Wherever we go this time of year, we can’t escape hearing Christmas songs — be they on the radio, sung by carolers, or piped in as Muzak in stores and public spaces. It gets to the point at which it seems there is an audio loop of holiday classics running non-stop in our heads.
What many people may not realize is that many of these classic Christmas songs were written by Jews. For instance, “White Christmas” was written by Irving Berlin, Frank Loesser wrote “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and “Silver Bells” was by Jay Livingston (born Jacob Levison). Given their authorship, it is not surprising that these songs were heavy on the cold weather, family and friends, and devoid of traditional Christian religious iconography.
Visitors to “A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs 1910-1965,” a travelling exhibition showing until December 22 at the Bureau of Jewish Education’s Jewish Community Library in San Francisco, can learn about these and other Jewish composers and lyricists who dominated on Broadway and in Hollywood during the middle decades of the 20th century. The exhibition, curated by David Lehman, was developed by Nextbook, Inc. and based on Lehman’s 2009 book of the same name.