VISUAL ARTS Song In The Key Of Life:
The story behind ‘Hava Nagila.’
Special To The Jewish Week

Ever wondered about the history of the crowd-pleasing song at your cousin’s wedding? “Hava Nagila: A Song for the People” is an exhibit about the history and meaning behind the popular Jewish folk song. Known as the audio component of the hora circle dance, “Hava Nagila” is a staple at Jewish celebrations, and it has been covered by a number of mainstream musicians including Harry Belafonte and Josephine Baker.

The show at the Museum of Jewish Heritage aims to tell the story of the song in an innovative way. “A key design challenge was to try to tell the story largely through sound,” explained curator Melissa Martens in an e-mail. “In the exhibit, hanging sound sculptures, a film and YouTube videos do much of the storytelling, realized by an innovative and whimsical design by Situ Studio.”

Coinciding with Roberta Grossman and Sophie Sartain’s new documentary, “Hava Nagila: The Movie,” the exhibit features a special film by the pair. Guests will also have the opportunity to sing along to the iconic song karaoke style. Through its own webpage,, visitors are encouraged to contribute their own “Hava Nagila” recordings and photos. 

“Hava Nagila: A Song for the People”  opens Sept. 13 and runs through May 2013 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living