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A Collection of Jewish Resources

By Gaby Ritter, MusicWorx Intern
Edited by Theresa Kwong, Communications Consultant

I recently had the opportunity to give my coworkers and mentors at MusicWorx Inc., a short presentation about Judaism. I included a basic summary of foundational Judaic beliefs, as well as key information about upcoming and recurrent holidays. At the presentation’s conclusion, one of the music therapists on staff asked a question, “are there appropriate times to bring in specific Jewish songs?” Her question prompted my wheels to start turning. I realized a collection of Jewish music themes as a reference would benefit both myself and others to be mindful, culturally aware facilitators. 

 

As you look at the resources below, keep in mind…

The Calendar: The Jewish calendar differs from the more commonly used, secular Gregorian calendar. Therefore, Jewish holidays do not annually land on the same date. When deciding to tailor experiences or therapeutic sessions to a Jewish holiday, make sure you research when the holiday falls that year, and that it may begin that evening or the evening before. For convenience, I have included dates for the next two years.

Jewish Diversity: Jews from around the world have developed their own unique Jewish customs that fall into two main subcultures of Judaism. Ashkenazi Jews originate from France, Germany and Eastern Europe, while Jewish descendents from Spain, Portugal, Africa, and the Middle East are Sephardic. Sephardim and Ashkenazim use different pronunciations of Hebrew, different melodies for prayers, and have slightly different traditional customs and foods. Other Jews who do not fit into these two main categories, have subgroups of their own, each incorporating unique elements and traditions. 

Further, Jewish people may choose to identify with one of several denominations of Judaism which can influence how they uphold Jewish tradition and religious observance. The main four denominations in the US are Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist. Though some may decide to identify outside of these labels as Nondemoninational. 

Please recognize there is incredible diversity within the Jewish people. While the following collection of resources are common songs from my Jewish upbringing, they may not adequately represent everyone’s unique Jewish experience. 

Keep Learning: Please note the list is only one short collection of Jewish holidays and accompanying songs. If you are interested in deepening your understanding of the Jewish culture, or a particular holiday and its songs, a quick Google search can supplement the information included below. 

 

A Brief Summary of Jewish Holidays and Accompanying Songs

Tu B’shevat: Tu B’shevat celebrates the arrival of Spring. To celebrate, some Jewish people have picnics, plant trees, and eat fruit.

Upcoming Date(s):

  • January 24th-25th, 2024

Some Tu B’shevat Favorites: 

 

Purim: Purim commemorates the defeat of an evil man, Haman, after he plotted to wipe out the Jews. Jewish people celebrate by reading the “Megillah of Esther,” eating hamantaschen (triangle-shaped cookies), dressing up in costumes, and making charitable donations.

Upcoming Date(s): 

  • March 23rd-24th, 2024

Some Purim Favorites:

 

Passover: Passover celebrates when the Jewish people were liberated from Egyptian slavery. To commemorate this holiday, many Jews host or attend a Seder, a traditional dinner involving blessings, retelling the story of Passover, symbolic foods, and more. Some also avoid chametz (leavened foods) in favor of eating matzah. This holiday is observed for about a week. Songs highlight different parts of the story of Passover, and can be serious or fun.

Upcoming Date(s): 

  • April 22nd-30th, 2024

Traditional Songs:

Traditional AND Fun Song:

  • Chad Gadya (One Little Goat): 

                English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaZuI-WZTe8 

                Hebrew: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKwOOpJCgFU

Well-known Parodies/Fun:

 

Rosh Hashanah: Rosh Hashanah marks the start of the Jewish Calendar. To celebrate the Jewish New Year, people attend high holiday religious services, eat apples dipped in honey, and enjoy round, braided challah (a bread) to signify a sweet year to come. In services, Jews blow the shofar, a trumpet-like instrument traditionally made from a ram’s horn. The shofar’s powerful sounds commemorate the high holiday. 

Upcoming Date(s): 

  • September 15th-17th, 2023
  • October 2nd-4th, 2024

Some Rosh Hashanah Favorites:

 

Yom Kippur: The holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur is a day of atonement. Many Jewish people observe Yom Kippur by fasting (not eating or drinking) and participating in prayer. On this day, Jews atone for all of the mistakes they made in the past year. The shofar is used again, this time to mark the end of the fast. 

Upcoming Date(s): 

  • September 24th-25th, 2023
  • October 11th-12th, 2024

Some Yom Kippur Favorites:

 

Sukkot: Sukkot is a harvest festival where Jewish people build temporary shelters (Sukkas) and decorate them with fruits and vegetables. This holiday lasts one week and involves eating and sleeping in the outdoor shelter in order to commemorate when God sheltered the Israelites on their journey from Egypt.

Upcoming Date(s): 

  • September 29th, 2023-October 6th, 2023
  • October 16th-October 23rd, 2024

A Sukkot Favorite: 

 

Hanukkah: Hanukkah is the celebration which commemorates how after a successful battle against the Ancient Greeks, one supply of oil miraculously kept the Holy Temple’s Menorah lit for eight days. Because of this, Hanukkah is celebrated for eight nights with eating latkes, lighting the menorah, and playing the dreidel! Although Hanukkah falls around Christmas, it is actually considered one of the minor Jewish holidays and is not included in the Hebrew Bible. 

Upcoming Date(s): 

  • December 7th-15th, 2023
  • December 25th- January 2nd, 2024

Some Hanukkah Favorites:

 

Shabbat: This weekly day of rest reminds Jewish people of the day of rest God took after creating the universe. Shabbat begins each Friday at sundown and ends each Saturday at sundown. Friday nights are marked with blessings over the candles, challah bread, and glass of wine, and Saturdays are used as a time to unplug, connect with family, and to prepare for the new week.

Some Shabbat Favorites:

 

Conclusion

There are several Jewish holidays and traditions around the world that a culturally competent music therapist should take into consideration. I’m hopeful that this carefully curated list will provide you with the foundational tools needed to successfully bring holiday-specific songs into sessions and better serve your Jewish patients.

 

References

Iranian Jewish Life in Los Angeles: Past and Present: Stephen S. Wise Temple: Ashkenazi vs. Sephardic. (n.d.). Iranian Jewish Life in Los Angeles: Past and Present. Retrieved January 30, 2023, from https://scalar.usc.edu/hc/iranian-jews-in-los-angeles/steph en-s-wise-temple-ashkenazi-vs-sephardic

Jakubovitz, G. (n.d.). Sukkot Songs. Hebrewsongs.com. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from http://www.hebrewsongs.com/sukkotsongs.htm 

Jean-Louis, R. (2013, September 3). Music for rosh hashanah and Yom Kippur. Georgia Public Broadcasting. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://www.gpb.org/blogs/family/2013/09/04/music-for-rosh-hashanah-and-yom-kippur 

Jewish holiday list. Jewish Federation of St. Louis. (2021, December 15). Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://www.jfedstl.org/news-events/upcoming-events/jewish-holiday-list/ 

My Jewish Learning. (2018, July 31). Types of Jews. Retrieved January 30, 2023, from https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/types-of-jews/

Purim song sheets. Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation |. (2020, November 17). Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://adatshalom.net/pray/music/purim-song-sheets/ 

Songs and dances for Yom Ha’atzmaut. Jewish World Life Online. (2020). Retrieved December 19, 2022, from http://www.jewishaustralia.com/yomhaatzmaut-songsanddances.asp 

Temple B’nai Abraham. (n.d.). Purim Songs 2021. tbanj.org. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://tbanj.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/PURIM-SONGS-2021.pdf 

 

Further Reading

A Personal Journey of Countertransference

Music in Spirituality

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