A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 09, 2013
“I Have a Little Dreidel” or “My Dreidel” (The Dreidel Song)

Entry in progress—B.P.
dreidel

Wikipedia: I Have a Little Dreidel
“I Have a Little Dreidel” (also known as “The Dreidel Song” or “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel”) is a children’s Chanukah song in the English speaking world which also exists in a Yiddish version called “Ikh Bin A Kleyner Dreydl”, (Yiddish: איך בין אַ קלײנער דרײדל Lit: I am a little dreidel). The song is about making a dreidel and playing with it.

History[
The lyricist for the English version is Samuel S. Grossman and the composer of the English version is listed as and Samuel Goldfarb (also S. E. Goldfarb). The Yiddish version was both written and composed by Mikhl Gelbart, but he listed the author as Ben Arn, a pseudonym referring to himself as the son of Aaron. There is a question about who composed this music, as the melody for both the Yiddish and the English versions are precisely the same. Mikhl Gelbart (Yiddish: : מיכל געלבאַרט[1]) (pseudonym Ben Arn). The English version of the song is strongly associated with the festival of Chanukah. The meaning of the lyrics to the Yiddish and English versions is largely the same. However, in English the singer sings about a dreidel, whereas in Yiddish the singer is the dreidel. In the Yiddish version, the dreidel is made out out of “blay” (Yiddish: בלײַ), which is lead, which is historically accurate, and in the English version it is made out of clay.

Versions
English version

I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.
When it’s dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, then dreidel I shall play.

It has a lovely body, with legs so short and thin.
When it gets all tired, it drops and then I win!
Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, with leg so short and thin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, it drops and then I win!

My dreidel’s always playful. It loves to dance and spin.
A happy game of dreidel, come play now let’s begin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, it loves to dance and spin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel. Come play now let’s begin.

I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.
When it’s dry and ready, dreidel I shall play.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of clay.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, then dreidel I shall play.

University of Washington—University Library
Guide to the Samuel E. Goldfarb Papers
1912-1981
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
Samuel E. Goldfarb was often called “the father of Jewish music in America.” He was born in 1891 on the Lower East Side of New York City to a musical family. He sang as a choirboy in the synagogues and learned to read music from his older brother, Israel. Samuel Goldfarb studied music at Columbia University while he supported himself by playing piano in a nickelodeon and for a Yiddish vaudeville theater. After attending Columbia, Goldfarb did some composing, arranging, accompanying, and choir conducting. He spent a year in Reno, Nevada, from 1923 to 1924, where he played theater piano and organ and also played for parties and dances. While in Reno, he was appointed acting cantor at Temple Emanu-El, where he organized a choir. Goldfarb returned to New York in 1925 and decided to devote himself to Jewish music. He was appointed head of the music department of the Bureau of Jewish Education.

Goldfarb was a prolific composer of songs and other music. Together with his brother, Rabbi Israel Goldfarb, he composed hundreds of songs which are sung in Jewish schools. In 1925 the two brothers compiled the first American collection of Jewish songs, The Jewish Songster. This collection, in two volumes, was used in schools throughout the country and included some of Goldfarb’s songs. The brothers also compiled Friday Evening Melodies. Among Samuel Goldfarb’s compositions are biblical operettas, the best known being “The Jews in Egypt” (1926), Bible songs, festival songs, and choral music. His most famous song is “The Dreidel,” which is sung during Chanukah by children throughout the world.

12 December 1957, Chariton (IA) Herald-Patriot, pg. 1, col. 6:
After a short intermission, the singers will present: I Have a Little Dreydl, ...

Google Books
The New Jewish Songbook
Compiled and edited by Harry Coopersmith
New York, NY: Behrman House
1965
Pg. 23:
My Dredl
Verse: S. S. Grossman
S. E. Goldfarb

24 October 1978, Seattle (WA) Times, pg. D23, cols. 5-6:
Funeral planned for
Samuel E. Goldfarb

A funeral service for Samuel E. Goldfarb, 87, retired music director at Temple De Hirsch Sinai, will be held tomorrow at Temple De Hirsch Sinai. Burial will be in Hills of Eternity Cemetery. He died Sunday.

