Jewish Folk Songs for the Holidays

"Every Jewish Holiday has its music..." begins one website devoted to Jewish Holiday music.  As such, there is a rich and varied tradition, full of wonderful melodies which our Jewish students will likely know, love and from which they can learn much.  This collection covers music performed for The High Holy Days, Chanuka, Sukot, Purim and Passover.  More songs will be added as they are collected.  You may view the songs here by selecting subregion Jewish-Israeli.  

It is, of course important to understand the religious context in which the songs would be performed, so there is a brief description of each of these Holidays below.

The High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur)

The term "High Holy Days" can refer strictly to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, more broadly to the ten days of repentance that include those Holidays or, further the entire 40-day period beginning with Rosh CHodesh Elul and concluding with Rosh Hashanah.

The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the Ten Days of Repentance because, while it is believed that judgement is passed on us on Rosh Hashnah (the Jewish New Year) it is not made final until Yom Kippur, or "The Day of Atonement."  Therefore Jews are supposed to use the ten days between the two Holidays to seek forgiveness from anyone they have wronged.

The celebration of Rosh Hashanah includes longer services with additional religious poems, called piyyutim, and additional prayers, both of which are often collected in special books for the High Holy Days called Mahzor.  The blowing of the Shofar, or rams horn, is also an important part of the Rosh Hashanah celebration.  Many fast until noon and meals typically include apples and honey, and round challah is usually served.  There are many other traditional new year's foods, depending on the local tradition.

Songs for the high Holy Days:

Hayom t'amtzenu:



Purim celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from the Persian King Haman who planned to annihilate them, according to the Book of Esther.  Like Hanukah, Purim is more of a national holiday than a religious one, and thus Jews are typically allowed to engage in business and work, unlike on religious holidays.  Celebration includes burning of Haman's efigy, much feasting, music and masquerading.  

Songs for Purim:

La y'hudim:


Sukkot is plural for sukkah, the tent-like structure that the ancient israelites had to live in during their 40 years wandering in the dessert.  During the seven days of Sukkot Jews traditionally take their meals and do their prayers inside a sukkah built for the occasion.  Sukkot is one of the most important feasting holidays and, as such, has much music, dancing, additional prayers and is even an important date for state ceremonies.

Songs for Sukkot:

Lama Suka Zu:


Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of Maccabean revolt.  By lighting a candle in the Menorah each night for eight days, Jews remember the miracle that the temple lamp stayed lit for the entire 8-day ceremony with only one day's worth of oil.

Many traditions make Hanukkah a favorite holiday for children, particularly in the US.  It is often speculated the Jews in the US have made Hanukkah a more important festival than it was traditionally in order to compete with all the presents given to Christian children this time of year.  Regardless, children's favorites include the Dreidel game, the receiving of Gelt (pretend gold coins with chocolate inside), fried foods such as latkes and presents each night.  

Hanukkah songs:  

Hunnukia li Yesh:

 I Have a Little Dreydl:

Sheket Sheket:


Passover, the remembrance of Jews escape from Egypt, is celebrated in the Spring, usually around the end of March.  According to the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey, Passover (or Pesach as Jews call it) is the most commonly celebrated Jewish Holiday, even among non-observant Jews.   During the Passover Seder (Friday evening meal) Jews tell the story of Exodus through readings, symbolic food and song.  Customs vary greatly from region to region, but central to the tradition is usually the eating of unleavened bread (matzah).  

Passover songs:


Echad Mi Yode'a:

Ma Nishtana:



Songs that can be sung at many different holidays:

Shalom Chaverim: