Leonard Cohen grew up in an influential Jewish family in Montreal. And, during his final interview, he reminisced with The New Yorker‘s David Remnick about how the elder men in his family were the “dons” of Jewish Montreal, and how his grandfather “was probably the most significant Jew in Canada”–someone who established numerous Jewish institutions there, and helped countless refugees escape the anti-Semitic pogroms in Eastern Europe.
Immigrants from Eastern Europe themselves, Leonard Cohen’s family undoubtedly spoke some Yiddish, the language once spoken by 11 million Jews, mostly in central and eastern Europe. (Today it’s spoken by 600,000 people at best.) And that’s what makes this Yiddish rendition of “Hallelujah” so fitting. Translated and performed by Klezmer musician Daniel Kahn, it was posted to YouTube on the night of Cohen’s passing.
For anyone interested, it’s worth reading this other The New Yorker piece, “Leonard Cohen’s Montreal.”
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