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Songs of Songs

What are the 100 greatest Jewish songs ever? Tablet Magazine’s musicologists rank them all, from sacred to pop to hip-hop, from Rabbi Akiva to Amy Winehouse.

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21. “Ol’ Man River” (1927)

There had never been a showtune like the centerpiece ballad of Show Boat—a meditation on race, class, the suffering of humanity, and the indifference of nature. Jerome Kern’s melody is indelible. Oscar Hammerstein’s lyric is philosophical. And the river in question—the mighty Mississippi—is eternal: It just keeps rolling along. (JR)

22. “If I Were a Rich Man” (1964)

Shtetl nostalgia on Broadway. Daidle deedle daidle daidle daidle deedle daidle dum. (JR)

23. “Oseh Shalom” (1974)

This snippet of the much longer paragraph that traditionally concludes the Amidah—the standing prayer—stands alone as a blessing for peace. Ironically enough, the song’s most popular melody did not come from any of the great composers of Jewish liturgical music but from Nurit Hirsh, an Israeli pop singer—who also wrote “aba-ni-bi,” the most famous song ever written in Hebrew pig Latin. (AYK)

24. “Der Heyser Bulgar” (1923)

“Hava Nagila” before there was “Hava Nagila.” The original Jewish party-starter. (AYK)

100 Best Jewish Songs

25. “Hallelujah” (1981)

David and Bathesheba. Samson and Delilah. Bathing on the rooftop and bondage in the kitchen. Leonard Cohen’s 1981 ballad blends the biblical and erotic to create a Jewish gospel testimonial—a praise song to “the Lord of song” and, as Jeff Buckley once put it, “a hallelujah to the orgasm.” (JR)

26. “On Broadway” (1963)

This 1963 tour de force found four illustrious Brill Building songwriters—Barry Mann, Cynthia Weill, Jerry Leiber, and Mike Stoller—meditating on three durable Jewish-American themes: immigrant hopes and hardships, the lure of showbiz, and the promise of that Jerusalem on the Hudson, where “there’s always magic in the air.” (JR)

27. “Summertime” (1935)

George Gershwin’s “negro spiritual” from Porgy and Bess was reportedly based on a traditional Ukrainian lullaby. But can we also detect a Jewish tinge in those bluesy intervals—generations of cantors wailing “fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high”? (JR)

28. “Lekha Dodi” (16th century)

While Rabbi Isaac Luria, a Sephardic Jew living in Safed, gets credit for inventing the Sabbath eve service, props for its signature poem go to another Sephardic poet, Solomon Halevi Alkabetz. This song—which modestly includes his own name in an acrostic—cemented the image of Sabbath as bride/queen. (AYK)

29. “Bei Mir Bist Du Shein” (1932)

Arguably the most famous Yiddish song ever. It was written by Sholom Secunda, who famously sold the publishing rights for $30. A few years later, Sammy Cahn allegedly heard it performed by two African American singers at a Harlem nightclub and quickly jotted down an English translation. Cahn kept the Yiddish refrain and interpolated the German “wunderbar,” because Al Jolson was then starring in a show of the same name. Cahn passed the song on to the Andrews Sisters, and the rest is a history of covers that spans the globe. (AYK)

30. “What the World Needs Now Is Love” (1965)

From Brill Building titans Burt Bacharach and Hal David, this ’60s hit is an ecumenical prayer for peace, love, and understanding. It’s the Jewish “Kumbaya.” (JR)

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Where is “Hanukkah, Oy Hanukkah”? Where is it?

Jay A Friedman says:

I think you are carrying your liberal approach to Judaism a bit too far.

“White Cristmas” is an enjoyable song. I have always been a fan of Bing Crosby and I think Irving Berlin is an excellent songwriter.

But to claim that it is a “Jewish” song is bending over a bit too backwards (or forwards.)

In my book ” Jewish Music as Midrash: What Makes Music Jewish?” I tackle this whole notion of authenticity as a Jewish expression in music. Though I cannot subscribe to “hite Christmas” being Jewish simply because Irving Berlin wrote it, I ask the reader to think about both the function of the music and what midrash or point of view this “Jewish” work illuminates an aspect of Judaism. Not being Christian is hardly good enough as a midrash for me what about you?

You may order my book and the double CDs of accompanying examples from

Are you kidding? You include Madonna but only put in ONE song by Leonard Cohen? And it’s “Halleluyah”? What about “Who by Fire”? What about “The Partisan”? What about almost ANY OTHER SONG by him?…And what about Mendelssohn? What about Ernst Bloch? What about Kurt Weill, for God’s sake? What about Jacques Offenbach? AAAARRRGH! My head’s going to explode!

