It seems that a few years ago, political journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, now at The Atlantic (then at The Jerusalem Post), was complaining about the lack of exciting Hanukkah songs. I guess nothing stirred his soul akin to “White Christmas” (written by the Rebbe Irving Berlin), “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” (co-written by MOT’s Mel Torme and Bob Wells), “Let It Snow” (written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne), or “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree ” (both written by Johnny Marks). So he started a Hanukkah song contest called “Write-a-New-Song-for-Hanukkah.” He received more than 200 entries, but most, in his opinion, were crap. (I am assuming that the writers from the old Chassidic Song Fest, Eurovision, or Tzvika Pik never entered)
You probably already know that U.S. Senator Robert Byrd (a senator for 50 years and the Senate’s President pro tempore) is a fiddle player and has issued a CD of mountain music; but did you know that U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, a mezuzah-wearing Mormon leader, loves to write hymns and songs. Senator Hatch, 75, who has served in the Senate for over three decades, also serves on the Board of Directors for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He tried his hand at a Hanukkah song, which can be seen and heard at Tablet magazine. click there or HERE to listen to it.
Nice try Senator. I don’t want to discourage you. You did better than I could. And the lyrics focus on the true nature of the holiday and not latkes. But it doesn’t stir my soul. I will stick to Ma’oz Tsur for now. I do enjoy Goldberg’s story of how the song was created, and how Goldberg found kosher food in West Virginia on Xmas Eve, on the magical night that the Senator phoned him about the song. I look forward to Hatch’s future attempts, cuz the more he focuses on song writing, the less time he has for legislation. Ouch.