Leonard Cohen, ‘Judaism in Song’ at Beth Judah-Wildwood

On Saturday, July 23, Beth Judah Temple-Wildwood invites the entire community to a free event featuring the music of Leonard Cohen. The event will be held at 7 p.m. at the synagogue. The musical event will be an opportunity to view and analyze Leonard Cohen’s songs and the Jewish texts (both biblical and liturgical) that clearly influenced his compositions. Attendees will hear Leonard Cohen singing his songs and an interview of Leonard Cohen regarding his music.

According to Ruth Edelman, co-chair of Beth Judah’s Kehilla (congregation), “Beth Judah Wildwood is a place of community and friendship, a place to be inspired through prayer, a place for lifelong learning, and a place where every person makes a difference.”

The congregation’s religious leader, Rabbi Ron Isaacs, has been a student of Leonard Cohen for many years. He has enjoyed the songs and poetry of Leonard Cohen, and in recent years began discovering connections between his songs and biblical stories and Jewish prayers. Rabbi Isaacs read books about Leonard Cohen and was intrigued with Cohen’s Jewish knowledge. Several years ago, he began preparing for a presentation that would present and analyze some of the Jewish songs of Leonard Cohen. The presentation scheduled for Beth Judah will be his first time presenting this particular program. There will be ample opportunity for audience participation and a sing-a-long.

Edelman noted that Beth Judah Temple is “a smaller synagogue on the island, hosting free and exciting community events which are important for the synagogue.” As a member of the congregation in Bridgewater for over 30 years, Ruth Edelman added, “BJT is fortunate to have the talents of an experienced congregational rabbi who also happens to have a wonderful voice and plays the guitar. I am delighted to be inspired by Rabbi Isaacs at the shore. His music fills our sanctuary with the spirit of Shabbat.” Isaacs is rabbi emeritus of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater, New Jersey, where he served for over 40 years.

Known as the “teaching rabbi,” he has used his creative talents in the Temple’s Religious School, Hebrew High School, and award-winning adult education program. He is a prolific writer, having contributed to over 125 books on Jewish themes for people of all ages and levels of Jewish knowledge. He has taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Rabbinical School and has served as scholar-in-residence and lecturer throughout the country. He was also a founding member of the successful Hebrew folk rock group called Arbaah Kolote—the Voices Four. Two of his albums are still available on the Smithsonian Folkway recordings website.

Because of the excellent acoustics in the BJT sanctuary, this event will be held there, so participants can enjoy the beauty of the sanctuary while they listen to songs composed by Leonard Cohen that have become part of Jewish liturgy in many congregations. To ensure the safety of all guests, masks are required in the sanctuary. The event will be followed by refreshments in the social hall for those who are vaccinated and comfortable being in a room unmasked. BJT requests that those in attendance in the sanctuary wear a mask and social distance to respect the needs of more vulnerable attendees.

Beth Judah Temple recently reopened its doors following a nearly 18-month hiatus during the pandemic. Throughout those months, Rabbi Issacs provided weekly Kabbalat Shabbat services to the congregation and others via Zoom. The synagogue now offers twice monthly in-person Kabbalat Shabbat services, including “At the Beach” services in North Wildwood one Friday night in both July and August. All in-person services on Fridays and Saturdays are livestreamed via Facebook.

For more information, visit www.bethjudahtemple.org

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