Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Fast Forward

How A Hanukkah Song Made Its Way Into The Hebrew Translation Of Harry Potter

(JTA) — If you read the “Harry Potter” series in Hebrew you may have noticed a curious Jewish fact: Though Sirius Black isn’t Jewish, the character sings a Hanukkah song in one scene.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Hebrew translator Gili Bar Hillel reveals some behind-the-scenes tidbits about her “Harry Potter” translation process. In the original English version, Black sings a Christmas song, but Bar Hillel felt that wouldn’t resonate with Israeli readers.

Instead, she used a well-known Hanukkah song, so that Jewish readers would be able to relate.

“There were fans who ridiculed this and said that I was trying to convert Harry to Judaism, but really the point was just to convey the cheer and festivity of making up words to a holiday song,” she said. “I don’t think any of the characters come off as obviously Christian, other than in a vague sort of cultural way, so I didn’t feel it was a huge deal if I substituted one seasonal holiday for another!”

That wasn’t Bar Hillel’s only translation dilemma. She struggled with finding the right phrase for “Pensieve,” a container used to store memories. After weeks of thinking, she came up with the term “Hagigit.”

The phrase is “a portmanteau of ‘hagig’ — a fleeting idea — and ‘gigit’ — a washtub,” Bar Hillel said.

It doesn’t seem like author J.K. Rowling would mind the liberties Bar Hillel took. The British author has recently become a vocal critic of anti-Semitism, using Twitter to call out people peddling anti-Jewish arguments.  Her latest book even includes a villain whose obsessive hatred of Zionism turns into anti-Semitism.

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.