If you’re expecting a baby, or have a few already, here’s a CD a Jewish parent should have handy.
“Songs from the Garden of Eden: Jewish Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes,” produced by a little-known publishing company in Montreal, is a compilation of 28 Jewish lullabies and rhymes from the Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Yemenite traditions. They’re sung in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and Arabic, and they tug at the heartstrings in a way no classical composition can.
There’s nothing too complex about these tunes. The longest, “Erev shel shonanim,” runs four minutes, 11 seconds; the shortest, a Yiddish chant titled “Shuster” goes on for just 11 seconds. Clear your ears, and you’ll miss it.
But there’s something striking about hearing a familiar melody, like “Oh Chanuka Oh Chanuka,” sung in Yiddish. (The song is titled “Khanuke” on the CD.)
Adult and child vocalists come together to create a stirring, easy listening sound. Musicians playing instruments native to the lands where they generated the lullabies accompany the singers. I’ve never heard instruments like the daf, riq and darbouka — until now.
Well-meaning parents talk about the value of playing soft, soothing music for the baby when it arrives — preferably classical. Well, why not cultural as well. “Songs from the Garden of Eden,” is a subtle way to introduce your toddler to his or her Jewish culture. It could develop an appreciation for our creative side that they’ll take with them always.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at email@example.com.)