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Chanuka Favorites
from a discussion on the jewish-music mailing list

A few years ago, someone on the Jewish-Music mailing list asked about favorite Chanuka recordings for kids. I have most recently updated it in 5767:

General Hanukkah
Young Kids
Older Kids
A Hanukkah playlist
Hanukkah books


Lessia, from Santa Barbara, CA

... has a wonderful original Chanukah tape among a number of other tapes. Cantor Mandi Kark Beckenstein, 1998

General Hanukkah

Celebrate Chanukah, Craig Taubman

[From the Jewish-music mailing list] ... ah what the heck I will be somewhat self serving and suggest a compilation cd I produced, Celebrate Chanukah. It features:

  • The reggae beat of "Shel Chanukah" (Hanukkah blessings) by Alan Eder, sets the joyous tone with the first track.

  • Tzimmes, a Canadian group that emphasizes the tremendous diversity in Jewish music, performs "Maoz Tsur" (Rock of Ages),

  • Judy Frankel performs the traditional Ladino or Judeo-Spanish song "Hanukah."

  • "Ocho Kandelikas," a children's Hanukkah counting song performed by Flory Jagoda, who grew up in the Sephardic tradition in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

  • The bittersweet violin and clarinet tones of "Chanike Oy Chanike" by Sruli & Lisa bring the sounds and flavors of the old country to a new generation.

  • Rock and folk styles are represented by the guitar duo of Craig Taubman and Laurence Juber (of Paul McCartney's Wings fame) with the fast-tempo "Maoz Tzur" (Rock of Ages).

  • Peter Yarrow performs his original classic "Light One Candle,"

  • Debbie Friedman's moving "Not By Might - Not By Power" was recorded live at Carnegie Hall.

  • Ben Sidaran does a jazz rendition of the children's favorite "I Have a Little Dreidel.

  • Piano soloist Jon Simon shares another version of "I Have a Little Dreidel,"

  • Rabbi Joe Black adapts Psalm 139 for a rocking English-Hebrew "Tzur Chayeinu" (Rock of Life).

  • Younger listeners will enjoy the alterna-rock performance of "Al Hanisim" by Yom Hadash, a band that describes itself as "four nice Jewish boys from Boston."

You can sample the CD at

Channukah Festival of Lights, Ot Azoj Klezmerband, available on the band's website

As far as I am concerned, the best Hanukkah CD ever made is by the Dutch band Ot Azoj Klezmerband with the canadian singer Allan Merovitz, and called "Channukah Festival of lights. I'm not sure if you are looking for indivdual songs or CDs, but this is my Hannukah CD number one. Henri Oppenheim, 2006

The Chanukah Story (WWE, 1991.)

Narrated by Theodore Bikel, narration written by Rabbi Gerald Skolnik. Music sung by the Western Wind Vocal Ensemble with instrumental accompaniment with Margot Leverett, clarinet, Lorin (Klezmatics) Sklamberg, accordion, Scott Reiss, recorders, Mark Dresser, bass, etc. Dena Ressler, 1998

Chanukah Is Freylekh!, by Lori Cahan-Simon, 2006.

This is a very jolly set of European-style performances—tsimbl and fiddle predominate, no brass—that often feels like a family gathering. And that's appropriate, because the CD comes with dance directions for kids, as well as the usual translations, bios and such. A delightful recording, fueled by Cahan-Simon's warm, friendly sound. Available from Hatikvah Music by phone at (323) 655-7083, or by email. Rating: HHHH stars, from a review by George Robinson. Several other members of the list wrote in to talk about how much they loved this recording, as well.

usual classy Schaechter-Gottesman coverFli Mayn Flishlang, by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, Yiddishland Records, 2006. Available from

I recommend "Fli Mayn Flishlang," Beyle Schaechter-Gotteman's new CD of Yiddish children's songs. For one thing, I had the honor of arranging eight songs on it ... [full description], Jeanette Lewicki, 2006

Holiday Memories of a Shtetl Childhood, a cassette by Rosyln Bresnick-Perry (Global Village)

... a captivating (English) narratives of the author's European childhood including a Chanukah story. Dena Ressler, 1998

Manna, by Shelley Posen, see website,

Check out "Manna" CD of original Jewish music by Shelley Posen—4 songs to celebrate Chanukah with!!! Willa Horowitz, 2006

Shelley Posen's CD has been in my car's player many times this past year. I love the juxtaposition of the Jewish themes with the pure white-bread musical aesthetic. Sam Weiss, 2006

nice collage chanukiyahOy Chanukah!, Klezmer Conservatory Band, Rounder Records, 1986.

