An Orrin Hatch Hanukkah

This post is brought to you by Ron Gold.

Would you believe someone if they told you that a Mormon senator from Utah just wrote a Hanukkah song?  Well, it’s true:

Senator Orrin G. Hatch, a solemn-faced Republican with a soft spot for Jews and a love of Barbra Streisand, has penned a catchy holiday tune, “Eight Days of Hanukkah.”

The video was posted Tuesday night on Tablet, an online magazine of Jewish lifestyle and culture, just in time for Hanukkah.

Known around the Senate as a prolific writer of Christian hymns and patriotic melodies, Mr. Hatch, 75, said this was his first venture into Jewish music. It will not be his last.

As far as I can tell, this is the first time a Christian has written a Hanukkah song (though granted, the only other Hanukkah song I know is “The Dreidel Song.”) On the surface, this doesn’t seem that strange; after all, Irving Berlin, a Jew, wrote “White Christmas.”  But with Senator Hatch, his fondness for Judaism is a bit creepy:

“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.

And his love of the Jews stretches to Hanukkah:

Mr. Hatch speaks of “Eight Days of Hanukkah” as a gift to the Jewish people. “This song means more to me than most of the songs I have ever written,” he said. “People need to know the story of Hanukkah. It was a miracle.”

Hatch went on to say “I feel sorry I’m not Jewish sometimes.”

Am I the only one who finds that comment unsettling?  Maybe it’s my atheistic perspective, but I find it very odd that a committed Mormon would have such a huge crush on another religion.  It’s one thing to respect another religion, though it’s quite another thing to get all giddy over it.  And as far non-believers go, I’ve know some who respect faith, but never one who acts like a groupie towards a religion.

Or maybe, to be more cynical, Hatch supports the Jews because he thinks they need to control the Holy Land as a prerequisite for the Second Coming.  I really don’t know.

(Don’t forget to watch the “Eight Days of Hanukkah” music video.  It’s actually not so bad.)

  • Polly

    Haven’t you heard Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song? I think it deserves to be added to the standard holiday repertoire.

    My mother has the exact same attitude as Hatch about the Jews, and yes, it IS creepy.

    Mormons believe the Jewish people are the chosen people, just like the Old Testament says.

    …and that those Palestinian interlopers can take a hike.

    They never mention that part.

  • Matt

    “And as far non-believers go, I’ve know some who respect faith, but never one who acts like a groupie towards a religion.”

    You obviously never heard of my undying love for Quakers and their fine breakfast cereals.

  • Peregrine

    I don’t know if I’d want to write a song for another faith. I’d prefer to leave it to them. They’d know the subject matter better than I do.

    But the Hanukkah story of the Maccabees’ fight for religious freedom over the repression of the Seleucid Empire shows a lot of parallels with the Mormon mythology… or at least what little of it I’ve gleaned from Battlestar Galactica.

    But lets not be too cynical: I know, it’s not easy with the way the Republican have been acting lately, but we should pause a moment to consider the possibility that Hatch’s intent is to demonstrate and encourage good will between faiths. OK, yeah, his gushing is a little weird, but take that away, and that can’t be all bad.

    And it is kindof catchy.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Iason Ouabache

    “Mormons believe the Jewish people are the chosen people, just like the Old Testament says.”

    Does anyone else find this comment racist? I mean, I’m sure that most Jewish people are nice but to call them the “chosen people” would imply that all other races are inferior and not as deserving of God’s love. Why would God love them more than the rest of us? Why would God choose to create lesser races? Why didn’t He just make everyone Jewish so that everyone was “chosen”?

  • http://www.zazzle.com/godless_monsters The Godless Monster

    “Mormons believe the Jewish people are the chosen people, just like the Old Testament says.”

    Does anyone else find this comment racist?

    Yep, it’s racist. Of course, for us to point this out makes us racist anti-Semites. Technically, (being Lebanese) I am also a Semite, but in this particular case that does not count because I am being critical of the Jewish faith.

  • http://3harpiesltd.org/ocb Judith Bandsma

    If Hatch loves the Jews so much, maybe he can convince his church to stop posthumously baptizing Holocaust victims into the LDS.

  • TychaBrahe

    Does anyone else find this comment racist? I mean, I’m sure that most Jewish people are nice but to call them the “chosen people” would imply that all other races are inferior and not as deserving of God’s love. Why would God love them more than the rest of us? Why would God choose to create lesser races? Why didn’t He just make everyone Jewish so that everyone was “chosen”?

    Is there anyone of any religion–besides Hatch–who doesn’t believe that their people are The Chosen people? The image is just so odd. “See those Shintoists? They know exactly how to gain the favor of the gods and ancestors. Still, our people were told to bury ourselves in peat moss, and we will continue to bury ourselves in peat moss even though we know it’s that whole temple-and-incense thing that wins you favor.” Christians, Muslims, Jews will all tell you that they practice their God’s true faith. There were even some buses driving around my city last summer from some Islamic group claiming that Islam was the religion of Abraham. Yeah, take that up with the Rabbis.

