At this time of year it’s impossible to escape the ubiquitous holiday music that assults us whenever we turn on the radio or walk through a shopping mall. Few listeners are aware, however, that the syrupy, commercialized versions of holiday cheer have their origins in the musical genius of a Jewish immigrant from Siberia, the phenomenal Irving Berlin. Whatever we may think of the 21st century interpretations of his work, it is undeniable that Berlin had the amazing ability to express the core values of American culture in a way that transcended religious ideology.
Here’s some additional useful comments from Dr. Carl Singer:
His actions were acknowledged with such accolades as the Army’s Medal of Merit from President Truman in 1945; a Congressional Gold Medal for “God Bless America” and other patriotic songs from President Eisenhower in 1954; and the Freedom Medal from President Ford in 1977. In 2002, the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, named the Army Entertainment Division (AED) World Headquarters “The Irving Berlin Center” in his honor. Also that year he was commemorated on a U.S. postage stamp.
Henry Abramson serves as Dean of the mighty Avenue J campus of Touro College. A specialist in Jewish history and thought, he is the author of several works, most recently Torah from the Years of Wrath 1939-1943: The Historical Context of the Aish Kodesh. His online lectures in Jewish history are available at henryabramson.com.
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