What do Hasids, Harry Belafonte and the German ice skating team have in common?



They all sing (or skate) to the tune of
“Hava Nagila”!
They all sing (or skate) to the tune of “Hava Nagila”!


/“Hava Nagila (The Movie)”This song is instantly recognizable to us, but what do we know of its origins? In fact, it took a couple of hundred years to travel from an Eastern European Hasidic shtetl to the international world stage. That incredible journey is featured in “Hava Nagila (The Movie),” an upbeat, spirited film premiering in Providence on Dec. 7.

Arts Emanu-El at Temple Emanu-El is sponsoring Providence’s first screening of “Hava Nagila,” a documentary that critics hail as authentic, informative and fun. The event begins at 6:30 p.m., is open to the public, and includes an Israeli buffet, the movie and Israeli dancing to live klezmer music.

“In Poland, following the Christian Feast of Corpus Christi in the town of Rzeszow, many thousands gather yearly to culminate their observance with the concert “One Heart – One Spirit.” Their selections are chosen because beautiful music can be inspiring, build community and move the spirit. In 2010, one of their selections reads: “Let’s rejoice, Let’s rejoice and be happy; Let’s sing, Let’s sing and be happy; Awake, awake, brothers … with a happy heart.” Yes, a moving message to the spirit; and, it belongs to our traditional “Hava Nagila.”

The film tells more. After World War I in Jerusalem, the Turks were out, the British were in, there was the Balfour Declaration, and the Yishuv wanted to celebrate! Avraham Zvi Idelsohn, the father of Jewish musicology, was in Jerusalem at the right time and place.

He put lyrics to a wordless niggun, giving birth to our “Hava Nagila.” And yes, these passionate Zionists yearned to evoke “new hope” not only with song, but also with “Hava Nagila,” the dance! A cultural phenomenon – with its feet firmly established in our Jewish tradition.

Our “Hava Nagila,” as with Ravel’s “Bolero,” begins with a slow tempo, melody and repetitive theme that increases in momentum, pace and volume until we experience a heightened sense of joyous unity. Sometimes we feel reticent in joining in the circle, but as our purposeful lockstep follows, with hands held, bodies swinging, embracing the spirit freely, we come to the center as a unit, and acknowledge that this is our tradition.

From the mountain tops of Venezuela to the forests of Romania to ice skating competitions – wherever people desire to use music that bridges cultures, with vocals, dance, philharmonic orchestration, klezmer or jazz bands, bagpipes or the haunting voices of the woodwinds – our “Hava Nagila” is chosen.

Allow that familiar melody to infuse our communal spirit – attend the Providence premier of “Hava Nagila (The Movie).” Tickets are $20 and include the movie, dinner and dancing to live music. There is a reservation deadline of Dec. 3.

To purchase tickets: send check to Temple Emanu-El, 99 Taft Ave., Prov., RI 02906, note: “Hava Nagila”; go to teprov.org; or call the synagogue office at 331-1616.

Paula Sigal is a member of the Arts Emanu-el Committee of Temple Emanu-El.