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Sen. Hatch’s Hanukkah hymn

by Brad A. Greenberg

December 9, 2009 | 4:50 am

He’s no Adam Sandler, but philo-Semitic U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch has penned his own holiday tune, “Eight Days of Hanukkah.” Here’s a story from The New York Times about why the senator from Utah, who is Mormon, turned his song-writing skills to the Jewish people:

“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.”

In short, he loves the Jews. And based on an early sampling of listeners, the feeling could be mutual.

“Watching Orrin Hatch in the studio, I said to myself that nothing this great will ever happen to me again,” said Alana Newhouse, the editor-in-chief of Tablet.

Set against a bouncy synthesizer beat, the song begins:

“Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah,

The festival of light/

In Jerusalem,

The oil burned bright.”

Adding to the project’s only-in-America mishmash is that the song is performed by Rasheeda Azar, a Syrian-American vocalist from Indiana. But Mr. Hatch is the song’s unquestioned prime mover, or macher. He is featured in the video, sitting stoic in the studio, head bobbing slightly, donning earphones and contributing backup vocals.

The song’s contagious refrain goes:

“Eight days of Hanukkah,

Come let’s celebrate.

Eight days of Hanukkah,

Let’s celebrate tonight, Hey!”

At one point, Mr. Hatch unbuttons his white dress shirt to expose the golden mezuzah necklace he wears every day. Mezuzahs also adorn the doorways of his homes in Washington and Utah. Mr. Hatch keeps a Torah in his Senate office.

“Not a real Torah, but sort of a mock Torah,” he said. “I feel sorry I’m not Jewish sometimes.”

That’s definitely one political move that I don’t have to be cynical about. No one doubts Hatch’s love for the Jews.

The video was uploaded tonight at the website of Tablet magazine. Though I couldn’t upload the video, you can watch it there or read Jeffrey Goldberg’s story about the Hanukkah song.

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