Early Childhood Jewish Education Music Education Songleading Young Children

10 Justice songs for Early Childhood

Ready to explore Justice through songs and stories with kiddos in honor of MLK day?

As a holiday approaches, I reflect on my intention for teaching a topic and take inventory of my repertoire.  What songs and activities do I have and what do I need to make it meaningful and musical with my kiddos this year? 

As I prepared myself to honor MLK weekend this year, I re-read a book I’ve loved for a long time.

If you want to teach about MLK in Jewish community, I can’t recommend the book As Good As Anybody highly enough. 

It describes the parallel experiences of a young Martin Luther King facing racism and a young Abraham Joshua Hechel facing antisemitism. The story goes on to describe how they marched and prayed together in Selma and demonstrates the strength that can be uncovered when all stand together. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel spoke at Dr. King’s funeral- their work and their relationship is an example of how I wish our world could be.

Halfway through the book, my kindergarten’s eyes opened wide and she interrupted- “wait- this is a real life story?!?!”  

I responded affirmatively and both of our eyes welled up with tears a little.

She asked me if people know we are Jewish and if it was OK to tell other people 🥺. I told her yes, and tried to keep the anxiety sharks swimming in my head with the latest data on rising antisemitism at bay so she would not know that I do worry that I’m making us vulnerable by living a loudly Jewish life.

Stories we share and the songs we sing matter- we can not shield our kids from the sorrows of today or yesterday.

We can and should keep conversations age appropriate, providing lots of support for kiddos as they process difficult and devastating concepts. I’ve curated a collection of 10 songs about Justice for kids for you as you lead your learners in exploring justice through song. 

1) Get Up, Stand Up (Storybook) Bob Marley and Cedella Marley

One of my top ten all time favorite stories, Get Up Stand Up is an incredible tool for sharing this song. The chorus is familiar to you “Get up, stand up- stand up for your rights! Get up, stand up- don’t give up the fight!” but the lyrics of the verses have been re-written by Bob Marley’s daughter, Cedella to be more age appropriate and relatable for young children.

2)  Shed a Little Light by James Taylor covered by Naturally 7 and The Maccabeats 

I love this song when James Taylor sings it but I love it even more when Naturally 7 and The Maccabeats sing it. Since MLK happens just after Chanukah, the symbolism and power of spreading light might be familiar to your learners- so help make connections. When I play a music video for kids, I always make sure to prepare them and take steps towards making the little screen time I use to be used productively. Before pressing play, I’ll ask them a few leading questions and instruct them to wait until the end the song to share their thoughts. I like to ask questions about feelings, because they are universal: How do you imagine the singers felt before, during and after making this video? How do you feel when you watch this video? Does the feeling shift if you close your eyes and listen?

3) If I Had a Hammer by Peter, Paul, & Mary

This song is familiar to many and beloved by many camp-loving OG and contemporary campers. I use “Hammers” aka Treyfe Mallets (they’ve never been used for food!) as rhythm instruments- tapping along to the song. I offer suggested movements- tapping on hammer head on top of the other, tapping from side to side, tapping the floor diagonally across, tapping your toes….all good ways to practice feeling the rhythm of a song in your body! 

4) Justice by Miss Emily  

I was commissioned to write two albums back in 2015, and assigned 24 Jewish values about which to write. This song accompanied a book based lesson plan: Henry’s Freedom Box Teaches to Pursue Justice, take a look for more inspiration. The inspiration text for this song comes straight from Deuteronomy: “Justice, justice, you shall pursue.” Deuteronomy 16:20

Sometimes I think you’re hiding, Hearing news stories that are sad
Sometimes I wonder where you are, when I see bullies, I get mad
But then I remember each one of us has a job to do
Justice, I will find you. Justice, we will pursue


We’re gonna find it, We’re gonna create it
Justice for all, We’re gonna’ make it
We’re gonna do what is right to try to make our world more fair
To be righteous people and show how much we do care

I’m sad when I hear stories From our history, When people who were different Were treated unfairly
Some things have gotten better, but there is still more work to do
Justice, I will find you. Justice, we will pursue


It might teaching others how to open up their mind
It might mean speaking up and being the person who reminds
Though we’ve solved some problems, there are problems that are new
Justice, I will find you. Justice, we will pursue

Track 4, Good Choices Volume 2

5) He Had a Dream by QuaverMusic Song  

This song is extraordinarily cheesy and I suggest you limit the audience with whom you share this to kindergarten and below. A song like this is useful in helping the younger and less verbal kids participate more meaningfully in exploring Justice through song. This tune featured the opportunity to practice audiation- the cognitive skill to internally ‘hear’ a sound without verbally making one (when you think the letters in BINGO instead of speaking them you are practicing that skill). 

6) L’takein (Na Na Song) by Dan Nichols 

Sing this blessing whenever you are pursuing Justice! Elevate your holy work with this simple song. Dan Nichol’s “Na Na Song” also known as “L’takein” was a songsession staple in my youth and I wish I could convey the energy it used to inspire. It’s most common word are so simple that kids collectively retitled the song “The Na Na Song” though it was named for the blessing it contains. The Hebrew lyrics of this song translate to: Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, for giving us the opportunity to mend the world

Na na na na na na, na na na na, na na na na na na

Baruch atah Adonai, Elo- heinu Me- lech ha- olam

Shenatan lanu hizdamnut l’takein et ha olam.

Love that Dan makes the chords   so readily available !

7) Lo Yisa Goy/Don’t Walk In Front of Me

I’m not sure the origin of this version, though i’m confident many of my readers have heard it. This song can be presented as a round, with English, Hebrew, and Niggun elements. The Hebrew lyrics come from Torah (Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3) and mean “A nation shall not raise a sword against a nation, and they shall not learn

war more war.”

Niggun: Aaay Oooo, Ooo Aaaay…

Hebrew: Lo yisa goy

El goy cherev

Lo yil’medu

Od milchamah.



Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow;

Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead;

Just walk beside me, and be my friend;

And together we will walk in the way of Hashem

8) One Mitzvah by Susan Shane-Linder 

I love singing songs my friends wrote, and Miss Susan is a dear one who has made huge contributions to our songleading community. This song has two parts, and I only use the “A” section in early childhood. “One Mitzvah leads to another, if you give of yourself, you can help each other! One Mitzvah leads to another- to be righteous is very good!”

I f you do use both parts- this is a round! Please remember that typically, kiddos need to be 5+ to begin to have the ability to sing in a round. The cognitive processes it requires are simply to complex for younger children who are developing prerequisite skills. 

9) We Shall Overcome 

Sing this one all the way through before you share it with kids. This is always a critical step- but this one is particularly evocative emotionally. 

10)  And the Youth Shall See Visions Debbie Friedman

This song evokes strong feelings- the flute solo in the recording I grew up on in the 90’s was a significant influencer in my decision to become a flutist in middle school! 

Before sharing this song, check in with your kiddo’s understanding of words in the chorus: 

Then, make it personal: Who here has visions of the future? 

For kids 3+  I like to provide this prompt with paper and pencil, and ask them to document their visions. Encourage the kids to draw or describe a vision they have for a future with more justice while they listen to the song. Then, facilitate a brief ‘show and share’ to give children a chance to describe their visions.

  • What is youth? 
  • What is vision? 
  • What does “building for tomorrow” mean?

If you want to be extra about it (like me), you could share the children’s visions with your community by scanning them and creating a gallery or video. Pair it with the chorus of the song.

This MLK weekend and every other weekend, I hope you are showing your learners how to pursue justice! 

Recommended Articles