A very Mormon Chanukah


If a Jewish composer can give us a "White Christmas," who says a Mormon senator can’t produce a hit Chanukah song?

The New York Times reports:

The canon of Hanukkah songs written by Mormon senators from Utah just got a little bigger.Senator Orrin G. Hatch, a solemn-faced Republican with a soft spot for Jews and a love of Barbra Streisand, has penned a catchy holiday tune, “Eight Days of Hanukkah.”

The video was posted Tuesday night on Tablet, an online magazine of Jewish lifestyle and culture, just in time for Hanukkah.

Known around the Senate as a prolific writer of Christian hymns and patriotic melodies, Mr. Hatch, 75, said this was his first venture into Jewish music. It will not be his last.

“Anything I can do for the Jewish people, I will do,” Mr. Hatch said in an interview before heading to the Senate floor to debate an abortion amendment. “Mormons believe the Jewish people are the chosen people, just like the Old Testament says.”

Read the full story.

Over at Tablet, Jeffrey Goldberg has the back story:

Ten years ago, I visited Orrin Hatch, the senior senator from Utah and a prominent member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on Capitol Hill. I was writing for The New York Times Magazine and Hatch was thinking of running for president. We talked about politics for a few minutes, and then he said, “Have you heard my love songs?”

No senator had asked me that question before. It turned out that Hatch was a prolific songwriter, not only of love songs, but of Christian spirituals as well. We spent an hour in his office listening to some of his music, a regular Mormon platter party. After five or six Christmas songs, I asked, him, “What about Hanukkah songs? You have any of those?” …

Hatch lit up at my suggestion. He asked me to jot down some possible themes, which I did. Then he got sidetracked by his presidential campaign. (He didn’t win.) Still, time went on, and no song.

I never forgot about it, though. My interest in the Hanukkah story has stayed with me. I’m even writing a biography of Judah Maccabee for Nextbook Press. Last December, while reading From Ezra to the Last of the Maccabees, by Elias Bickerman, my mind wandered back to Orrin Hatch’s promise, and so I reminisced on my Atlantic blog about the time Hatch nearly wrote a Hanukkah song for me. A couple of days later, I received an email that read, “Dear Jeff, I know it’s nine years too late, but I hope you will like some of the following ideas.” What followed were five verses of a sincerely felt Hanukkah song. …

Read Goldberg’s full story. And then watch the video:

Eight Days of Hanukkah from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.

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