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What’s an Indiana ‘HooShir’?

Whether you are a devotee of basketball coach Bob Knight, a native Indianan or even a historian of the Midwest, nobody today quite knows the origin of the word “hoosier.” But a few Jewish a cappella singers at Indiana University have provided their own meaning — and landed a White House holiday gig along the way.

The vocal ensemble HooShir, supported by the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center, derived its name from two Hebrew words “hoo” and “shir,” meaning “It is a song.” On Monday, the group of 18 students played the Hanukkah party at the White House — possibly the one occasion in Washington these days where the topic of oil is a cause for celebration and not a hot political debate.

“It was surreal,” student and singer Andrew Landau told the Shmooze. “The lighting in the White House was a bit dim, and there was just room after room of food. It reminded me so much of Willy Wonka.”

The a cappella singers started the night off with a rendition of “Ma’oz Tsur” at a private candle-lighting ceremony with President Bush, the First Lady and a handful of special guests.

“He looked a bit nervous at first,” Landau said of Bush’s demeanor. “But, you know, he’s a big supporter of Israel, so when we sang “Hatikvah,” it was really special to see his eyes light up with, ‘Oh, I know this one.’”

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