Hanukkah Songs and Sounds From Across the Globe

From Turkey to France, in Hebrew, Yiddish and Ladino: Have a listen!

We have collected some holiday favorites from Jewish communities around the world. Have a listen to these recordings of Hanukkah songs and blessings from the Library’s National Sound Archive.


Ashkenaz Candle Lighting Blessing
Performed by Eliyahu Kum
Recorded by the National Sound Archives
Chabad Synagogue, the Old City, Jerusalem, Hanukkah 1968
YC 1945


Carlebach Style Candle Lighting Blessing
Performed by Shlomo Carlebach accompanied by instruments and audience
Recorded by Ephraim Yaakov
Wise Auditorium, Jerusalem, Hanukkah 1979
YC 1537


Hungarian Candle Lighting Blessing
Performed by Abraham Ahrenfeld
Recorded by Avigdor Herzog
The National Sound Archives studio, 1975
Y 1851


Algerian Candle Lighting Blessing
Performed by Meir Zini
Communaute Israelite
France, 1966
YC 2930


Sephardic Candle Lighting Blessing
Performed and recorded by the Recanati Family
Hanukkah 1968
YC 2865



Maoz Zur

Ashkenaz Version – Maoz Zur
Arranged and conducted by Arieh Levanon
Performed by Kol Israel Choir
MCD 74


Germany, Frankfurt – Maoz Zur
Performed by Mr. Friedenberg
Recorded by Avigdor Herzog
Jerusalem, 1957
Y 3336


Hungary – Maoz Zur
Performed by Abraham Ahrenfeld
Recorded by Avigdor Herzog
The National Sound Archive studio, 1975
Y 1851


Boyan Hassidim – Maoz Zur
(Yewanim Niqbezu Alay)
Performed by a group of Hassidim
Recorded by Yaakov Mazor
“Tisch” on “Zot Hanukkah”
Tif’eret Yisrael Yeshiva, Jerusalem 1987
Y 5623


Italy, Verona (Ashkenaz) – Maoz Zur
(Variant of the tune transcribed by
Benedetto Marcello in the 18th century)
Performed by Mario Volterra
Recorded by Leo Levi
Italy, Bologna, 1956
Y 156


Mizmor Shir Chanukat Ha-bayit (Psalm 30)

Algeria, Oran
Performed by Meir Zini
Communaute Israelite
France, 1966
YC 2930


Shnei Nikhratim (Piyyut for “Shabbat Hanukkah”)

France, Alsace
Performed by Michel Heymann
Recorded by Chana Englard
Mulhouse, France, 1988
Y 5913


Yiddish song: Ir Kleyne Likhtelekh

Text by Morris Rosenfeld
Performed by Louis Danto
Recorded by Chana Englard
Hekhal Shelomo, Jerusalem, Hanukkah 1982
Yc 2137
Oh, you little candles,
You tell stories,
Innumerable legends:
You tell of blood,
Triumph and courage –
Wonders of the past!
When I see you lighting
A shiny dream comes about,
An old dream is speaking:
“Jew, you fought once,
Jew, you triumphed once”.
God! It’s hardly believable! Oh, you little candles!
Your stories
Awaken my pain,
Deep down my heart moves
And with tears a question rises,
“What will happen now?”


Judeo-Spanish song: Dak il tas

Performed by Bienvenida Aguado
Recorded by Susana Weich-Shahak
Bat-Yam, 2001
CD 2980

Dak il tas, toma’l tas
Las muchachas meten bas
En Sabat de Hanukkah
Ocho dias de Hanukkah
Lehadlik ner shel Hanukkah.

El vino de la serada
Que a mi muncho m’agrada
A beber en Hanukkah
Ocho dias…

Mete la carne al tandur
Taneremos un buen santur
En Shabat de Hanukkah
Ocho dias…

English translation:
Strike the tray, take from the tray
The girls play
On Shabbath Hanukkah.
Eight days of Hanukkah
“To light a candle of Hanukkah”



Try these articles as well:

Bringing Darkness to Light: Singing Chanukah Songs Through the Holocaust

The Enigmatic Researcher of the Magic of Music

The Majesty and the Mystery of Kol Nidre


The Gershom Scholem Family Bible

The Gershom Scholem family Bible – originally belonging to the Hirsch family, Gershom Scholem’s mother's family – was used to record births, b’nei mitzvot, marriages, and of course, deaths

The Hirsch Family Bible: Die Heilige Schrift der Israeliten, edited by Ludwig Philippson, illustrated by Gustave Doré

Gershom Scholem, one of the greatest Jewish scholars of the twentieth century and an important Israeli public intellectual, had deep roots among the Jewish bourgeoisie of Germany and the family Bible chronicles that particular Jewish sensibility and culture.