I am new to the list, and I am in no way a musician, or even for that matter very musical, but it is the music that was sung to me in the cradle I love it as the only vestige left to me of the non religious cultural legacy that was torn away and stolen from me before I was born. That by way of introduction, I really love Klezmer Conservatory Band's Oy Chanukah! which was put out on Rounder records in 1986. Mordi Kamel, 2000

Kind of nice dreidl and lettering in winter browns and yellows and greensWoody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah, by the Klezmatics, JMG, 2006

My fave Hanukkah CD right now is the Klezmatics' "Happy Joyous Hannukah." Very fun, happy tunes based on lyrics by Woody Guthrie. I was struck by the similiarity of the title tune to the old Runde melody. (The Runde is a simple square dance, remembered by Bronya Sakina and taught by Michael Alpert). I arranged and retooled the dance to fit the cut, and am very pleased with the result—an easy and fun holiday dance with authentic yikhus. Helen Winkler was nice enough to post my dance notes on her website: I hope some of you get a chance to try it out this holiday season. I'd appreciate any feedback. Steve Weintraub, 2006

Young kids

A Child's Hanukkah, the Jewish Wedding Band

We bought "Oy Vey, Chanuka!" last year (from recommendations on this list.), my kids enjoyed it. This year we will probably add "A Child's Hanukkah" by the Jewish Wedding Band. We just borrowed it from the library and my kids really liked it. Caryn Andrade (mom to Emily 7, Olivia 5, Sean 2 and Liam due 12/18/00)

Oy Vey Channukah, an awesome cd.I remember dancing around my living room listening to that cd. I loved it and I still do. I think the cd has really corny jokes, but they are great because the corninous (if that is a real word) makes them hilarious. The klezmer music is great and fun. Oy Vey Channukah is the best cd ever! It totally Rocks! ("Cool Yankee Girl" 8/22/07)

Candles Long Ago: Songs for the Chanukah Season., by Sharon, Lois and Bram on Elephant Records, Drive Entertainments, DE4-43236.

If you like Sharon, Lois and Bram from Canadian TV, (via cable in the States) you will love this album. Sharon Hamson, Lois Lilienstein and Bram Morrison are not only great educators, but entertainers who understand children (in my opinion). There is a mixture of songs in English, Hebrew and Yiddish. The orchestrations by Danny Troob, Glen Rouen and Lawrence Schwartz (various songs) are sophisticated and slick (a la Sesame Street). Some reflect influence of the klezmer style clarinet and are quite a bit of fun with flair. Some are typical of their show on TV. The album includes Chanukah songs, general Yiddish songs, and some typical Sharon, Lois and Bram fare such as "Don't Bring an Elephant to a Family Meal". There's also the fun arrangement of "A Winter Sweet" which takes Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker music and puts it to wonderful lyrics by Mark Saltzman and Glen Rouen. Very upbeat and fun. Young children will like this album, I'll bet. Another of my favorites. Judy Pinnolis, 1998

Did anyone on this thread mention Shari, Lois, And Brams Chanukkah CD (titled something like Lights of Long Ago). I thought it was quite cute. Rich Wolpoe, 1998

Chanukah: A Singing Celebration, Cindy Paley, on Koleet Productions (CD) (1988)

My personal favorite ... all her tapes are excellent. Cantor Mandi Kark Beckenstein, 1998. Someone else must have mentioned Cindy Paley.... Robert Weiner, 1998

Chanukah: Songs for Children by Shimon and Ilana on Elite Records, ELS-404, originally an LP.

One of my favorites for young children. Both Shimon and Ilana have extremely pleasant, non-threatening voices and storytelling style which I found very attractive to children. The storytelling in American English has a very welcome tone. Singing some traditional songs in a pleasant folk style (not a cantorial voice style) with guitar, accordian and flute accompaniments. Songs are in Hebrew and English. Apparently the LP had text printed; the cassette doesn't. The songs are clearly pronounced. It's a good first album for kids because of the storytelling aspects and appropriate for young children and lower elementary grades. Judy Pinnolis, 1998

Chanukah Miracle: A Sing Along. by Paul Zim with the Dreidelettes (a children's chorus) and orchestrations by the "Dreidel Players Orchestra" led by Michael Tornick.

