How One Lower East Sider Forever Changed Chanukah with ‘I Have a Little Dreidel’

Posted on: December 29th, 2016 at 5:11 am by
Photo: Times of Israel

Photo: Times of Israel

Each year, when gathering for the Jewish Festival of Lights, candles are lit, latkes (and chocolate gelt) eaten, and traditional songs sung. One such number never fades. And we’re not talking about Adam Sandler’s comedic Chanukah rhyme, either. Rather, “I Have a Little Dreidel,” a folk ditty that was born on the Lower East Side almost a hundred years ago.

Samuel E. Goldfarb – born in 1891 – was one of eleven children that fled Galicia, only to settle in a packed neighborhood tenement. Two decades later, after an arranged marriage to Bella Horowitz, he composed the famous song with Samuel S. Grossman. The first known recording was reportedly in 1927. (Horowitz’s family was partner in the renowned Horowitz-Margareten company that makes Passover products and once operated on the Lower East Side.)

His son Myron Gordon, now 96-years-old, recalled to the Times of Israel that the “Dreidel Song” was a slow burner of a track. That it “took some time to catch on,” and didn’t really stick until the early 1950s, “when Hanukkah was becoming more commercial and parallel to Christmas.”

His brother Israel, on the other hand, a noted cantor at the time, penned another iconic Jewish standby. That of the melody to the centuries-old poem “Shalom Aleichem,” penned by the Kabbalists of Safed. As the publication notes, this remarkable musical feat of two brothers would be akin to two brothers writing “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night.”

So, next time you sing “I Have a Little Dreidel,” know that it was born on the Lower East Side.

Recent Stories

Cashing in on the Bowery Graffiti Wall with ‘Limited Edition’ Prints

Last week, Goldman Properties announced that art fans could “own a piece” of the famous Bowery Graffiti Wall. “For the first time in history,” the copy read in all-caps, people could purchase limited edition prints of the PichiAvo mural (“Urbanmythology”) currently holding court. Cashing in on the wall. Seventy-five 47” x 15” archival color prints, […]

‘Happy Ending’ Busted in Purported NYPD Vice Squad Sting, Appears Kaput

It’s been a rocky tenure for the Happy Ending reboot on Broome Street, but the end now looks appears closer than ever. For the second time in five months, the nightclub was raided by the authorities. A tipster sent word that Happy Ending was raided by cops (accompanied by firefighters) a couple weeks ago, and […]

Tonight, Learn More About Big Tim Sullivan, ‘King of the Bowery’

As part of the Lower East Side History Month festivities, tonight the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors and Grace Church High School welcome author Alice Sparberg Alexiou to speak about the (in)famous Timothy Sullivan, or as many knew him, the puported “King of the Bowery.” Sullivan resided at the Occidental Hotel (now the SoHotel) at 146 […]

Exhuming James Bond’s Runaway Car Scene on the FDR [VIDEO]

Yesterday, actor Sir Roger Moore passed away at the age of 89. He portrayed a more humorous James Bond in a record-setting seven franchise films. He died in Switzerland after “a short but brave battle with cancer,” according to tweets from the family. So, we thought it appropriate to revisit the scene from Live and […]

Seward Park Basketball Courts Hamstrung by ‘Absentee’ Contractor

Area youth will need to wait another couple months to play ball inside Seward Park. The current resurfacing job underway the last couple months is behind schedule. Until yesterday, there had been almost no activity in the rear corner of the park for at least two weeks. The big boys came to play yesterday, though, […]