Seth Rogovoy, termed “American Jewry’s greatest Dylan scholar” by Religion News Service, will present a multimedia program exploring the Jewish influences in the life and work of the recent Nobel Prize winner at B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany.
“The Kabbalah of Bob Dylan” will be presented Saturday, Oct. 21, 7:30 p.m. at the synagogue, 420 Whitehall Road, Albany. Tickets are $10, available at the door.
With the aid of audio clips, video, still images and textual comparison, Rogovoy will illustrate how Dylan’s songwriting has always been profoundly rooted in Jewish writings, including the Torah, the Prophets, the Talmud and mysticism, fusing these inspirations into a genre of “rock ’n’ roll midrash.”
Along the way, the program will examine the Minnesota-born folksinger’s deeply religious and cultural upbringing, his commitment to Jewish practice and causes and his decades-long connection to the Jewish outreach organization Chabad. Attendees will learn how Dylan grew up in a Yiddish-speaking home in a family that was at the very nexus of his hometown’s Jewish community; how classic Dylan songs including “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “All Along the Watchtower” and “Forever Young” have their lyrical roots in the words of prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and in Jewish liturgy; and view rare video footage of Dylan performing Jewish music and quoting from the Book of Psalms.
In addition, the audience will be treated to a concert of Dylan’s Jewish-influenced songs performed by resident B’nai Sholom folkies Rabbi Don Cashman and Phil Teumim and perhaps a special guest or two.
Author of Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet (Scribner, 2009), Rogovoy is a familiar name to public radio listeners and Berkshire readers. He was a music critic and arts writer at the Berkshire Eagle for 16 years, was founding editor of Berkshire Living magazine, and his weekly cultural commentary has been heard on WAMC Northeast Public Radio for more than two decades.
Rogovoy also is an expert on klezmer, having penned The Essential Klezmer: A Music Lover’s Guide to Jewish Roots and Soul Music (Algonquin, 2000), the all-time best-selling guide to the music.
Rogovoy was awarded the 2016 Simon Rockower Award from the American Jewish Press Association for excellence in arts and criticism for his portrait of musician Leonard Cohen, published in the April/May 2015 issue of Hadassah Magazine.
Rogovoy is a contributing editor to the English edition of the Forward, for which he has written for more than 25 years. His work has been published in Haaretz (Israel), Jewish Press (U.K.), Jewish Quarterly (U.K.), Tablet, Pakn Treger, Berkshire Jewish Voice, Newsday, Boston Phoenix, Chronogram, Woodstock Times and others.
Rogovoy’s books will be available for purchase and signing at the Oct. 21 program.