How often have we heard peo­ple respond in this way?

I’m always ready to go out and enjoy life. But, the dai­ly alarm of the sho­far in Elul reminds us to mix those plea­sures, and that time is…

Lena Horne [from notes on the Idel­sohn Soci­ety’s blog, to which I can­not link direct­ly] sang this song “Now!,” writ­ten for her in 1963 by Jew­ish Broad­way greats Bet­ty Com­den, Adolph Green, and Jule Styne. Com­den and Green wrote her lyrics that were a scathing indict­ment of anti-Black racism and lying Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy and Styne set them to the most unlike­ly music of all, “Hava Nag­i­la.” Horne per­formed “Now!” at a pair of ben­e­fit con­certs at Carnegie Hall (she co-head­lined with Frank Sina­tra and sent her pro­ceeds to the Gand­hi Soci­ety for Human Rights) and then went into the stu­dio with con­duc­tor Ray Ellis to cut it as a sin­gle. Vari­ety wrote that she sang of “new worlds to come.” She want­ed to share prof­its from the song with the NAACP and the Con­gress of Racial Equal­i­ty but its rad­i­cal lyrics kept it off the radio and “Now!” nev­er had the impact Horne had hoped for. She includ­ed it on the Here’s Lena Now album for 20th Cen­tu­ry Fox, along­side her takes on Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and Arlen and Harburg’s Bloomer Girl call for equal­i­ty, “The Eagle and Me,” (Horne sang it on Broad­way in the 40s: “free as the sun is free/ that’s how it’s got to be”).

lena horne's album now!

lena horne’s album now!

“Now!” did not entire­ly fade from view, though. It soon found the ears of San­ti­a­go Alvarez, an exper­i­men­tal Cuban film­mak­er who used the song as the score to his own “Now!,” a land­mark 1965 news­reel col­lage of black civ­il rights strug­gles that is con­sid­ered a clas­sic of Cuban cin­e­ma.

I have col­lect­ed Hava Nag­i­la vari­ants for near­ly 50 years. First Nap­ster, then YouTube made the process so much eas­i­er. Even so, I have a few on my hard dri­ve (from old vinyl) that have not been post­ed. It is an amaz­ing­ly pow­er­ful song, and yet it con­sists of very few “mov­ing parts”.

So it can be with our efforts at this time of year…

begin with small steps

The work we need to do now can be done in small pieces. Prac­tice a few min­utes a day. That way, when the main event occurs, we’ll be ready. While focus­ing on tiny steps it’s good to keep in mind one of the crit­i­cisms that peo­ple have of Twit­ter:

How can you express a deep thought in only 140 char­ac­ters?


let’s go for under one hundred:

If I am not for myself who will be for me. If I am for myself alone, what am I. If not now, when?


if not now when?

if not now when?

Date: 1970s
Size: 4.2
Pin Form: straight
Print Method: cel­lu­loid
Text אם לא

your lapel buttons

Many peo­ple have lapel but­tons. They may be attached to a favorite hat or jack­et you no longer wear, or poked into a cork-board on your wall. If you have any lay­ing around that you do not feel emo­tion­al­ly attached to, please let me know. I pre­serve these for the Jew­ish peo­ple. At some point they will all go to an appro­pri­ate muse­um. You can see all the but­tons shared to date.


Remem­ber, more resources (seli­chot work­sheets, al chet ques­tion­naires) are avail­able in the side­bar on the right dur­ing Elul through Yom Kip­pur.

This entry was posted in holidays, judaica, lapel buttons, music, politics, when and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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