    I’m not sure you can attribute a 3000 year old idea, born during tribal times, to racism. Back then everyone believed that the people who didn’t come from around here and don’t worship like us were bad people unfavored by the deities. It’s my experience that most Jews today pay about as much attention to that concept as they do to the proper way to treat one’s slaves. I’ve even heard revisionists claim it means that Jews were the only ones to choose to follow God’s plans, not that God chose them. Anyone could have played, but the Jews did. Obviously trying desperately to rid themselves of the taint of pre-evolved times. “See, where it says you are supposed to say, ‘I thank you, God, that you did not make me a woman,’ it’s really praising women for being naturally closer to God….” Yeah. I call Shenanigans.

  • Parse

    I wonder how much of Senator Hatch’s Judaism crush is based on Millennialism – and the fact that Judaism and Israel are required to kick off Armageddon?

  • JD

    Polly, Adam Sandler is Jewish, so it’s not quite the same.

  • JD

    Something I forgot to ask, does what does Mormonism think of Jewish people attaining entry into heaven? As I understand it, many denominations of Christianity do believe that Jews were the “chosen people”, but Jews living after Jesus’ death could not attain entry into Heaven unless they converted.

    I’m not convinced that the origin of the chosen people idea was about racism, though at times it did become a reason for racism, I think most people groups thought at least one other people group as lesser than they were. In Judiasm, it wasn’t about people that were better, it was a people that chose to live under a certain system. The impression I got was that Israel was supposed to be a beacon to show what YHWH was about.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    FWIW, Irving Berlin also wrote “Happy Holiday,” which — since it dates to the 1940s — all by itself utterly refutes the idea that “Happy Holidays” was created by the “political correctness” movement, which did not exist in the ’40s.

  • Polly

    JD,

    Oh, I know. I was responding to Hemant’s parenthetical remark:

    (though granted, the only other Hanukkah song I know is “The Dreidel Song.”)

  • http://www.zazzle.com/godless_monsters The Godless Monster

    JD wrote:

    I’m not convinced that the origin of the chosen people idea was about racism, though at times it did become a reason for racism

    You’re not convinced? Really? Spent any time in Israel or its neighbors? Ever seen firsthand what they’ve done in the name of Zionist supremacy? I have. How do you think this “we are number one” stuff all started? It was justification for mass murder, rape and enslavement of neighboring tribes. Of course it was about racism. “We are chosen, therefore we can do whatever we want to you because you are NOT one of us.”

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Actually, I have kind of a crush on Judaism as well. Secular Judaism, anyway. I’ve always had a soft spot for the rituals, many of which I think are beautiful and fun. And there’s lots of things about the cultural tradition that I love: especially the value it places on intellect, argument, humor, self-deprecation, sex, and food. (I grew up in a largely Jewish neighborhood, and these things feel really familiar and comforting to me.)

    It’s not about the religion, though. It’s more like the way some people are really fond of French culture or British culture or Japanese culture.

  • muggle

    BTW, Irving Berlin was one of us:

    http://www.ffrf.org/fttoday/2004/may/?ft=barker

    Which doesn’t explain some of the songs he wrote at all!

    As for Hatch’s weird fondness of Judaism, um, in my case, I can’t be the one to cast stones. I went from Christianity to Judaism en route to Agnostism then Atheism. And even when I was a kid, I was fascinated and studied it on my own. Frankly, I felt my Christian faith was based on Judaism, on Jesus’ being the Messiah.

    I didn’t quite go through with the conversion — I went to a Conservative temple and fortunately it was a months’ long process and I didn’t go through with it. But the rabbi was impressed with how much I knew before I came to him and freely admitted that many born Jewish didn’t know near as much. (Not any more, I’ve forgotten a lot; I lost interest 30 years ago.) I used to have a tape of Jewish folk rock songs that I treasured for years until I lost it in a fire decades later that my Hebrew teacher gave me.

    That said, I kinda of do suspect Hatch anyway. A stinking little suspicion that he’d love to bring on Armagaeddon coupled with he didn’t really look too comfortable in that video. I don’t know whether I’m sickened more by him or by Jews who would suck up to him like that without a thought to their history. They’d do well to watch their backs. It always makes me uncomfortable to see Jews jump on the Judeo-Christian bandwagon. Maybe it’s my own prejudices showing but I don’t think they should trust Christians that far even when they are doing so for their own motives.

    No, that song wasn’t half bad, I admit. But I remain skeptical of his motives.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    Or maybe, to be more cynical, Hatch supports the Jews because he thinks they need to control the Holy Land as a prerequisite for the Second Coming. I really don’t know.

    As I understand Mormon eschatology they don’t require this.

