Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, was the hit of the 1949 Christmas season. Ironically, songwriter Johnny Marks, who continued to produce wildly popular Christmas songs throughout the 50s and 60s, didn’t celebrate Christmas because he was Jewish. The roots of American music are diverse, and one of those roots is undeniably Jewish.

Irving Berlin wrote God Bless America, and the Gershwin brothers wrote dozens of scores for Hollywood and Broadway. Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel are icons of folk and rock. Adam Levine, Pink, and Paula Abdul are pop superstars. The list goes on.  

Introduce young readers to the deep connection between Old World and New World Jewish music in Klezmer! The quintessential music of Eastern European Jews is in the midst of an American revival. Are you looking for more? Mendel’s Accordion tells the story of a shtetl musician, whose songs kept him company when he was a stranger in this new land, and how his great-grandson is inspired today to pick up where he left off.

The Accordion was also key in helping Bosnian-born Ladino singer Flory Jagoda stay connected to her past. Read more about the woman known as the “Keeper of the Flame” of Sephardic music in The Key from Spain.

Music holds power. For a different twist, read about The Edelweiss Pirates, an anti-Nazi youth group in Hitler’s Germany. Their political dissent found a voice in song, becoming a rallying cry for activism.

“Life without music is unthinkable,” said composer Leonard Bernstein. Indeed it is.