Smokey Robinson by the Forward

Smokey Robinson stumped about how to say ‘Hanukkah’

Some say the Jews control the entertainment industry. If that’s the case, riddle me this: How could Motown legend Smokey Robinson, a six-decade veteran of major record labels, not know how to pronounce Hanukkah — or even have any idea what it is?

We can thank Twitter user Jeff Jacobson for an unforgettable record of Robinson’s seasonal confusion. On Sunday, Jacobson posted a clip of a Cameo video he’d commissioned from Robinson in which the singer passed on Hanukkah greetings to Jacobson’s mother, who grew up on the same street in Detroit as the Miracles frontman.

It, uh, didn’t go quite as planned.

“They wanted me to wish you Happy Chah-nooka,” Robinson said, “I have no idea what Chah-nooka is, but Happy Chah-nooka.”

Now, it’s unlikely that Robinson doesn’t have some basic awareness of Hanukkah; while the idea that Jews control the music industry is both incorrect and a little antisemitic, we have historically had quite a presence in it, and Robinson has collaborated with many of members of the tribe, most recently covering a Burt Bacharach tune.

More likely, Robinson was stumped by one of the many alternate spellings of the holiday’s name. If Jacobson’s post is any indication, he opted for the spelling “Chanukah,” which, phonetically comes close to what Robinson said even if it is so, so laughably wrong.

But, then, the fact that Robinson couldn’t figure it out judging by the season is a tad curious — although even many Jews are thrown by Hanukkah’s timing with the whole lunar calendar thing.

So: Does Smokey know? If he didn’t, he almost certainly does now.

We thank him for the greeting in any case. Happy Chah-nooka, Smokey, right bah-ca-tchaw.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture reporter. He can be reached at


PJ Grisar

PJ Grisar

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture reporter. He can be reached at

Smokey Robinson stumped about how to say ‘Hanukkah’

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Smokey Robinson stumped about how to say ‘Hanukkah’

Thank you!

This article has been sent!