Bennett Muraskin says:

Albert Von Tilzer (#73–Take Me Out to the Ballgame) was Jewish alright but he was not an immigrant. He was born in the US–Indiana, I think.

Bennett Muraskin says:

PS Billy Joel is Jewish on both sides–not half Jewish.

Harold Tobin says:

Whatabout MelTorme Christmas Song. In my opion the best Christmas song written by a Jewish composer

Burton Paikoff says:

I think you went too far in trying to associate Christmas Song as part of Jewish Liturgy just because they were written by Jewish Songwriters. You can’t disassociate the Songs from the Movies that they wer written for.

White Christmas is absolutely a Jewish song. It’s written by a Jew, for one, which seems to be the criteria here (Is Strange Fruit more Jewish for some reason?) And it also speaks to a kind of longing implicit in all the songs listed above. I think it’s a terrific list.

Also? I had no idea Billy Joel was Jewish. Half or whole.

Nice list.

“I Have A Little Dreidel” is a translation of “Ikh Bin a Kleyner Dreydl,” lyrics Ben Arn, music Mikhl Gelbart.

Was there anything by Shlomo Carlebach on this list? What about

“Am Yisroel chai, Od aveinu chai”

Is there a more popular Jewish song?

Now that I think of it, where are Mi Y’malel and Maoz Tzur?

Sam Intrator says:

I always enjoy reading the Tablet because I find your pieces to be thorough and objective. This list has however most unfairly completly avoided contemporary orthodox music. You might have at least chosen Rabbi Shlomo Carlebachs Am Yisroel Chai the theme song for the efforts to free Soviet Jews or his his Lman Achai (Because of my Brothers and friends) which was sung by Pope John Paul at Shay stadium before tens of thousands. These and many other of his compositions are sung all over the world from Chariedi orthodox to Reform and Renewal and every other denomination. Such a flagrant omission world acclaimed popular cries out for explanation

Sam Intrator says:

I forgot the word music in the last sentence

Zum Gali Gali is a genuine Israeli song sung in summer camps and school around the world.

Israeli pop hits are conspicuously missing.

Sharm El Sheikh
Push the Button

There’s really only ONE Ladino song in this list! Los Bilbilikos (#44) and “La Rosa Enflorece” (#63) are the very same song!!!

VoxMysteron says:

Ronnie Bennett didn’t marry Phil Spector until 1968.

Hal Blaine is also a MOT.

Can’t believe you completely left out Dan Nichols.

But that’s the problem with lists like these. They’re completely subjective and you’re always going to get complaints no matter what you do.

R.E. Prindle says:

Haven’t you guys ever heard of Jack Yellin?

New York State Of Mind. More Jewish than Movin’ Out.

This list is too ethnicity-oriented. Lots of non-Jews have written better Jewish songs than many of the half-hearted Jews on this list: Desmond Dekker – “Israelites,” Bob Marley – “Exodus,” Siouxsie and the Banshees – “Israel,” Frank Zappa – “Jewish Princess.”

RACHEL B says:

This list is an outrage and is beneath the editorial stature of Tablet.
It belongs in a personal blog, not in an award-winning Jewish online magazine.


Here’s why:

1.- This list is full of Ashkenazi and US etnnocentrism. As if the entire Jewish world revolved around Yiddish-speaking musicians in New York and LA.

2.- Only 2 mentions of Ladino songs, which, as someone else has pointed out, are the SAME song with different lyrics. You might expect the authors of such a self-aggrandizing list to at least do their research.
Also… Ladino culture is renowned for its enormous musical collection. But the authors thought only 2 –really, 1– song was worth mentioning.

3.- No mention whatsoever of the Morroccan Sephardic tradition, which has been recognized by academics and musicians alike, as one of the most rich in terms of what they did to the Arab-Andalousian musical heritage.

4.- No mention whatsoever of the Mizrahi pizmonim, piyyutim, or bakashot (which are subgenres of the religious poems sung in the synagogue and at family reunions). Again, this inmense tradition has been researched, showcased, recorded and performed by many, many artists. This genre is even undergoing a kind of renaissance, with singing projects, onlie archives, reinterpretations, etc. But this also wasn’t relevant to the authors, who seem obssessed with Ashkenazi, Hollywood and Broadway showtunes.

5.- Next point: Christmas music???? Really??? I bet the authors themselves know this is ridiculous, and just threw them in to:
a) create controversy
b) help make the 100 list
c) were sloppy in their initial premise

6.- When they mention Kol Nidre, they do not bother to mention that the song they love so much is only the Ashkenazi tune… and that half the Jewish world recites the Kol Nidre to entirely different music. I know that this gripe is more concerning the writing, rather than the list itself, but is shows the one-sidedness and Ashkenazi-ethnocentrism of the entire endeavor.

