Haim Sisters Have Philadelphia Roots

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The Haim sisters are hot right now.

In 2021, their album “Women in Music Pt. III” was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. Later that year, the youngest sister, Alana, starred in a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, “Licorice Pizza,” which earned a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards in March.

Flash forward a couple of months, and the Jewish sisters, Este Haim, 36, Danielle Haim, 33, and Alana Haim, 30, are in the midst of a North American and United Kingdom tour in which they are selling out venues like the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden in New York City.


Haim performs at Madison Square Garden during its 2022 tour. (Courtesy of Donna Haim)

On May 28, they will perform at The Mann Center in Philadelphia.

The show before a potential audience of about 14,000 will be a homecoming of sorts for the girls, as their mother, Donna Haim, grew up in the Northeast and Huntington Valley. Though she moved to California at 19 and later met the girls’ father, Mordechai “Moti” Haim, there, Donna would not be a true Philadelphian unless she imbued the identity into her daughters.

In 2000, Donna Haim’s parents bought a shore house in Margate, New Jersey, and Donna and Moti Haim started bringing the girls down every summer. For the kids, it was time to enjoy the beach and boardwalk. For Donna, it was a way to stay connected to old friends and family members.

The family also ate plenty of sticky buns during those excursions.

“So they know what down the shore meant,” Donna Haim said of her daughters.

But that was about the extent of the girls’ Philadelphia upbringing. Donna Haim, on the other hand, has an entire history in the region.

Her grandparents and extended family settled in the area after immigrating from Russia, Poland and Lithuania, she said. Growing up in the Northeast, Donna Haim would visit her grandparents, celebrate Jewish holidays and grow to understand her Jewish identity.

“They brought a lot of the old country to us,” she said.

When her brother grew old enough to become a bar mitzvah, the family moved to Huntington Valley and joined Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park. Donna Haim got confirmed there.

“It was a beautiful, beautiful temple,” she said.

The Haim matriarch graduated high school in 1973, attended Penn State Ogontz (now Abington) for a year, then moved to California with her parents. Moti Haim, a former professional soccer player, moved from Israel to the United States in 1980 and met his future wife a couple of years later.

Este, Danielle and Alana Haim were born between 1986 and ’91 and then the Haim origin story — now well-known — began. Moti Haim had been a professional drummer and Donna Haim sang and played guitar as a kid. So when the girls were young, Moti Haim woke up one day with a crazy, Richard Williams-like idea.

The family should start a band!

“I said, ‘That’s interesting because Alanna’s only 4 and doesn’t play anything,’” Donna Haim recalled, laughing.

Yet they started playing anyway as a family band called Rockinhaim that covered Eagles, Billy Joel and Santana songs, among others, at churches, synagogues, elementary schools and street fairs.

The girls did not think anything of it, according to Donna Haim. When their friends asked them to go to the mall, they would respond by asking, “Don’t you have to practice, too?”

“We had to practice because we didn’t want to embarrass ourselves on stage,” Donna Haim said.

The Haim sisters with their mother Donna. (Courtesy of Donna Haim)

Eventually, though, the girls got so good that they, as the mother put it, kicked their parents out of the band. One summer when Este Haim was in high school, they started writing songs in the living room and decided to try playing music full time.

As they kept playing, the Haim sisters grew from an opening act to a second act to a headliner. They got their first record deal in the UK in 2012.

“It was like 100,000 hours,” Donna Haim said of the girls’ dedication. “They’ve never shied away from working hard.”

It’s been well-documented that the girls have never shied away from their Jewish image. As a March 2018 Hey Alma post explained, the Haim sisters have talked about everything from eating latkes to appreciating Barbra Streisand.

This, too, goes back to their roots. Each Friday when the girls were growing up, the family would sit down for Shabbat dinner. In “Licorice Pizza,” with Moti, Donna, Este and Danielle Haim playing Alana’s fictional family, Anderson depicts the family eating Shabbat dinner together.

“They’re definitely proud of their Jewish roots,” Donna Haim said.

And on stage, they represent the tribe with gusto.

“They never want it to be like women who are dancing around, prancing around and not being themselves,” she said. “They’re a rock and roll band. They rock out.” JE

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