The family Bible belonging to Gershom Scholem’s mother, Betty Scholem (née Hirsch) is a chronicle not only of the simchas and life events of one singular family. It is also the chronicle of the fate of the greater German Jewish community before the Second World War.

The Hirsch Family Bible: Die Heilige Schrift der Israeliten, edited by Ludwig Philippson, illustrated by Gustave Doré

The first inscription in the Bible announces that this is the chronicle of the family of Hermann Hirsch, oldest son of the butcher Aron Hirsch and his wife Brune, from Reetz in der Neumark (today, Recz, Poland). We read that Hermann had eight children: five sons (Siegmund, Arthur, Hugo, Fritz, and Hans) and three daughters (Betty, Clara, and Käthe).

The next generation recorded in the Bible includes the four sons of Arthur and Betty Scholem—Reinhold, Erich, Werner, and Gerhard (later known as Gershom)—and the two children of Hans Hirsch—Johanna and Hermann Hirsch. The birth records conclude with Betty Scholem’s grandchildren Edith, Günther (later known as David), Renate, Irene, and Arthur. In fact, grandson Arthur’s birth in October 1927 is the latest simcha recorded in this Bible.

The births of Hermann Hirsch’s children and Betty Scholem’s children

This family strongly demonstrates the declining birth rates among Jews in Germany, and German Jews had, on average, two-children families long before their Christian neighbors. Hermann Hirsch had eight children. His three adult children had four, two, and no children. Betty Hirsch Scholem’s four sons had a total of five children. Even excluding Gershom Scholem’s childless marriage with Escha Burchhardt, the Scholems were below the average of 2.33 children per Jewish family in Prussia in 1925 (though above the average of 0.69 children for families with one Jewish parent and one Christian parent). Factors that likely contributed to their family size were their residence in a big city and the turbulence within their marriages.

The births of Hans Hirsch’s children and Betty Scholem’s grandchildren

Hermann Hirsch and his descendants listed their family weddings. Hermann noted that he and Johanna Plaum from Rawitsch (today, Rawicz, Poland) were married by Rabbi Elhanan Rosenstein in Berlin in 1862 and that Betty and Arthur Scholem were married by Rabbi Rudolf Ungerleider of Berlin in 1890 in Charlottenburg. These are the only two weddings listed with detail.

As a result, it is not clear if other marriages were with non-Jewish spouses, though most were not, in fact. However, readers of Gershom Scholem’s memoir, From Berlin to Jerusalem, will recognize two mixed marriages listed here without comment: Käte Hirsch to Walter Schiepan in 1911 and Werner Scholem to Emmy Wichelt in 1917. It is also recorded in this Bible that Gershom Scholem and his first wife, Elsa “Escha” Burchhardt, married on 5 December 1923—Gershom’s 26th birthday. (In From Berlin to Jerusalem, Scholem writes, “We married in November 1923 on the roof of the Mizrahi teachers’ seminary.”)

Family marriages

Many of the entries in the Bible mention where events took place. Fritz Hirsch was born in 1875 and died in 1876 in Leobschütz (today, Głubczyce, Poland), where Hermann was then working for the Jewish community. By 1878, the family had moved to the Berlin area. The wedding of Betty Hirsch and Arthur Scholem took place in the newly built synagogue of Charlottenburg, then an independent city adjacent to Berlin. In the years before World War I, Charlottenburg had an affluent population, a well-respected technical college, new department stores, and a sizeable Jewish community with several synagogues. Among them was a private synagogue partially owned by Betty’s father.

Simchas in the life Hermann Hirsch and his family

When Betty married Arthur and moved to central Berlin, she entered a different world from Charlottenburg. Though central Berlin also had a large Jewish community, it was more diverse than Charlottenburg—religiously, culturally, and economically. It was also the seat of royal power and the center of Germany’s newspaper industry, which was important for the Scholems, who were printers. In the years before World War I, Betty’s sister Käte and brother Hans lived in Schöneberg, another independent city adjacent to Berlin. Though generally not as affluent as Charlottenburg, Schöneberg was largely middle-class and had a substantial Jewish community. The so-called Bavarian Quarter of Schöneberg was home to particularly large, upper-middle-class Jewish population in the 1920s and early 1930s.