RACHEL B says:


7.- Pop songs like “I Got Rhythm”, “Copacabana”, “Funkytown” and many more that the authors have included… ARE NOT JEWISH SONGS!!! Just because the songwriters, singers, and/or producers were Jews does not make the song a Jewish song.

I could go on… but really, you get my point.
This list belongs in the author’s personal blog, where they can be as irresponsible as they wish. But publishing it on Tablet is a disgrace.
If you want to do a top-100 song list, there are other ways to go about it. Maybe consult a group of 4 or 5 experts from different fields. Maybe have the public vote on their favorites. Maybe specify what constitutes “Jewish” in the first place.

In fact… so much that could be done right.
Yet there is so much that is wrong with this list.

Dan Klein says:

@Susan: I’d say that’s the best thing about lists like these.

Aerosmith’s drummer, Joey Kramer, is Jewish.

Jay A Friedman says:

Rachel B.

I applaud

allenby says:

Billy Joel was and is Jewish, Whole Jewish, and I and everybody of baby Boomers generation, know that from the first song he ever created.

allenby says:

agree, many of the well known songs are NOT Jewish at all.
A composer wrote a song, it became a hit, there is nothing in the song about Judaism or Jewishness…why it’s Jewish ??????
The story is wrong, the headline is wrong, the intention is wrong.

Please fix it, or at least change the headline to:

“Most popular Jewish composers and song-writers of the 20th century”

I was sorta hoping to see the anthem of the “free the Jews from the USSR” movement of my youth…We Are Leaving Mother Russia by Safam! nothing captured that movement more than that song….and they definitely deserve a shout-out, especially if Debbie Friedman got one!

I have been reviewing Jewish music since 1999 and was 90% happy with your list. It’s a bit Tin Pan Alley-heavy, but you hit all the key Israeli songs. Here are my suggested substititions: Bonzo Goes to Bitburg, Ramones; Ain’t Necesarily So, Porgy & Bess; You’ve Got a Friend, C King; Only the Good Die Young, B Joel; God’s Song, R Newman; Good Evening Mr Waldheim, L Reed; by P Simon– Silent Eyes, Old, The Teacher, Hearts and Bones and by L Cohen– Song of Isaac, If It Be Your Will, Who By Fire. You also missed these songs: On Christmas I Got Nothing, C Brosdsky; Lonely Jew on Christmas, South Park; One of Us and All You Zombies, E Bazillian; Untitled, P Himmelman; Reuven Ben Menachem and Never Again, Remedy; …No Master Race, MC Serch; Warsaw 1943 and Jericho, J Clegg; Don’t Call Me White, Fat Mike; The Indifference of Heaven and The Envoy, W Zevon. And Indigo Girl’s This Train. Not all of these songs were as well-known as the ones you chose, so I could do a follow-up arcticle for you about lesser-known Jewish songs by well-known Jewish songwriters.

Sara Ivry says:

Where is Devendra Banhart, Shabop Shalom?
Where is Serge Gainsbourg?

Just saying…those dudes are in my personal top 100.

Allan Leicht says:

There should be regulation aginast lists like this. There are no 100 best of anything. But since it’s already written: Bernstein?! “White Christmas” was eclipsed as putative best by “Why, Oh, Why, Oh, Why-O,” a perfect song.

Bennett Muraskin says:

Another addition:

Zog Nit Keynmol or Never Say—-the anthem in honor of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Bennett Muraskin says:

Wierd Al–Pretty Fly for a Rabbi–and I don’t think he is even Jewish.

Bennett Muraskin says:

Wierd Al, a non Jew, wrote the hilarious Pretty Fly for a Rabbi

Amusingly idiosyncratic list, but how could it not be? To engage with my fellow commenters (generally not a good idea, but I live recklessly):

Hallelujah is a way better song than Who By Fire.

Piano Man is a better song than either New York State of Mind *OR* Movin’ Out, but that’s like saying getting punched in the face is better than getting punched in the groin.

