Chanukah is always a busy time in the music industry. First of all CDs and DVDs make great gifts so it’s a great time for artists to come out with a new CD or DVD. Then of course there are all those Chanukah parties and almost every city that has a Jewish community has some sort of Chanukah concert arranged. In fact one year on Sunday of Chanukah I crossed three different state lines for Uncle Moishy concerts: I did a morning show in Elizabeth New Jersey took a flight from Newark for an afternoon show in Milwaukee and then drove to Chicago for an evening concert.
So what was my favorite Chanukah recording? When I was learning in ITRI back in 1979 making a phone call to the United States was no easy task. For those of you who recall you had one of two choices: Either you went to a public kiosk and kept feeding the phone asimonim (Israeli phone tokens) literally every 5 seconds or you went to the central post office on Rechov Yafo waited in line for a long time and then had the opportunity to make a three-minute phone call which cost you about $10 (or if your parents were willing to foot the bill you could call collect with operator assistance). Hard to believe but there was no Whatsapp calling no cell phones and no Google Earth.
Suki and I decided to find a piano bring along a tape recorder (for the younger generation ask your parents what that was) and get two other people to sing with us. We recruited our good friends Gideon Goldberg and Moishe Weiss. And so we found an old piano; some of the keys were broken and it was as out of tune as an old piano could be. But that didn’t stop us. We pushed “record” on the tape recorder and we started to sing Chanukah songs accompanied by Suki on the piano. We also told a few funny stories about our Chanukah experiences in Israel. I actually remember that we began the recording with original lyrics to the tune of “V’chol Maaminim”:
Happy Chanukah to all
it’s so expensive to call
So we decided to send you this cassette
So listen to us sing —
Moishe Gideon Suki and Ding
You can walk out if you really get upset...
We made four copies of our masterpiece and found someone going to the States to take it to America for us. You cannot imagine how much joy this simple recording brought to our families. Although we had spent no money on it to them it was priceless. We were told later that our families listened to them over and over again… they loved it.
So let me humbly make a suggestion to all those reading this: This week when you light your candles take a camera take your smartphone take whatever you have and video your candlelighting and the singing afterward. Keep that camera rolling as you sing Maoz Tzur and play dreidel add a personal message and send it or e-mail it to someone you love who couldn’t be with you this year. Maybe your grandparents living in a different country a cousin you lost touch with a relative who’s laid up; it doesn’t matter who you send it to. This will be a gift — as Mastercard keeps telling us — that is truly priceless.
Before I sent in this article I called my old friend Rabbi Gideon Goldberg who is now the menahel of Yeshiva Ketana of Manhattan and asked him what his parents’ reaction was to receiving the cassette so many years ago. He replied: “They said that it was the first time they were able to actually feel what I was experiencing in Eretz Yisrael and it was also a way for me to introduce my friends (the three of us) to my family.” Of course when I asked Suki’s family about their reaction to the cassette they said they listened to it all the way to Purim.
When I asked my family if they enjoyed the cassette I got an answer I will never forget. “Nu? You couldn’t call?”(Originally featured in Mishpacha Issue 689)
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