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Podcast: Liel Leibovitz on the Jewish Poetry of Leonard Cohen

June 23, 2017 | By: Liel Leibovitz

Press play below to listen to the podcast, download it in the iTunes Store, or stream it via Stitcher.

Chapter 1: Leonard Cohen—Jewish Prophet

Chapter 2: Fathers and Sons

Chapter 3: “Hineni”

Chapter 4: Cohen’s Jewish Particularism

Chapter 5: A Broken Hallelujah

How do poetry and song convey Jewish meaning? Does Jewish poetry have to be liturgical? At the turn of the century, Ahad Ha’am challenged the early Zionist movement to conceive of the Jewish nation as a home for the Jewish national spirit. Even in the diaspora, the Jewish imagination needs tending. Who were the most prominent Jewish poets of the North American diaspora in the latter half of the twentieth century?

The late singer Leonard Cohen might not come first to mind, but in this podcast, Tablet Magazine’s Liel Leibovitz explores the reasons he should. Perhaps no artist better answered the call of Jewish cultural renewal than Leonard Cohen. Born in Montreal to an Orthodox family, Cohen became one of the most important North American musicians of the 20th century. Throughout his long career, he consistently drew on Jewish themes in his music, seamlessly interweaving biblical stories and kabbalistic ideas into songs that spoke of love, loss, and longing.

Drawing on his biography of Cohen, A Broken Hallelujah, Leibovitz and Tikvah Senior Director Jonathan Silver read and discuss some of Cohen’s best songs, including  “Story of Isaac,” “You Want It Darker,” and of course, “Hallelujah.” As they do so, it becomes clear that Cohen was, at heart, a poet who took Judaism seriously.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as Ich Grolle Nicht, by Ron Meixsell and Wahneta Meixsell.


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More about: Jewish Literature  • Tikvah Podcasts