All together singing in the kitchen. Or at the shabbat table.

When my husband and I got married, I always imagined we would become a musical family. Not a performing musical family, like the Von Trapps, mind you, but a family that sat around and played music together. It was a reasonable assumption. After all, Keith entered the marriage with six accordions, three guitars, a bass, a dobro, a banjo and a lap steel guitar and has since acquired an acoustic bass and recording equipment. I already had a guitar and piano, and was in the habit of spending a good twenty minutes a day singing with my first grade students class.

And yet? Not so much music goes down around here. Ella has started violin lessons and Zoe has her own small set of electronic drums. Every once in a while one of the adults in the house picks up an instrument and noodles around a little, but really, playing music has gone the way of most of our other pre-childrearing days hobbies. More or less out of service.


The fact that we don’t regularly sing and play music together makes me sad. And guilty. So, I can’t tell you how excited I was to get a review copy of Nerissa and Katryna Nields‘ new book All Together Singing in the Kitchen – Creative Ways to Make and Listen to Music as a Family. This book (which comes with a cd) is a comprehensive guide to turning any home into a musical home. And you don’t have to own six accordions, four guitars, two basses, a dobro and banjo, and, well, you get the idea. You don’t have to know how to play an instrument, and you don’t have to “know” how to sing. With chapters that range from “Keeping the Beat” to “Musical Games” to “Homemade Instruments” the book gives an enormous amount of practical advice for adding even just a little music to your family.


What I liked even more than the practical advice, is the perfect tone (no pun intended) that Nerissa and Katryna Nields strike in their shared voice that authors the text. It’s so easy for parenting books to be preachy or condescending or self-righteous or whiny or trying-too-hard-to-be-snarky, or pretending-to-be-self-deprecating-while-actually-patting-oneself-on-the-back. (This is why I hate most parenting books. Also why I gave up on the idea of writing my own.) Katryna and Nerissa manage to come across as gently encouraging and completely human and just the right amount of funny. Which is just what they are like in real life and one of the reasons I’ve written about them before, even though their work has ostensibly nothing to do with Jewish parenting.


In the case of this book, though, there really is a connection to Jewish parenting. There is a long tradition amongst observant families of singing zemirot, shabbat songs, around the table before and after dining. I didn’t learn of this tradition until I was in my 20’s and going to yeshiva on the Upper West Side, and I immediately fell in love with it. But, most of the traditional zemirot are long and full of complicated Hebrew (and Aramaic) words, and my non Jewish husband (who still just mouths the words to Shalom Aleichem) is probably never going to enthusiastically sing eighty-five verses of Tzur Mishelo. Does this mean we can’t sing around the table (or the living room) on Shabbat? I hope not.


All Together Singing in the Kitchen has inspired me to re-imagine shabbat singing. We could start with songs everyone knows, which aren’t even Jewish songs, drawn from the Appendix at the end of the book and the accompanying cd. We could also add some much simpler traditionally Hebrew songs, using some of the guidelines laid out by Katryna and Nerissa – songs with easy choruses, rounds, call and response songs, songs that only require three chords, and especially songs that we actually love and are fun to sing.

So, here is Homeshuling’s brief start of an appendix to All Together Singing in the Kitchen – Songs for Shabbat – complete with videos. The title links to the lyrics in Hebrew transliteration and English translation.


Heveinu Shalom Aleichem

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Hineh Ma Tov – in a round

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Hineh Ma Tov – awesome gospel version


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David Melech Yisrael – Carlebach Version

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An amazing version of lcha dodi (everyone could manage the chorus and leave it at that)


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If you’ve stuck it out this long, then Mazel Tov. You have the chance to win a free copy of All Together Singing in the Kitchen! Please post a comment of a song you love to sing with your family, or you would love to sing with your family, if only you sang with your family. (Which you will, no doubt, if you win the book. Or if you buy the book.) You have until 6 pm on September 25 (East Coast time) to enter.




Comments read comments(17)
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Sarah Buttenwieser

posted September 18, 2011 at 10:46 am

One of the things I already love about two kids at their school together is when they sing songs from school. I am generally shushed by my kids around age 3. Sigh. I would have to say that anything from this land is your land to burning down the house makes me happy when sometimes we do sing, off key, silly, sometimes to the music.

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posted September 18, 2011 at 11:14 am

I love singing! We mostly sing zemirot out of B’kol Echad and also some folk songs from Rise Up Singing. Favorite songs are Esa Einai (the Carlebach tune I think), Hava Nashira (the one that can be sung in a round). I like the Consuelo Luz version of Ki Mitzion which also lends itself to a round alternating Hebrew & English and the Abayudaya-inspired Noam Katz version of Am Yisrael Chai. I also like this Ya Ribon niggun (scroll down this page Bashana Haba-a is my all time fav, and we sing it at the end of the seder and any other time I can get someone to sing it with me. At our table we are more happy singers than masters of Hebrew so we go with nice tunes over zemirot with many & long verses.