It is a strange list with overwhelming emphasis on American music as if authors have no idea that Jews outside USA write songs also. If criteria for being Jewish music suppose to be the ethnicity or religion of the music’s author – then why they did not include composers from Poland, Russia, Germany, etc.? For example, the song of Matvey Blanter “Katiysha” or Mendelsohn’s “Wedding March”? These are very popular around the world indeed.
The biggest nonsense of all was to include in the list among “100 greatest JEWISH songs” “White Christmas”, “God bless America” and “Internationale”. What these songs have to do with Jews or Jewishness?
Where are the lovely Yiddish songs like “Vu nemt mir abisale mazl” or “Lomir ale ineinem”, “Az der rebe Elimeilah” or “Koif papirosn”? Where is the nice shabes song “Shalom Aleichem”? Where are Sephardic songs “Avram avinu”, “Bella”, etc? Where are Israeli songs? Nothing was created in Israel besides “Yerushalaim shel zahav” and “Hatikva”? How about “Nigun”, “Tni li yad”, “Heiveinu shalom Aleichem”\, etc? Unlike “Internationale” or “God bless America” or hymn of the Soviet Socialist Republics those are indeed Jewish songs.
Very strange list – to say it the least.

Don’t forget Michael Bloomfield, one of the great (Jewish) American electric blues guitarists of the 1960 and 1970s, played on Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited.”

I Just reread this — SO FREAKIN’ INFORMATIVE! And yes, it’s Ashkenazi-ish but there are a LOT of diverse genres on this list, c’mon. And how did it not dawn on me before that Lenny Kravitz ripped off Yo-Ya?? My mind she is blown. Kol Ha’Kavod to the authors.

RACHEL B says:

Well, so that is how “diversity” works, according to @marjorie… “Yes, let’s have a selection that is heavily slanted towards MY kind, and let’s just pepper it with a few minor references here and there to OTHER EXOTIC things, and then it will be diverse.”

This list is bullshit, as well as your idea of what “JEWISH” is.

Matityahu says:

I was actually hoping to see Frank Zappa’s “Jewish Princess”…


It has about the same slant as Tablet as a whole. American. Secular. Not interested in Israel. In fact, pretty clueless about Israeli culture and utterly clueless about orthodoxy, Israeli American or otherwise, except when a demon is needed.

No surprise. Tablet is what it is.

RACHEL B says:

Not so sure I agree with you @Adina (maybe a bit).

The reason why I like Tablet is because it tends to be very balanced in terms of liberal and conservative, intellectual and traditional, secular and orthodox… as well as all the many variations in the middle of the spectrum.

My issue is not so much with Tablet, but with this list… and on second term, with the hypocritical idea of “diversity” within Jewish culture, as was demonstrated by Ms. Marjorie in her comment (and in much of her writing).

I wish that was true. But to me Tablet seems clueless about and uninterested in the traditional community. To stay with the topic of music, there was no coverage of the astonishing success of the Maccabeats Chanukah video Candlelight, with the exception of one snide sentence in a blog post. I think it is an interesting cultural phenomenon. I say an article somewhere pondering why it got so many more hits than the very funny recent AJWS video. Tablet appeared not to notice that Candlelight happened.

50. “Lechi Lach” (1986)

Debbie Friedman’s adaptation of the Biblical “Lekh Lekha,” the command God gives to Abraham to go and find his destiny, is one of the few songs written in the last century that has reached near-liturgical status. Sung at graduations, confirmations, and bar and bat mitzvahs nationwide, this song is guaranteed to reduce any group of parents to tears within the first few bars.

On a list with no song by Shlomo Carlebach, whose tunes are now used by congregations around the world and whose name now describes a category, the “Carlebach minyan” with purley musical (no theological) meaning, this listing proves my point.

And I cannot count the many different lyrics, prayers and youth group songs, set to the tune of “Sharm el-Sheikh.”

I found the list fascinating and amusing, but it is the product of two people who know only a very small slice of world, the secular, American slice.

RACHEL B says:

Amen to the Maccabeats’ extraordinary and transcendent “Candlelight”.
Amen to Shlomo Carlebach.

Double shame on the authors for these (and other) omissions.

Marc Grossberg says:

Who doesn’t love lists? I think lists helped Mike Levy’s Texas Monthly become part of the culture – lists such as Best (a) Chicken Fried Steak (b) Mexican Food (c) barbecue ribs (traif but when they are great they are sooooo good) (d) whatever.
But, what is a Jewish song? I won’t get into the REAL Jewish songs that were omitted (other than to wonder how l’dor v’dor was omitted), but if a Jewish lyricist makes a song Jewish, “The Christmas Song,” by Mel Torme, written after “White Christmas,” has to be high on the list. According to Charles Osgood last Sunday, it is the most performed Christmas song.

Therry Neilsen-Steinhardt says:

One of my favorite aspects of Tablet is the comments section! This list may or may not include the top 100 Jewish songs but the comments certainly do!