    Incidentally, regarding the issue of the Jews being the chosen people is racist, it has racist forms and it has non-racist forms. Part of the issue is about what one means to be Jewish. If Judaism is a religion, then conversion is possible so there’s no racist element. If one is talking about an ethnic identity it becomes more complicated given that most secular Jews don’t believe in the chosen people idea. The real racist element actually shows up primarily in the moderately religious who are religious enough to have internalized the chosen people material but are irreligious enough that they think of being Jewish as more ethnic/racial than religious. So for them, there is a special something about being Jewish and either you have it or you don’t. But even then there’s variation.

    This is a complicated issue that depends greatly on definitions used.

  • http://liberalfaith.blogspot.com/ Steve Caldwell

    I remember a conversation with a Mormon classmate in college — he said that Mormons refer to non-Mormons as “gentiles” because they view the LDS church as a restoration of ancient Christianity and ancient Judaism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentile#Latter-day_Saints_Church_usage

    Given this fascination with Judaism and the belief that Mormonism is connected with a lost tribe of Israel that migrated to North America, Senator Hatch’s fascination with Judaism isn’t that unusual. He’s a product of Mormon Utah culture after all.

    The creepiness comes from the Mormon fascination with Judaism and Israel. So far, there has been no archeological evidence uncovered to support the claims that an ancient Israelite lost tribe migrated to North America.

  • cathy

    “Hatch went on to say ”I feel sorry I’m not Jewish sometimes.”” He could convert…but then he’d have to give up his magic undies.

  • False Prophet

    @JD,

    The Mormons have a practice whereby they regularly baptize deceased non-Mormons, then write their names in the Mormon Book of Life. By their beliefs, I’m not sure if this automatically gets you into heaven, or just gives you a chance at judgment. (Someone better informed can enlighten us.) But they think they’re doing the dead a favour by this either way.

    They’ve often extended this practice to victims of the Holocaust. This has mightily pissed off several Jewish organizations. Google “baptism Holocaust victims” for the stories.

  • http://yamipirogoeth.blogspot.com/ Sakura

    They played the song on radio this morning (the station is X96 if anyone’s interested), and they couldn’t even finish playing it on air they thought it was that ridiculous

  • JulietEcho

    I have a liberal Methodist friend who’s totally an Amish groupie – he’ll use any excuse to get a chance to talk to Amish people, and he often half-jokes about joining them. Mostly he’s just very old-fashioned.

  • http://theipu.com Ron Gold

    Oops, how did I forget the Adam Sandler song? That makes three I know.

  • Ubi Dubium

    At the beginning of the video, it mentions that Hatch only wrote the lyrics, and that somebody else wrote the music. So that fact that it’s catchy has nothing to do with Hatch. I think just about anybody familiar with the Hanukkah story could do as well on the lyrics. “Come let’s celebrate, Hey!” Nothing too challenging there.

  • http://lifebeforedeath.blogsome.com Felicia Gilljam

    Probably been said already, but I don’t think it’s the RELIGION he has a crush on. He wishes he was born one of the chosen people.

  • Cherie M

    This is one of the reasons I’m so embarrassed to be from Utah…

    Honestly, I really can’t remember what the deal is with Jews and Mormons, except that some Mormons view Jews as gentiles now and think Sunday is the sabbath and is to be observed by no shopping, limited/no secular television, any sort of physical work, etc. unless absolutely necessary. From what I understand, Smith was fascinated by Judaism, hence the incorporation of Jews into the story of the Book of Mormon. The Word of Wisdom imposes dietary restrictions, which I think was Smith’s way of getting a sort of “kosher” element in. Symbolism in the temple (particularly the font for baptism for the dead) tends to either be masonic or Jewish/OT in style.

  • http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com chanson

    The fact that Mormons feel they have a special affinity with the Jews is well known. It’s a popular idea among believing Mormons (like Hatch, apparently), but it’s almost more popular in the atheist-Mormon community.

    The secular Mormon community holds up the Jewish community as a role-model in part because of the strong strain of skepticism and secularism within Jewish tradition. In other words, it’s not too hard to be an atheist Jew without your family treating you as though you’ve turned your back on your heritage — and the seeds of the same possibility exist within Mormon culture.

    If that’s not clear, you can see more explanation on the secular Mormon blog Main Street Plaza here: My Tribe.

  • lrnalot

    It’s my understanding that many evangelical xians love the Jews because their prophecy suggests that when the Kingdom of God reaches its pinnacle in Israel, then Jesus will return, the end times will arrive, the 4400 (or whatever) will be saved and all will be right in the universe. It’s downright scary!

  • Nathan

    I’m personally fond of Tom Lehrer’s Hanukkah in Santa Monica. Oddly enough I am an atheist with a “crush” on Judaism and Jewish culture. I would convert if it weren’t for the not believing in god thing. There are a lot of things to like about Jewish culture. I realize that my lack of a religious belief in a chosen people makes my preference of Jewish culture possibly more creepy than the senators. What do you think?


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