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posted September 18, 2011 at 12:05 pm

We like to sing at seudah shlishit-yedid nefesh,-bentching.
L’shana Tova!

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posted September 18, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Amy, I don’t usually read your blog but when I saw there was a giveaway for a book by the Nields — well! My family did a lot of singing from Rise Up Singing when I was a kid, but whenever my grandpa came over it was Frankie and Johnny over and over. It’s his favorite song.

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posted September 18, 2011 at 8:03 pm

We sing “Candlelight” by the Maccabeats all year round. The tune is catchy, my kids attempt the harmonies, the 3 year old can learn the words, and my one non-singer can beat-box.

The whole family also likes to chime in on “I need a Nap” by Weird Al on a hilarious Sandra Boynton CD. “Nap” becomes whatever they happen to need at the moment… very funny.

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posted September 18, 2011 at 9:11 pm

We have lots of songs we sing, but the one I’ll share is the one my nine year old made up when he was about three. The lyrics are “We’re on a train bridge, we’re on a train bridge. We love it so much. We love it so much.” We all still sing it together sometimes, and I love how it reminds me of his toddler-self.

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Sharon Panitch

posted September 19, 2011 at 10:59 am

Love the L’cha Dodi! Can’t wait to share it with my kids. We are increasingly becoming a musical family as the kids get older, tho’ it helps that we sing ours to sleep every night and have since they were newborns. Hence, our older 2 know the words to everything from “Hineh Mah Tov’ to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” to “Cheese Alarm” by Robyn Hitchcock. Our latest favorite to sing together, with lots of made up words, is Shakira’s “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa).”

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David Star

posted September 19, 2011 at 11:52 am

Shana Tove.
Thank you for sharing.

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Heidi Estrin

posted September 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm

My family used to sing together all the time in the car. We especially liked rounds like Frere Jacques, Jane, and Row Your Boat. If we were singing, we couldn’t be misbehaving so it was good a management idea on my parents’ part!

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Nerissa Nields

posted September 19, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Amy, thank you for this generous review! And even more, thanks for including these songs to add to our repertoire. Your readers–and your daughters–are lucky.
Love, Nerissa

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posted September 19, 2011 at 10:29 pm

We will make up silly verses to nearly any song that comes our way but we really thrive on songs that get us banging on the table – which includes Lo Yisa Goy, Adamah B’Shamayim and most Bob Marley.

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Ellen Zimmerman

posted September 20, 2011 at 11:49 am

This version of l’cha dodi is awesome! You’re right — the chorus alone is transformative.

One of my fave Shabbat songs is Shabbat Hamalka. Another fave (actually to add to the Seder) is a version of Halleluyah (the one that expresses thanks for the honey and the sting — the goods and bads of life)

Thanks for sharing!

If you think your homeshulers would be interested, feel free to invite them to sign up for our “Simply Celebrating” e-newsletter at

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posted September 20, 2011 at 1:52 pm

My daughter loves to sing lots of songs. But she insists on Itsy Bitsy Spider and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star most of the time. Whenever we mention stars or spiders.

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Tami Lehman-Wilzig

posted September 21, 2011 at 4:15 am

Music is part of what makes Shabbat special. In my search for Jewish holiday customs I stumbled on a wonderful way the Jews of Prague welcomed Shabbat several hundred years ago. Before the actual services began in the synagogue a Klezmer style band played outside to greet the Sabbath Queen. Here’s an idea: little girls – dress up as Shabbat Ha’Malka; parents – get out your musical instruments to accompany a family singing of Lecha Dodi.

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Dawn Cordeiro

posted September 22, 2011 at 11:57 pm

I would love a copy of this book. We are a Beatles household and “Yellow Submarine” is a fun one to sing. Lucy been walking around singing all the songs she’s learned in the Gan, fun stuff.

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posted September 23, 2011 at 8:52 am

Right now, my kids love to sing dip the apples in the honey!!

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Cindi K

posted September 25, 2011 at 8:15 pm

We love to sing (I was a song leader in my youth). We sing in the car – there are play lists for each holiday. Zmirot at the table have eluded (they don’t sit very well for much of anything!)

Yet … just now before bed, once again, we watched (and now sing) “Dip the Apples in the Honey”. My B’shert doesn’t care for it … but the 8-year olds are mesmerized and I think it is fun.

This books sounds intriguing …

Thanks for the great post.

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