This half-Ashkenazi Jew likes Tablet. But my mother wasn’t Jewish, so who am I?

Barbara says:

Someone else also mentioned one of my favotites, Zog Nit Keynmol (the Partisans Song). Another of my all-time favorites since I first heard it in elementary school is Dona Dona.

Thanks to all who responded to my earlier reply and ordered a book from

Jewish Music as Midrash; What Makes Music Jewish? is now in its third printing and seems to fascinate all who read it and listen to its two CDs of musical examples.

Steve Schoenbaum says:

al kol eleh by Naomi Schemer; (practically another Israeli national anthem).

This is not a list of Jewish songs. This is a list of, largely, ASHKENAZI Jewish songs. Jewish and Ashkenazi are not synonyms. How about a REAL list of Jewish songs, or at least label it properly? And having a couple of token Ladino songs (which, incidentally, are both the same song) does not count. What a disappointment from the intelligent writing one has come to expect (at least sometimes) from Tablet.

Does anyone know a good sheet music book for Klezmer
music that includes a piano part? I’m looking for a
score, not a Fake Book.

no songs or melodies of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach? that’s weird

Dietz H. Ziechmann says:

I love this collection and the sprightly commmentary accompanying it. It may neglect Sephadic music somewhat, but it’s full-on from the heart of Jewish music most familiar to most Ashkenazim (who consititute the majority of contemporary Jews). There are nuances and incongruent little details that delight me and doubtless many others. One can also come up with substitutes or alternative collections. The miracle is that someone had the heart,courage and intellect to put this list together. It hits the highs and lows, the idealizing and the trashy, the spectrum of life. Mazel tov. This should be put out on a CD album, if someone hasn’t already.

Steve Cohen says:

You mention that “I’ve Gotta Be Me” is “Sammy Davis Jr.’s answer to his Rat Pack confrere Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’” but Frank’s recording of “My Way” didn’t come out until 1969. It could be that “My Way” was meant to emulate the success of “I’ve Gotta Be Me,” which predates it by a year.

Martin S. says:

Neil Diamond? …and not Joseph Kosma’s gorgeous “Les Feuilles Mortes” with french lyrics by Prevert. As beautiful as September Song when done by Yves Montand. Toots Thielemans called it “the empress of songs…” Neil Diamond? Get real!

Ivan Stoler says:

“Stay with me” as recorded by the Dictators, written by Andy Shernoff.

What about Phil Ochs?

Tinoket says:


David C. says:

There is a distinct laziness to having no criteria at all for this list. Gentile composers create music that has no religious affiliation and cannot be described as “Christian”, “Hindu”, or “Moslem”. Therefore I don’t understand the lazy anything goes attitude expressed by this group of music critics. I appreciate and enjoy the music created by Paul Simon and E. Y. Harburg perhaps even more than that of Sulzer or Lewandowski, but there is a distinct reason why Sulzer and Lewandowski’s music clearly qualifies as Jewish that does not follow AT ALL for either Simon or Harburg.
There is a cuteness to this list that reveals to me a deliberate thumbing of the nose and that of course is a classic post modern Jewish stance. My sense is that the authors are more interested in seeing who they can get worked up by making this list than actually thinking through the pieces and coming up with a comprehensive list that reflects the history and culture of Jewish music. For example, why pick a song from West Side Story to represent the work of Leonard Bernstein when he composed an entire body of music that is clearly and deliberately Jewish (eg., Kaddish). As one other commentator pointed out there is a clear lack of Sephardic music or any other diasporic Jewish music other than Ashkenaz. And where are the many compositions that have come out recently from the downtown Radical Jewish music movement? What I can only conclude is that this list was thrown together without a significant amount of profound thought and as I already wrote above, is meant more to provoke than inform. What a pity. And what a wasted opportunity. My final observation: this list fails the test the critical list of the top 100 pieces of Jewish music is still waiting to be made.

I agree with most of what you wrote in terms of not putting deep thought into what constitutes as Jewish Music, except for your comparison to “Christian” or “Muslim” music.
I don’t think that Judaism falls exactly under the same umbrella as it is not just a religion, but rather a “Peoplehood”. This includes also other shared cultural and other characteristics beyond just religion ( I’ve never heard anyone refer to the Christian people for example…).

So the list should be wider than just “religiously” affiliated, but maybe a bit narrower and more thoughtful then what they did…A great conversation starter though.

