Carol Boyd Leon

super simple jewish songs

Every adult remembers the nursery rhymes they were taught when they were very little.  The tunes were simple, the lyrics were brief.  One melody, one set of lyrics. The problem nowadays is that too many of today's songs for tots are too complex; they're designed for listening rather than singing. Chances are they'll be forgotten long before adulthood.

So, in preschools, including Jewish preschools, many teachers end up using the simple nursery rhyme melodies from their own youth and creating parody songs -- Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star becomes a song about leaves falling down, Where Is Thumbkin becomes so many different songs that children can't distinguish one from another, She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain is used for Passover, Sukkot, you-name-it.  Even more disconcerting is that Jewish holiday songs -- for instance, I Have A Little Dreidel -- gets so many sets of lyrics for different holidays that the melody itself no longer says "Hanukkah" to our children.

That's why I set out to create new, simple melodies and lyrics that are accessible to tots and their teachers -- both at home and at school.  Eventually I'd like to create a songbook and companion CD.  In the meantime, I plan to post rough, homemade recordings so adults can start to teach these Jewish nursery rhymes and super-simple songs to their children and students.  If you prefer not waiting to see whether the songbook actually becomes a reality, individual pages of sheet music are available for purchase for each song.

Wondering about the photo?  It depicts one of my preschool music classes in Arlington, VA where the students are singing and acting out the lyrics to Way Up High In An Apple Tree, a often-recited children's poem to which I've given a Rosh Hashanah twist.  As far as I know, Way Up High was a nursery rhyme in search of a melody, so I gave it one.  Singing it in the shade of a great big tree made it even more fun.

Happy Hanukkah! Here's the second set of reference recordings -- several super simple Hanukkah songs. Included are a few new, not-yet-published songs and a few previously published in the Gan Shirim collection.

  • Listen to Don't Blow Them Out!

    Don't Blow Them Out!

  • Listen to One Little Latke:

    One Little Latke

  • Listen to Counting Candles (from Gan Shirim):

    Counting Candles

  • Listen to Come See The Candles - Chanukah (from Gan Shirim):

    Come See The Candles

  • Listen to The Maccabees (from Gan Shirim) - for older children:

    The Maccabees

    And here's the first set of reference recordings to help get the new year started off right...  Why not try learning a few of these new, classroom-tested holiday songs and then teach them to your students?  After all this is the season for new beginnings!

  • Listen to Happy Birthday to the World:

    Happy Birthday to the World

  • Listen to Way Up High In An Apple Tree:

    Way Up High In An Apple Tree

  • Listen to Sweet New Year:

    Sweet New Year

  • Listen to Birthday, Birthday (sing name of birthday child in 2nd verse or sing a holiday verse):

    Birthday, Birthday

  • Listen to I Am Sorry (children sing the responses):

    I Am Sorry

  • Listen to Our Sukkah (children act it out):

    Our Sukkah

  • Listen to Sukkot Riddle:

    Sukkot Riddle

  • Listen to Simchat Torah March:

    Simchat Torah March

  • In addition, the fall holiday songs below, all from the award-winning GAN SHIRIM, A Garden of Songs collection published in 2004, similarly are designed for the very young.  You can hear and learn from the full-length studio recordings below.  (Please visit the Gan Shirim page if you wish to purchase individual song downloads, CDs, or the complete 163-page songbook which includes teaching suggestions.)

  • Listen to L'Shanah Tovah:

    L'Shanah Tovah

  • Listen to The Bumblebee Waltz (for the slightly older set):

    The Bumblebee Waltz

  • Listen to I'm Sorry (try this as an echo-and-repeat song):

    I'm Sorry

  • Listen to Promises:

    Promises

  • Listen to I'm All Shook Up (for ALL ages!):

    I'm All Shook Up

  • Listen to In The Sukkah:

    In The Sukkah

  • Listen to Torah Is A Special Gift (refrain is perfect for preschoolers or use for Consecration:

    Torah Is A Special Gift

  • For a High Holy Day -- or all-year round -- song with an important and upbeat message, try Tikkun Olam. Preschoolers and kindergartners will enjoy marching to the verse that begins, "God made this great big world..." and having you teach them hand motions and stomps; elementary-age children can master all the lyrics, too. Because the sentence of unfamiliar Hebrew on the recording is a fun challenge for youth choirs but may be too much of a mouthful for many others, try using the following lyrics, which include the alternative English lyrics. (The sheet music and Gan Shirim songbook include both sets of lyrics.)

    God made this great big world for you and me,
    Then said, 'Now see what you can make it be.'
    Let's all do our part, every boy and girl,
    Tikkun olam, let's help to fix the world.

    Everyone can help. No one is too small.
    There's a job for each of us no matter small or tall.
    Let's work to make things better all throughout the land.
    Tikkun olam is what we'll do together hand in hand. *


    God made this great big world for you and me,
    Then said, 'Now see what you can make it be.'
    Let's all do our part, every boy and girl,
    Tikkun olam, tikkun olam, tikkun olam,
    Let's help to fix (stomp) the (stomp) world (stomp stomp).

    * on "hand in hand," have them shake a neighbor's hand

  • Listen to Tikkun Olam:

    Tikkun Olam



  • Music & lyrics for all 21 songs on this page copyright by Carol Boyd Leon (ASCAP)
    All rights reserved

    Want sheet music for any of the songs listed above?

    Each song is just a single page and costs $2. Please email Carol at cbleon@hotmail.com with title(s) of songs you wish to purchase and the email address to which you want the pdf sent.  Sheet music includes melody, chords for improvised piano or guitar accompaniment, lyrics and transliteration of any Hebrew lyrics. Then use the "add to cart" button just below to pay for the appropriate number of pages.  If ordering more than 1 song, please try to put all the songs into the same "shopping cart."  You'll generally receive your order within 24 hours (except no orders will be filled Sept 5-12).