There are some great songs written by contemporary Israeli artists such as Ehud Manor and Nurit Hirsh, and songs by Paul Zim. One with words and music, George D. Weiss, "Eight days of Chanukah" is a fun counting song. The cassette includes words in Hebrew and English. Inside the cover are Hebrew, transliterations and English, which is good for a sing-a-long album! Arrangements range from easy rock to the children's choir. Judy Pinnolis, 1998

generic album coverThe Golden Dreydl: A Klezmer Nutcracker for Chanukah, with Ellen Kushner and the Shirim Klezmer Orchestra, (c) 2000 WGBH Educational Foundation. $20, from "The Golden Dreydl," WGBH Radio, 125 Western Ave., Boston, MA 02134. Web:

I have just had my first listens to a delightful recording sent to me a few months ago, "The Golden Dreydl" that matches Shirim Klezmer Orchestra's "Klezmer Nutcracker" with a delightful story written by author and radio host (Sound and Spirit) Ellen Kushner. This is a very, very nice Chanuka story. I'm hoping to try it out on neighborhood kids this holiday to see how they react. But it seems to be a great story about Chanuka as kids would experience it today, with some wonderful very Jewish touches, ranging from learning the secret lore of letters to King Solomon to the golden dreydl, itself. And the band? The band is marvellous. You can really hear how much of the original was lost when Tchaikovsky erased the klezmer touches in this delightful music. As for the heroine in Ellen's ... well, you'll have to listen to find out her adventures saving the Golden Dreydl. There is also a fun & games page online. Ari Davidow, 2001

Just In Time For Chanukah by Margeie Rosenthal and Ilene Safyan.

Our best selling Chanukah recording for the last two years.... This recording has been out since the late '80s, and has received the Parent's Choice Award and, like that rabbit, "It keeps Going, and Going, and Going..." $ 9.98 cassette, $14.98 CD, Simon, Hatikva Music, 1998

lovely album coverOy Vey, Chanukah, Sruli & Lisa, Backyard Partners, 205 Rogers Drive, Scarsdale, NY 10583

For raves by Ari Davidow, Dena Ressler, and Michael, age 5, see the KlezmerShack review of this amazing album. Ordering info, too! Ari Davidow, 2001

Albums, older kids

Chanukah Favorites, by Judy Caplan Ginsburgh

New to CD this year. The cassette was released last year. This is a very fine recording for young children since it has many "sing a long, play along songs" in English as well as the traditional Chanukah Songs. Also awarded Parants Choice Award. $9.98 cs, $14.98 cd. Simon, Hatikva Music, 1998

Hanukkah and all that Jazz by Jon Simon. Silver Lining Records SL004D (1992)

This is a solo piano album that puts the chanukah songs to easy listening jazz arrangements. If you like that kind of "jazz", then you may like this. If not, then don't bother with this album. Judy Pinnolis, Robert Weiner, 1998

Hanukah Songs by Chaim Parchi 1987.

Arrangements by Richard Friedman, CP Music, Newton MA. Judy Pinnolis, 1998

Songs for Hanukah and other Festivals: The Haimsche Music Co. 1984

Arrangements by Charles B. Crews. Traditional songs. Judy Pinnolis, 1998

Yemei Hachanuka: Chanuka songs, Hed Artzi AN 14875 This is an LP number.

Traditional and Israeli school songs. Judy Pinnolis, 1998


Chanukah, by Pianolite

This is very romantic background recordings of Chanukah music. This recording is part of a series of "Music for Dining" by candlelight and is the only one of the series containing Jewish music. Released last year, this is an excellent recording for background of adult parties, and won't frazzle your nerves by the 8th night of Chanukah. CD $14.98, Simon, Hatikva Music, 1998

To Life! Chanukah and other Jewish celebrations.

It had songs for these celebrations: Chanukah, Passover, Purim, Rosh Hashanah, Simchat Torah, Shabbat and General Celebrations. It has 27 great songs and is a great cd to add to your collection. by Rhino Records. Jenny Thomas, 1998

Hill Country Hannuka

Just a note to let you know our latest recording project "Hill Country Hannuka" is now available. You can pick up your copy locally at Waterloo Records or the Agudas Achim Gift shop, or simply order one on-line from our secure shopping cart: .