This is NOT a List of Jewish Music! This is a list of Music by JEWS!. There is a big difference. If I, as an orthodox Jew, write a Mass is it Jewish? No it is Chritian. As is White Christmas. I. Berlin may have written it but it is not a piece of Jewish Music. Nor is this a liskt of Ashkenazi Music- Again, maybe music written by Ashkenazism. There are , infact, three major streams of authentically Jewish Music. REliogus- Not only Ashkenazic and Sephardic, but Yemenite, Italian, Greek, etc.; Secular- Yiddish and Hebrew – experesseing the hopes, dreams and politics of the Jewish People, and Israel- but only that which, again , express the hiopes, ideas, and dreams of the Jewish People. Modern Israeli Rock, would be classified a s, perhaps, Music by Jews, as opposed to Jewish Music, the same as most of the Tablet’s list.

There is an error here.. Billy Joel is 100% Jewish

Dee Dee Ramone, non jew, wrote the lyrics to Blitzkrieg Bop. Try again.

gzuckier says:

Listen to Fortuna’s version of Shalom Aleichem (on the A Jewish Odyssey compilation on Putumayo Records) and tell me that’s not in the top ten.

I’ve enjoyed a lot this “100 BEST JEWISH SONGS”, thank you so very much. I’ll pass it on to my lists too (wish I could eliminate all those ignoramus comments though…

…Yes, it’s disgraceful that many of the commenters are so ungrateful and write so many critiques, most quite ignoramus and totally bypassing any hint of good spelling and grammar!

If they think themselves so muchh better, why not do it themselves like…live and let live???

There’s a good proverb: “Tell me what you boast of and I’ll tell you what you are lacking.”

re the comment “Listen to Fortuna’s version of Shalom Aleichem (on the A Jewish Odyssey compilation on Putumayo Records) and tell me that’s not in the top ten.”
OK. I’ll tell you. It isn’t.

Bernard says:

Just wondering…are all these composers 100% Jewish? I.E., both parents were Jewish? No question about the genius and beauty of these songs, that will live forever. For that I say, thank you.

Another great Jewish-authored Christmas Song:

To all those who seem to be yelling about this list as not jewish or whatever. I quote from the “not Jewish” Frank Zappa:

“Don’t yell so loud. You’ll hurt your voice.”

Fun list. Don’t agree with everything, but that’s OK. You certainly provoked responses.

where can this be purchased. i have searched on line.


I agree with everything David C says. Putting “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at #1 is an obvious thumbing the nose. This list is ridiculous and should be taken as a joke or light humor. It is not scholarly, well researched or open minded; nor is there any cogent guiding principal to it.

As to those who are asking if the composers are fully Jewish by having two Jewish parents, Judaism is a religion, NOT a race.

Great article! I’m making a documentary film about #2 on the list, Hava Nagila. Called Hava Nagila: What Is It?, the doc traces the amazing journey of Hava Nagila from a Hassidic wordless prayer in the Ukraine to Bar Mitzvah standard to international pop culture utube favorite. It’s an unexpected and unexpectedly deep story, how a song can carry with it the entire Jewish experience from oy to joy! Check it out at Everyone who donates $18 gets a credit on the film!! Roberta Grossman

“Over the Rainbow”, the unofficial gay anthem, written by two Jews. Who knew?

Arnie Winer says:

Your list could have gone on for another 100, especially if you had included anything by Stephen Sonheim…Send in the Clowns; I’m Still Here; songs from “Gypsy”; etc. And there’s a lesser-known singer/composer who has an international reputation with young people: Sam Glazer. His “My Letter in the Torah” is a big hit with kids.

J F Levin says:

They ain’t making Jews… by Kinky Freedman deserves to be on the list,
but to overlook City of New Orleans by Steve Goodman, who actually got a country grammy for lifetime achievement is criminal. And I would hope that good ol’ Jewboy Kinky would agree with me.

JSilvers says:

Since all of the lists include Irving Berlin’s White Christmas- what about Mel Torme’s Christmas Song? Chestnuts roasting on an open fire….?

Yes, ideally, Kinky Friedman, Steve Goodman, and more Sephardic music should be on this list, but hey, there are only 100 slots. (But Steve Goodman, I mean, really, should be…). This is tremendous fun. Oz as Yeretz Israel? Interesting…


That list is very short somehow, where are all those classical jewish composers ??


dubala says:

Seltzer BOY!

R.E. Prindle says:

For Gene, 12/21, 2:53: God Bless America, Irving Berlin is as Jewish as you can get. God is Jewish not Christian and ‘stand beside her, and guide her’ means Jews should stand beside the New Promised Land and direct her. Very cleverly worded with disguised meaning but Jewish none the less.

Walt Gray says:

The list is fun (though meaningless. I recall reading some years ago that while the vast majority of the great Broadway composers were Jewish, one of the greatest, Cole Porter, who was not, seemed to have been the most influenced by Jewish music.

