance of supporting these talented children.  As a result, the school has grown significantly in reputation, with its fame spread throughout the Philadelphia area as well as to New York and even to communities in California. Without Elaine Kligerman this would not be possible. I thank her from the bottom of my heart.

Over the years, my mother brought truly outstanding teachers to the school, who shared her vision of the value and tradition of music education and love of teaching. Together they raised the bar for what each child could accomplish, giving them the tools to realize their fullest potential, inspiring them and nurturing their self confidence.

Nelly at 19 years old

I found another letter in her old green suitcase that she wrote 10 years ago:

“What is a 19-year-old girl teaching her first piano student in Odessa dreaming about?  Her wish was not a big house, a big car and diamonds. Her wish was the same as I have now – to give every child that is gifted in music the best teaching possible. For all 45 years of my teaching life I awake in the morning and review in my mind what students had achieved the day before.  The words in a song from my favorite Cary Grant movie say: ‘Close your eyes, make your wish, and make your life.’ It seems that Providence has enabled me to help talented music teachers from different countries find a home in my school and to be creative enough to bring about this unique school.  I would like to thank you all for coming and making my dreams come true.”

Join me in celebrating Nelly Berman’s gift of music to so many young people.

With much love and admiration,



Nashirah Chorale to Hold Annual Spring Concert Next Weekend

Photo by John Hayes

Nashirah, the Jewish chorale of Philadelphia, under the artistic direction of Jonathan Coopersmith, will hold its annual Spring Concert at Society Hill Synagogue on Sunday, April 21, 2013.

Nashirah is the only auditioned community-based chorale in the Greater Philadelphia area that performs exclusively Jewish and Jewish-themed music. The 90-minute program, “Sabbath Variations,” will celebrate the Jewish Sabbath service as performed from the seventeenth century through today, and from Yemen to Israel to the United States.

More after the jump.
Nashira’s Concert selections include traditional and contemporary musical arrangements performed in Hebrew and English. Featured works include Italian Renaissance songs by Salomone Rossi and a surprising Hebrew arrangement for Kiddush by composer Kurt Weill, usually known for his theatrical scores such as The Threepenny Opera.

A highlight of the concert will be a collection of songs by Tziporah Jochsberger. Reeling from the death of her parents in Auschwitz and the loss of millions like them, Jochsberger resolved to use music and Jewish melodies to waken the dormant Jewish soul of American Jewry.

In its nine year history, Nashirah has grown to a chorale of 30 singers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Nashirah has performed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Jewish History, Prince Music Theatre, Andrea Clearfield’s Salon, American Chorale Directors Association, the Delaware Valley Jewish Choral Festival, the Gershman Y, Israel 60 Parade and Festival, Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, and synagogues, senior centers and churches throughout the Philadelphia area.  

Under the leadership of Artistic Director and Conductor Jonathan Coopersmith, the Nashirah is moving into the league of nationally known groups such as the Zamir Chorale of New York City and Zemer Chai of Washington, DC. Coopersmith is the chair of Musical Studies at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music where he has been teaching harmony, counterpoint, music history, and solfege since 2004. A native of Princeton, Mr. Coopersmith has been the Associate Conductor for The Philadelphia Singers since 2002 and is a guest choral director for The Philadelphia Orchestra and The Pennsylvania Ballet. He is a regular guest lecturer in the Philadelphia area, with recent lectures at The Curtis Institute of Music, The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and The Philadelphia Museum of Art. In the past, he has served as Music Director for Philadelphia’s Opera on the Square, Rittenhouse Row Festival, and The Philadelphia Festival of the Arts, and has conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra Society, The Westminster Conservatory Orchestra, The Wilmington Orchestra, The Mannes Orchestra, and The Penn’s Landing Orchestra.

Coopersmith notes:

There is an extraordinary legacy of chorale music that is largely unknown even in the Jewish community. My priority has been to choose from the best of this heritage or to commission new music to be performed by Nashirah at a high level. My hope is that Jewish music, performed in a concert setting, will be seen as artistic, high quality, and even forward-looking.

Tickets prices for the concert are $25. Student rush tickets (with school or college ID) will be available at the door for $10.

The Maccabeats or StandFour?

— by Joshua Redlich  Chanukah may be over, but the songs are still in our heads. Two years ago it was "Candlelight," a song that reached over a million viewers in less than a week, launching the singing careers of the young and talented members of Yeshiva University's unofficial acapella group, The Maccabeats. But this Chanukah, "Eight Nights" by StandFour seems to be the song that everyone's kvelling about. But with the catchy, meaningful, and inspiring song came the unfortunate breakup of The Maccabeats, everyone's favorite Jewish acapella group.  Two Hanukkah parodies and more after the jump.  