Just the perfect thing for your Holiday-gift-giving-season needs. Recorded utterly live on KUT's Liveset and strangely broadcast on New Years' Eve '00. Reflecting the wide range of Jewish culture in the Austin community, this pan-Judeo musical event finds the band playing along w/ the Congregation Agudas Achim choir under the direction of Cantor Neil Blumofe, folk singer Robbie Sherwin from Congregation Kol Halev, and members of new local, all female Sephardic ensemble Divahn. Mark Rubin, Rubinchik's Yiddish Ensemble, 2001

A Chanuka playlist, Mike Eisenstadt

From: Mike Eisenstadt,
Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998
To: "World music from a Jewish slant.",

Here is the Chanukah "play list" from this year's two Chanukah Shows.

There is no particular order here, I am just looking at the various cd's and tapes and trying to remember what exactly I played - not such an easy task :-) Both shows are still available for listening at (find the sunday simcha in the archives):

Eight Days of Chanukah - George David Weiss
LIght a Candle For Chanukah - Debbie Friedman
Judah Macabbee - Safam
Candles of the Menorah - Safam
Another Year, Another Chanukah - Kol B'Seder
La Latka - A yeadle bit of shlock - outer limits
Light One Candle - Peter, Paul, and Mary
The Festival of Lights - Kenny Karen
Chanukah Rap - Craig Taubman
We Light the Lights - Sam Glazer
Hanuka - Judy Frankel
From Happy Chanukah My Friend:
   Happy Chanukah, My Friend    I Have a Little Dreidel medley
Soufganiot - Rabbi Joe Black
Judah Maccabbee - Rabbi Joe Black
Chanukah Chag Yafeh - Paul Zim
The Dreidel Song - Debbi Friedman
Chanukah Chase (can't remember the artist- it's on an LP at the station)
Maoz Tzur - Paul Zim
Oh Chanukah - Danny Albert Orchestra
Na-Me Na Menorah - Allan Lieberman
Hanukah Man - Allan Lieberman
Chanukah Menorah - Rabbi Joe Black
My Menorah -Shlock Rock
Cuts 19-25 on The Chanukah Story Theodore Bikel and The Western Wind
The ENTIRE Oy Chanukah CD by the Klezmer Conservatory Band

I know that I have missed some tunes that i played and that I may have listed the wrong tune from one of the tapes above...but this is a fair representation. There is still a whole bunch of Chanukah music and storytelling left that I didn't play.....

Mix the tunes in with my talking, people bringing me latkes and soufganiot to eat "on air"...dvrai Torah, etc etc and.....four hours of Chanukah programming....

A Klezmer Hanukkah book

Shira's Hanukkah Gift

I found the best children's Hanukkah picture/story book in Chapters yesterday! Shira's Hanukkah Gift written by Joan Betty Stuchner with beautiful illustrations by Richard Row. According to the title page, it was formerly known as "The Kugel Valley Klezmer Band". It is published by Scholastic Canada Ltd. [More of the review], Karen Gall, 2001

Two books for children

I meant to share these 2 books with the list sooner, but ...well, you know... Anyway, khanike isn't over yet. For those looking for picture books with musical themes for 4-9 year olds, I recommend The Kugel Valley Klezmer Band by Joan Betty Stuchner, illustrated by Richard Rowe published by Crocodile Books USA, isbn 1-56656-430-1, and Come Let Us Be Joyful! The Story of Hava Nagila by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Rosalind Charney Kaye, published by UAHC Press, isbn 8074-0731-3. Both are hardbacks.

The Kugel Valley Klezmer Band, set in Canada, is about Shira, the daughter of the clarinetist in the 3-member klezmer band, who dreams of being a violinist. No surprise - with the encouragement of Isaac, the fiddler and the will to listen and practice, practice, practice, she confounds her parents' skepticism ("No girl has ever played in a klezmer band") and saves the day at the big khanike party when Isaac is too sick to play. Good illustrations. A nice book for the children of klezmer players or any kids who are musical. Nice to see a book about klezmers which also illustrates the folk method of learning to play an instrument (watch and listen all the time and then practice, practice in secret on your own).

Come Let Us Be Joyful! is the story of how a 12 year old student, Moshe Nathanson, and his teacher, A.Z. Idelsohn, collaborated on turning a niggun from Sadigora into the song "Hava Nagila." Obviously, this book comes down on the side of Nathanson in the "who wrote the words, Nathanson or Idelsohn" controversy. But no matter, it is a charming Zionist book which nicely shows the way the "folk process" adopts a composed (or partially composed) song as its own.

Shira Lerner, 2002

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