And yu did get one fact wrong (maybe more; this is the only one I’ aware of). Averham Idelsohn did NOT write the words to “Hava Nagila”. The words were written by one of his young students in Palestine, Moshe Nathanson, who went on to become the Reconstructionist Movements first cantor (in NYC). Source: “Heritage of Music – The Music of the Jewish People” by Judith Kaplan-Eisenstein.

What about Idan Raichel’s Im Telech (If You Go)?

Ed Saslaw says:

Love the list, but for the omission of this:, which is a must.

Just a note: The band listed here as Poogy was known inside Israel as Kaveret, and they really did have some great tunes–and lyrics.

Great list and great follow up comments. (I agree with the person who suggested Yerushalaim Shel Zahav should have been on the list, especially after tablet’s excellent podcast about the song a few months back.)

David says:

I think you shoud have differentiated between songs written by Jews and
Jewish songs. There _is_ a difference.

If a Christian publication used the same wide definition, then “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” by Bruce Cockburn would be considered a Christian song” because he is a Christian! That song is NOT a Christian ong, but a song written (and sung) by a Christian.

So is “Ave Maria” a Christian song when Amy Grant sings it, but a Jewish
song when Barbra Striesand sings it! 8-)

The video of Bob Dylan’s “Neighborhood Bully” (No.94 on the list) has been removed by YouTube “because its contents violated YouTube’s Terms of Service”.
Can it reslly be that the person(s) responsible (or the computer program used for the purpose) have characterized this song as fomenting hatred toward Jews?
Witless and outrageous!

perfect example of the new Latke Judaisim. White Christmas a Jewish song? You are reducing Judaisim to non alcholic beer, a soy burger, a miserable shadow of its meaning.

harris says:

this is a great list. it accomplishes what it set out to accomplish, dialogue, and looking at the world through jewish eyes. to those who found fault, create your own criteria and lists, the more input the better. the important part of the exercise, is to share with others.

“nobody comes to synagogue on Yom Kippur because they believe in those words”

Really? Every time I start to enjoy an article in Tablet – a ridiculous, insulting and false statement always shakes me back to reality. Can you at least PRETEND to respect the observant amongst us?

what about Carole King,, “You’ve Got a Friend”?
Meir Finkelstein? Julie Gold’s ” From a Distance”
Goldrich Heisler’s Alto’s Lament?
Abie Rotenberg’s The Place Where I Belong?
Shlomo Carlbach?
Robbie Krieger? ( ok, a distant cousin..)
Cantor Adolph Katchko? ( yeah, my grandfather)

I enjoyed most of it,, would hope that someone will do another list soon! I’m doing a concert and a cd soon, called, The American Jewish Songbook and some of the comments were helpful!

what about Shalom Rav? Klepper/Friedlander??? one of the greatest temple hits!

Ilona Glaser says:

There are many great songs on this list. However, I was hoping to find a list of Yiddish Folk songs and words to them (even music sheets if possible).
It is very sad that the Yiddish culture is disappearing. A list of Yiddish songs(as a working document) would be a good way to contribute to the history of our culture as much as possible, and a practical step to preserve what we could still collectively save from disappearing. Just a thought…

You did a good job of creating an eclectic list of songs by Jewish composers, but you missed one of the best – TOM LEHRER!! Yes, he is Jewish and he even wrote a Jewish song – Chanukah in Santa Monica – which is much more clever than Adan Sandler’s Chanukah song.

Tum Balaleika-In spite of the title,the song is the lament in riddle form about a young wouldbe lover on how to attract the young lady of his dreams and desires.

Dinah Rebecca Kaufman says:

Im Nin´alu in 1968 ??? In this year, Ofra Haza was barely 11 years old !
Album “Shaday” was relased 20 years later.

Stanley S. says:

A wonderful, wonderful comprehensive look at these great, familiar songs. They have been part of our lives since we were children, and we have a tendency to take them for granted! Bravo to the writers for a terrific article!

Michelle says:

A thoroughly enjoyable way to spend. Shabbat afternoon. Clicking through to youtube. Even reading the 101 comments of many missing songs. I invite a second round of the 100 greatest Jewish songs. There are definitely at least 00 more based on your criteria. Thanks so much.

I am stunned that you have not included a single song of the man who nearly singlehandedly revived Jewish devotional music in the post war period and whose amazing and authentic melodies are sung in thousands of synagogues and temples and shtibluch across the world, from the ultra orthodox to Renewal to Reform, the person whose music galvanized the Soviet Jewry movement and Soviet Jews. I mean, of course, those of one of the greatest Jewish figures of the 20th century, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

My reaction to the list was exactly the same as Micha’s – it is riduclous to exclude songs such as “Am Yisrael Chai,” which had such a profound impact on the movement to free Soviet Jewry, but include all sorts of songs that have nothing at all to do with Judaism.

