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This entry is part of an online exhibit entitled: "Hava Nagila: From Idelsohn to Belafonte & Beyond," prepared by Eva Heinstein with help from the JMRC staff. To view the exhibit in its entirety click on the link above.
In 2000, author Fran Manushkin published a children’s book to illustrate the story of Hava Nagila. The book was published by UAHC Press, the publishing arm of the Union for Reform Judaism. In Manushkin’s narrative, she attributes the Hebrew lyrics of Hava Nagila to Cantor Moshe Nathanson. In the book, Manushkin depicts the journey of the wordless melody to the Land of Israel, Idelsohn’s recording of the melody, and Nathanson’s composition of the lyrics. In the publishers note, Manushkin cites the references that support Nathanon’s claim to authorship (among them Sheldon Feinberg’s book Hava Nagila: The World’s Most Famous Song of Joy, and Arbie Orenstein’s introduction to Idelsohn’s Jewish Music: Its Historical Development). However, she also notes the conflicting sources that support Idelsohn’s claim to authorship, ultimately capitulating that the “real author” can never be known definitively.