Who would have thought that it was the Jews who dreamed up and composed some of the most famous and popular Christmas carols ever written? A new film directed by Academy Award-nominated Larry Weinstein takes an in-depth look at this fascinating and untold historical irony.
The musical documentary called “Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas” won top prize for a non-fiction film at the seventh annual Canadian Screen Awards on March 31st. With songs, interviews and rare historical footage, the film tells the story of how Jewish immigrants to the US in the early 1900’s wrote so many of the Christmas season’s most loved songs, such as I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, Winter Wonderland, White Christmas and even Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Jews arriving on board ships across the Atlantic to the shores of the Land of Promise were not considered white when they came to the US. Nor were the approximately one million Jews who moved into the lower East-side of New York seen as black. They were oriental and together with the strong accent and poor English, there were preciously few job opportunities for these poor immigrants. Song writers, however, were available to anyone who had talent, and folks like Al Jolson (born Asa Yoelson), Mel Tormé and Irving Berlin (who wrote God Bless America), had plenty.
It has been said that America’s voice was created by a nation of immigrants through films, radio, arts and literature. What would Christmas be like if none of those songs had been written? “Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas” tells the story of a group of Jewish song writers who more or less wrote the soundtrack tothe Christmas holiday season. It is the tale of immigrants who were outsiders but had an uncanny ability to understand the times they lived in and were able to write those songs that best expressed the sentiments of what Christmas means to most of the English-speaking world at the time and even until today.
Alan Dershowitz, the retired Harvard Law School professor known for his many media appearances in support of President Donald Trump says on the film, “Jews have this amazing ability to get out of their culture, out of their skins and write the greatest things.”
“Jews have a small sense of guilt about embracing Christmas traditions,” says Ophira Eisenberg, a Jewish comedian. “That’s because Jews have a small sense of guilt about everything!”