Deb Cohen (one of many) says:

What a wonderful list! And of course it would not be a Jewish list if it didn’t elicit lots of protest and argument. Let the debate continue! I’ll help by griping about the inclusion of I Have a Little Dreidel, and the exclusion of more songs by Debbie Friedman (Aleph Bet, Mi Sheberach, etc.)

Debra Wolosky says:

What about ‘Up on the Roof’? Gerry Goffin & Carol King’s transcendent ode to the romance of the City?

yankeedog says:

In Dylan’s “Highway 61″,I think Max the Finger is (Maximillian) Robespierre and Louie the King is Louis XVI; note the next line about red, white, and blue shoestrings…but maybe that theory is crap…that’s why Dylan is so much fun…

Occam's Tool says:

You forgot Kinky Friedman’s “Ride ‘em Jewboy,” which is THE greatest Jewish Country Western song of all time. The one you mentioned is a pastiche, but Ride ‘em Jewboy slams straight through, even in the cover version by Amalek Willie Nelson.

AnneMarie says:

Well, I for one am glad that a pedophile rapist’s songs aren’t on the list.

Lol,I love Mr.Jackson! He was the best to ever do it! We will never ever have someone like MJ! Rest in Peace to the KING!

Gil Klajman says:

I was surprised to see so few
specifically Jewish songs (as distinct from songs written by Jews); in fact, on reflection, I think the exercise,
as done here, objectionable. Do you recall the claim by Richard Wagner
(and his many supporters) that Felix Mendelson was “Judaizing” music?
They claimed there was something ineffably Jewish about the music . . .
and . . . well, so what’s Jewish about “My Funny Valentine?”

Dave Hirsch says:

Jacques Offenbach (his father was a cantor) composed the opera, ‘Genevieve de Brabant which included the ‘Gendarmes Duet’. The stirring music of the Marines Hymn was derived therefrom.

The stirring melody of the Marines Hymn came from the works of a Jewish composer, Jacques Offenbach. He composed “Genevieve de Brabant which included the “Gendarmes Duet”

I was surprised by some of the choices. It should have included at least one Wilco song, since Jeff Tweedy is an honorary Jew.

benj says:

This list is just a confusion between “Jewish songs” and “Songs written by Jews”. 2 different things. Most of these songs are not Jewish songs.

Arnon says:

In what way is Over the Rainbow a Jewish song? The same goes for Hihway 61 or White Christmas?

Are you embarrased by Jewish songs like Havah Nagila?

A great list. Really well chosen selection. Yasher koyekh. But can we finally, once and for all, put to rest the notion that something is Jewish because it was done by a Jew? Even when it is done in a tongue-in-cheek, trendy post-modern hipster way, it is still redolent of Nazi ideology. Their excuse for kicking all of the Jews out of the orchestras (an early expression of their ideology) was that no matter how well a Jew may do something (i.e. play Beethoven) it is still an imitation and their true (that is, Jewish) nature comes through. A Jew can only play Beethoven in a Jewish way. If “Over the Rainbow” is a Jewish song because it was composed by a Jew, if the act of a Jew composing a non-Jewish song makes it Jewish, then a Jew playing non-Jewish music makes it Jewish. So, my question to the authors of this great & fun list, do you really believe that anything a Jew does is Jewish or were you just having fun, making a cool list, and not really thinking about the underlying issues and their implications?

Noam says:

You forgot my favorite song: “yahad kol ha’derech” means “together all the way”. When I lived in Israel on 1996 (there was an intifada) the kids chanele made their own version to the song:

Interesting point… not sure I agree 100%, but that’s OK. Everyone is allowed their own opinion, right? I’ll keep checking back to see if anyone else agrees or not. Thanks!

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“The Chanukah Song” makes this list, and “Sunrise, Sunset” doesn’t? Puh-leeze. “Sunrise, Sunset” is to weddings as “L’chi Lach” is to bar/bat mitzvahs; if I’m singing it and at least one of the mothers isn’t boohooing by the end of the seventh bar, I’m having a really bad day.

Disappointed on the lack of Orphaned Land.

Religion annoys me.


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Songs of Songs

What are the 100 greatest Jewish songs ever? Tablet Magazine’s musicologists rank them all, from sacred to pop to hip-hop, from Rabbi Akiva to Amy Winehouse.