While Aron Hirsch worked a butcher in the small town of Reetz, which had less than 100 Jews, Hermann Hirsch became a successful man and a leader of the Jewish community in Charlottenburg. In this Bible, he recorded a number of happy events, including the purchase of a house in Charlottenburg, the purchase of property for the construction of a synagogue, and his election to Jewish communal office. He was active in Berlin Jewish communal affairs. Two of Hermann’s children were able to study at university, a rarity for any Germans in that era and something exceptionally unusual for women. It is noted in the Bible that Hans Hirsch earned a doctorate at the University of Berlin and Käte Hirsch earned a doctorate in medicine at the University in Freiburg. She then opened a medical practice in Schöneberg. Hans, who worked as a chemist, later received his license as a patent attorney.

Simchas in the life of Hans, Käthe, and Johanna Hirsch

The family’s death records are quite telling. The first four deaths – those of Hermann Hirsch’s parents and in-laws – are listed with a curious mix of the Hebrew month and Christian year, e.g., 17 Sivan 1864. All other deaths are listed only with the Christian/secular date. Among the most striking things about this family record is the high rate of child mortality. Siegmund Hirsch died at the age of seven, Hugo at the age of two. Arthur Hirsch died when he was only 11 days old, and Fritz died days before his first birthday. Clara lived to be only 17 years old. Only three of Hermann Hirsch’s children lived to adulthood: Betty, Käte, and Hans. In fact, as late as the 1880s, more than 40 percent of all German Jewish deaths occurred before the age of fifteen. Yet high as that proportion seems today, it was still much lower than the equivalent among non-Jews, which remained above 50 percent into the twentieth century. German Jews also had a higher life expectancy than Christian Germans. However, the final death recorded in the Bible was that of Arthur Scholem, Betty’s husband, who died in February 1925 at the age of 61.

Family deaths

This Bible’s inscriptions capture the experience of several generations of the German Jewish middle class. It is a story of migration and urbanization. It is a tale of secularization, bourgeoisification, and educational and professional advancement. It is a story of Jews becoming Germans, or at least maintaining a hybrid identity. However, it was an experience that ended in dispersion and destruction. Hermann Hirsch’s three surviving children all experienced the Holocaust. In 1939, Betty Hirsch Scholem escaped to Australia. Hans Hirsch was able to flee to Brazil. Käte Hirsch Schiepan was deported to Theresienstadt, where she died in 1943.

“Let there be light!”

The fate of Betty Scholem’s four sons, whose births are listed in Bible, also exemplified the fate of the historic Jewish community in Germany. Like so many German Jews, Gershom Scholem went to Palestine; however, in contrast to most German Jews in Palestine in the 1930s, he was a long-time resident of the Yishuv, having made aliyah in 1923. He became a master of the Hebrew language and a giant in the Israeli intelligentsia. Nonetheless, his professional and social circle in Jerusalem remained notably German or Central European. Reinhold and Erich Scholem immigrated to Australia during the summer of 1938 and began the process of rebuilding their lives. After many years, Reinhold established himself and enjoyed prosperity. In contrast, Erich struggled to regain the business success that the Scholems had known in Berlin. Their brother Werner Scholem, who had been a leader of the German Communist Party, was arrested in 1933 by the Nazis and sent to prison. Even though a court acquitted him of the legal charges against him, there was no way out of the Nazis’ system of injustice and terror for him. He was murdered in the Buchenwald concentration camp in July 1940.

​This article was written by ​Jay Geller, Samuel Rosenthal Professor of Judaic Studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.


Special: 150 Years at the Western Wall

How did the Western Wall look before its liberation in '67? What did it look like 100 years ago? And 150 years ago?

How did the Western Wall look before its liberation in ’67? What did it look like 100 years ago? And 150 years ago? Rare photographs from the National Library of Israel’s collections show a different Western Wall than the one we know today. One area for prayers became two and the uniforms of those who visited and guarded changed, yet one thing has stayed the same: the Jewish people’s yearning to visit and pray at this most revered of sites.

The identities of those who photographed the site also changed over the years, ranging from renowned international photographers in awe of the extraordinary relationship between man and stone, to tourists and pilgrims visiting the Wall as part of a journey to the Holy Land, to local and foreign soldiers simply there as part of their service. The images also reveal the history of photography itself: black and white photographs, hand-colored photographs, changing methods of printing and developing.

Join us on this historic journey to the Western Wall.

Resolving Biblical Contradictions – in Translation

The first Hebrew translation of the famous work El Conciliador also served as the translator’s own personal diary

“I was happy and joyful as my beloved daughter was born…and died on the night of the 5th”

For thousands of years, Jews and Christians alike have turned to the Bible as a means of resolving the many contradictions in their lives. In the 17th century, the Rabbi and diplomat Menasseh Ben Israel turned the tables: he wrote a book named El Conciliador (The Conciliator), in which he attempted to resolve the contradictions within the Bible itself. This was a tremendous task, and his target audience did not consist only of fellow Jews.

