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WASHINGTON (RNS) The latest Hanukkah tune is coming from an unexpected place this year: the halls of Congress and the pen of a conservative Mormon senator.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is the co-writer of a revamped Hanukkah song that debuted this week on the site of a Jewish online magazine, Tablet.
Hatch, a noted songwriter, created the tune at the behest of Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for The Atlantic. Goldberg complained a decade ago to Hatch about the lack of sufficient Hanukkah tunes and the senator promised to write something. He didn’t follow through.
A decade later, Goldberg revisited the issue on his blog, and this time, Hatch came through, with his collaborator, Madeline Stone, a Jewish writer who traditionally authors Christian music.
The song, titled “Eight Days of Hanukkah,” was recorded by Rasheeda Azar, a Syrian American. The accompanying video on Tablet’s site shows Azar singing while Hatch and Goldberg listen in the studio. At one point, Hatch unbuttons his shirt to reveal a mezuzah he wears around his neck.
“He has an affinity for Jews,” Goldberg said. “I think as a Mormon, the story of Hanukkah resonates.”
The song tells the story of the miracle of Hanukkah in broader detail than most English songs, including the lyrics: “A small band of people led the way/Through the darkest night they prayed/Seeking religious freedom/Did more than just survive.”
“Anything I can do for the Jewish people, I will do,” Hatch told The New York Times. “Mormons believe the Jewish people are the chosen people, just like the Old Testament says.”
Matthew E. Berger
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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