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This Phoenix politico and ASU administrator is expanding the catalog of Hanukkah songs

If you’ve followed Arizona politics for a while, the name Rick Naimark might ring a bell. The former deputy city manager for Phoenix is now an associate vice president for Arizona State University. But when he’s not making public policy or helping the university expand its footprint, you might find him at the piano. Particularly this time of year.

“Good evening, everybody. Happy Hanukkah to everybody. Sorry, front row, apologize that’s the splash zone,” Naimark said at a Hanukkah party last week at Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix.

Hanukkah is a relatively minor Jewish holiday, often overshadowed by Christmas, and the music is no exception there.

The old joke is that there are so many famous Christmas songs penned by Jews — including Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” — they didn’t have a chance to write any fabulous Hanukkah ditties. But more recently, the genre has added a few new titles, including Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah songs — there are now four of them.

But as Naimark demonstrated at the party, just about any song can be a Hanukkah song if you get creative.

Many of Naimark’s musical selections, parody songs by a group called Six13, were knock-offs of popular songs by the likes of Elton John. 

And one for the kids, courtesy of the Backstreet Boys.

But he did play a few real Hanukkah tunes, like Tom Lehrer’s arguably classic “I’m Spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica.” 

Thursday night will be the eighth and final candle, so you have a couple more days to sing along.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.