Click here for the complete manuscript online

In El Conciliador, Menasseh Ben Israel addresses two potential audiences: Christian scholars and clergymen interested in gaining more knowledge about the Jewish faith, and the descendants of the Conversos in Spain and Portugal. The latter wished to return to their Jewish roots after many generations during which they (and their ancestors) were forced to live as Christians.

A copper engraving by the Jewish artist Salom Italia depicting Menasseh Ben Israel encircled by Latin writing. The print, whose dimensions are 13×19.5 cm, was apparently produced soon after the engraving was done in 1643. From the Abraham Schwadron Collection at the National Library

The book follows a consistent pattern: the author presents two contradictory Biblical verses, describes the precise contradiction he found in them (as the reader does  not necessarily spot the contradiction or in some cases he or she may identify another contradiction instead), and then attempts to “resolve” the contradiction: he makes use of both Jewish and non-Jewish sources, occasionally quoting luminaries such as Seneca or Plato, thereby displaying extraordinary in-depth knowledge coupled with interpretive skills.

It is interesting to note that when Menasseh Ben Israel refers to Plato as an authority he does not hesitate to claim that the father of philosophy was directly influenced by the Jewish religion and that many of his conclusions are based on the Bible.

The Latin translation of Menasseh Ben Israel’s El Conciliador was completed in 1633 and shows the book’s importance to the Christian public. From the National Library of Israel collection

Like many of Menasseh Ben Israel’s endeavors, El Conciliador was crowned a tremendous success. The book was re-published over the years in a number of editions, and was even translated into other European languages. It established its author as an authority on Jewish sources, and earned him the title “Ambassador of the Jews”. In the wake of the book’s success, an extensive exchange of letters began between Menasseh Ben Israel and Christian scholars throughout the continent. It took over 200 years for El Conciliador to be translated into Hebrew.

“Resolving” the Contradictions of the 19th Century in Hebrew

Little is known about the life of Mr. Raphael Kirchheim, who translated El Conciliador into Hebrew. We know even less about why this 19th century German-Jewish scholar chose to undertake this task. It is possible that as a Jew affiliated with the Reform movement, which attracted many German Jews in the 19th century, he saw the translation of El Conciliador as a project with personal and general-Jewish significance, especially when considering the period in which he was active.

The first page of the Hebrew translation of El Conciliador by Raphael Kirchheim. This is not a complete translation of the original book, but primarily a translation of the sections focusing on the Pentateuch. From the National Library of Israel collection

After all, the time in which Kirchheim lived was a period in which the unity which had characterized the Jewish people for much of their history was irreparably ruptured, a century replete with novel Jewish figures: enlightened Jews fighting to reform education and the Jewish library; Hassidim searching for a new spiritual experience; Orthodox Jews struggling to maintain the status quo; and toward the end of this tumultuous century: Zionist pioneers.

Reminiscent of the author of the work he translated into Hebrew, Kirchheim’s translation tells us a thing or two about his own boldness. Kirchheim did not suffice with simply translating, he also wrote his comments (and often reservations) on El Conciliador’s conclusions alongside various paragraphs. In one section, for example, the translator notes that “What the author writes in Rabban Gamliel’s name is a lie, and he said the opposite to his disciples”, and in a later place in the manuscript he notes that “His [Menasseh Ben Israel] words are the opposite and are not found without each other”.

It is unclear whether Kirchheim intended to publish his translation: the manuscript is full of erasures, amendments and internal glosses. Additionally, at the end of the manuscript, Kirchheim documents the names of his relatives, the deaths of his father and his two wives over ten years apart. He does not forget to record the births of his son and daughter. When writing about his daughter, for example, Kirchheim writes “The 3rd of Adar 5601 [February 2, 1841] – was happy and joyful for me because my beloved daughter Mina was born”, two days later he added the heartbreaking words, “And (she) died on the night of the 5th”.

The page which ends the Hebrew manuscript of El Conciliador in which the translator notes the history of his immediate family. Here Kirchheim records the birth of his son and daughter, and his daughter’s death a few days after her birth. From the National Library of Israel collection

Most of the details surrounding the Ben Israel/Kirchheim manuscript are still unknown to us.

However, the more pressing question is undoubtedly: can the resolution of the many contradictions in the Bible truly bring about friendship between the various members of this tumultuous nation?