Mr. Goldfarb was a nationally known composer of Jewish music. One of his songs, “The Dreidel Song” has been adopted by Jewish schools, organizations and Jewish congregations to be sung during the Chanukah season. In 1965, the Seattle Chorale performed his “I See An America,” an Adlai Stevenson speech Mr. Goldfarb put to music.

Born in New York City, Mr. Goldfarb worked his way through Columbia University playing piano and organ for silent movies. He sang in choirs and was musical director of the Bureau of Jewish Education in New York for 20 years.

25 November 1979, Seattle (WA) Times, “Temple De Hirsch Sinai: A rock in an ‘outpost’ of Jewish life” by Wendy Marcus, Magazine, pg. 8, col. 6:
And then there was Samuel Goldfarb, a contemporary of George Gershwin and Irving Berlin.

Goldfarb, De Hirsch’s musical director, wrote the Chanukah song “I Have a Little Dreidel” ("I have little dreidel. I made it out of clay. And when it’s dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play.")., which was adopted by the Seattle Public Schools and taught in elementary schools around the nation.
(...)
After 25 years at De Hirsch, Goldfarb and his wife Sylvia received from the temple in 1956 a trip around the world—a trip that had a traumatic ending. On their return cruise, their ship, the Italian luxury liner Andrea Doria, was rammed by the Stockholm off the East Coast.

They would never forget, the Goldfarbs later recounted, how they prayed on those sinking decks and then climbed down rope ladders to the small lifeboats bobbing below.

He came back to compose, teach and direct until his retirement in 1968. he died a year ago.

Being Jewish (Winter 2001)
I Have a Little Dreidel —
The True Story

by Susan Wolfe
Everyone knows the song, My Dreidel ("I have a little dreidel, I made it out of clay…"). It’s the obligatory Jewish song tossed into the grammar-school Christmas concert to convert it instantly into a multicultural “holiday” program. It’s the first Chanukah song that preschool toddlers learn, it’s the song whose lyrics are printed on plastic holiday ware (the counterpoint to saucers and plates that read “Ho ho ho"), and it’s the Jewish folk song seemingly so old that it’s no longer attributed.

But I know who wrote My Dreidel.

When he was a young man living in Brooklyn Heights, eking out a living between the Kane Street Synagogue and the Bureau of Jewish Education of New York, my grandfather, Sam Goldfarb, wrote My Dreidel. In fact, along with his brother, Israel, he wrote many, many liturgical and holiday melodies, including the haunting Shalom Aleichem, the Friday night Kiddush (the blessing over the wine), Adon Olam,and the “traditional” Birkhat Hamazon (blessing after meals). But there is no doubt that My Dreidel is the most famous of them all.

YouTube
The Musical Legacy of Samuel E. Goldfarb
David Goldfarb
Uploaded on Dec 6, 2011
The Washington State Jewish Historical Society (WSJHS) and Temple De Hirsch Sinai, presented a concert/reunion to celebrate the musical legacy of Samuel E. Goldfarb. Selections of the liturgical and secular music that Goldfarb, affectionately known as Mr. G, composed and/or arranged,were preformed by many of his former students from the various choirs that he conducted in the Seattle Jewish community. Grandson David Goldfarb was the emcee for this program. held at Temple De Hirsch Sinai on June 10, 2007.

Goldfarb’s contributions as the father of Jewish music in America were legion and took place on both coasts of the country. He was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and studied music at Columbia University. He later served as the head of the music department of New Yorks Board of Jewish Education. With his brother, Israel Goldfarb, he composed hundreds of songs, which are sung in Jewish schools across the country. Many of these appeared in the first collection of such songs ever printed, The Jewish Songster, published by the Goldfarb brothers in 1925. As a young man in New York he wrote a song that has become a classic throughout the Jewish world during Chanukah, “I Have A Little Dreidel”. Enjoy the Musical Legacy Of Samuel E. Goldfarb Concert & Celebration.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theater • Monday, December 09, 2013 • Permalink