With the constant touring and concerts, Immanuel Shalev, David Block, Noey Jacobson, and Nachum Joel, three of whom are married and all of whom have full time jobs, decided to part ways with the group and start their own. "Eight Nights, a parody mash up of “Some Nights” by Fun, “Die Young” by Ke$ha, and “Live While We’re Young” by One Direction, is their first song, and already it's a hit.   While I can not say which acapella group I like more just yet, I am excited to see what the future holds in store for each. And besides, no one can deny that two Jewish acapella groups are better than one.

8 Night Of Hanukkah: A Capella Mashup

After releasing an outstanding Chanukah video last year, the Pella Singers are back with another one of their professionally produced mashup music videos.  This time they’re pulling out all the stops and incorporating computer graphics (cgi) and animation effects and trapeze artists, too.

They are true artists in the art of a cappella, using their mouths and their voices to simulate the sounds of musical instruments.

In this video they also link their music to the StandWithUs campaign to support Israel around the world.

Music Chat: Twas the Night Before Hanukkah

— by Hannah Lee

Maybe it’s because I was not born of the faith — I’ve joked that I’m from beyond the Pale — but I’ve always loved Christmas music. As an Orthodox Jew, I don’t experience the December Dilemma, because I know which is my holiday. This also means that I can enjoy the lovely music, without any psychological conflicts, any envy. When we first visited Scotland, I bought a CD of Christmas music on the bag pipe — how’s that for combining my interests! As soon as I learned about the new offering by the Idelson Society for Musical Preservation, I had to get Twas the Night Before Hanukkah: The Musical Battle between Christmas and the Festival of Lights.

More after the jump.
The Idelson Society for Musical Preservation is composed of a team of professionals from the music industry and academia who “passionately believe Jewish history is best told by the music we have loved and lost.” They have done so in several ways: by releasing lost Jewish classic albums and the stories about them; building a digitally-based archive of music and the artists who created them; curating museum exhibits; and staging concerts that bring our elderly performers back onstage to be appreciated by younger audiences.

Their 2010 release of Black Sabbath: The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations was a delight for my ears: Johnny Mathis on “Kol Nidre” (1958); Nina Simone on “Eretz Zavat Chalav v’Devash” (1963); and the Temptations on a Fiddler on the Roof melody (1969).  I loved most of the selections by other artists on the album, such as Aretha Franklin; and Lena Horne, but I was not enchanted by Billie Holiday’s rendition of “My Yiddishe Momme” (1956) and I choose to skip over the first track when I play the CD.

Their 2012 release, Twas the Night Before Hanukkah comes with an essay by Jenna Weissman Joselit, Professor and Director of the Program in Judaic Studies at George Washington University, in which she chronicles how the minor holiday of Hanukkah became commerce-driven. A little-known recording by Woody Guthrie (“Hanukkah Dance”) keeps company with selections by traditional Jewish performers such as Cantors Yossele Rosenbaum (“Yevonim”) and David Putterman (“Rock of Ages”) as well as younger modern artists such as Jeremiah Lockwood, Ethan Miller, and Luther Dickinson. The latter are from separate ensembles —  Sway Machinery and Balkan Beat Box, North Mississippi All-Stars and The Black Crowes and The Howlin’ Rain and Comets on Fire — who come together and blended “the Jewish soul of Lockwood, the Southern gris-gris (voodoo talisman) of Dickinson and the New Weird American sounds of Miller” to create a version of “Dreidel, Dreidel” that is both Jewish and American.

My interest laid with the second CD on the album, which was introduced by music journalist and critic, Greil Marcus. It is the far better one musically — for composition, vocalization, and orchestration. This CD included Christmas songs that have been recorded by Jewish performers, such as Bob Dylan, Joey Ramone (born Jeffry Ross Hyman in Forest Hills, Queens), and Sammy Davis, Jr. Z (who converted to Judaism in the late 1950s). Alas, selections from Barbra Streisand’s A Christmas Album, released in 1967, does not appear on this album.

The introduction from the Idelson Society begins with a quote from the writer Philip Roth’s Operation Shylock:

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and then 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 brilliantly do?  He de-Christs them both!  Easter he turns into a fashion show and Christmas into a holiday about snow…He turns their religion into schlock. But nicely!  Nicely!  So nicely the goyim don’t even know what hit ’em.  They love it. Everybody loves it…

Roth’s perspective is a novel one, but it’s not kind. I love Christmas music —  from Irving Berlin’s to Felix  Mendelssohn’s (the grandson of the Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn) — because it is beautiful music that soars and lifts the spirit.  I believe that God works through music and maybe peace on Earth could come when we all enjoy creations made in his honor.