Posts Tagged ‘Roberta Grossman’

How ‘Hava Nagila’ Became A Global Hit

July 13, 2012

This article was first published in The Forward.

One day, in the summer of 2008, the question “‘Hava Nagila’ — what is it?” popped into Roberta Grossman’s head. Although she was familiar with the ubiquitous song, she was clueless about its origins. Thus began the filmmaker’s four-year quest to investigate the Jewish standard’s century-and-a-half journey, from Ukraine to YouTube. The result is her new documentary film, Hava Nagila (The Movie),” which premieres at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival on July 19.

“It turned out that ‘Hava Nagila’ is an amazing portal to 150 years of Jewish history, culture and spirituality,” the Los Angeles-based Grossman told the Forward in a recent telephone interview. “Once we started sticking our toe in the big Hava river, so to speak, we realized there was a lot out there.”

Grossman had always thought of the song as a touchstone of her own culturally Jewish childhood, but until she began researching it, she had no idea of its reach and effectiveness. The quest to understand “Hava Nagila” turned into an inquiry into her own American Jewish identity, as well as into why certain songs have such staying power.

Click here to read more and to watch a video of Danny Kaye and Harry Belafonte singing Hava Nagila.


Hava Nagilah And The New Pushke

April 24, 2010

Did you know that Chubby Checker sang a Hava Nagilah Twist?

You know, you don’t have to be named Bronfman, Steinhardt or Lauder to philanthropically support Jewish culture. In fact, you don’t even need lots of money. Today’s micro-philanthropy doesn’t come by way of dropping coins into the pushke, though. You do it by clicking with your mouse and typing in you credit card number.

A number of websites (like and have cropped up whereby artists and independent producers of culture can share information about their projects and make pitches for donations. The public is basically being invited to fund ideas and innovation in a charitable, rather than investment mode. Yeah, you may get a signed copy of the finished DVD or an invitation to the opening of a gallery show, but you shouldn’t expect any options or dividends from the deal. I actually find this a rather clever way of raising money in hard economic times, and also a means of democratizing philanthropy and freeing non-profit ventures from the necessity of catering to the specific tastes and whims of large donors.

So, if you have a few extra bucks to spare for a Jewish cultural cause, then you might want to take a look at some of the Jewish-themed projects posted on these kind of websites, including a new film project by Roberta Grossman about the history of Hava Nagilah. From what I can tell from the trailer put together from footage shot so far, Grossman is doing for this Jewish folk song what David Sax did for the pastrami sandwich in his book, Save The Deli.

Take a look at the trailer in the post below this one, and consider becoming a micro-patron of Jewish culture.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.