Ready for Valentine’s day? Though we Jews have our own holiday of love, this year Los Angeles’ synagogue holds an LGBT Jewish speed dating, and even before that, the Jewish connection to this holiday has been strong
Is the heart of Valentine’s Day thumping to a Jewish beat?
Yes, I know that February 14th’s murky origins lie in a third-century martyred priest named Valentine, and that Jews already have a lesser-known day of love, Tu B’Av, that is celebrated each summer.
But that doesn’t mean all Jews have been left out of the run-up to red day. In fact, we’re creators and purveyors of part of the day’s pop culture—some of the flowers, candies, and even card designs that are popular on Valentine’s Day have a Jewish connection.
Not that we spent earlier times denying our feelings of love. In the bible, “The Song of Songs,” Shir HaShirim, can be read as erotically charged, complete with seductive kisses, sensual fragrances and the longings of love. In medieval Spain, hundreds of years before the Rolling Stones performed “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” Sephardic Jews were writing Ladino love songs like “The Rosa Enflorece” (“The Rose Blooms”).
In 1937, the Jewish songwriting team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart wrote for their Broadway musical, “Babes in Arms,” the only song about Valentine’s Day to become famous, “My Funny Valentine.”
In the 1970s, Jewish designer Milton Glaser created perhaps the most influential heart design ever—the “I ♥ New York” logo.
Sweetening the day, especially for observant Jews, is the candy business, with many chocolate companies such as Godiva, See’s, and Fannie May, offering kosher Valentine’s Day options. A company called Oh!Nuts even offers heart shaped kosher jelly “I Love You” lollipops
Israel’s flower business has also blossomed for Valentine’s Day—with Israeli flower growers selling red varieties of anemone, buttercups, gerbera, and lilies for the holiday in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. In 2013, Israel’s Flower Growers Association had said it expected the country to export some 60 million roses, orchids, Bonsai trees, and other flowers on Valentine’s Day.
For those who believe that love (or is it Valentine’s Day?) can make strange bedfellows, another Israeli company, the Flower Council, has become the biggest exporter of flowers grown by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in addition to handling Israeli flower exports, according to Haaretz.