danielle goldstein

Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen has died, age 82

leonard-cohen On Monday 7 November, one of music’s most eloquent and able songwriters passed away. Leonard Cohen was 82 when he died peacefully at his home in southern California earlier this week. His son Adam said touchingly in an interview with Rolling Stone, “My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records. He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humour."

The record Adam is speaking about is You Want it Darker, which was recently released (21 Oct) and effused the sincere, gravelly tones and orchestral movements he was so well known for. 

Born in Westmount, Quebec on 21 September 1934, Cohen grew up in a middle-class Jewish family. Marsha Klonitsky, his mother, was the daughter of a rabbi, while his father, Nathan Cohen, had Polish heritage – his father Lyon Cohen having emigrated from Poland in 1871 and later founding the Canadian Jewish Congress.

While at high school Cohen picked up an appreciation of poetry and by age 20 had published his first poems in a magazine called CIV/n. It wasn’t until the 60s, however, that Cohen began life as a musician. In 1967 he moved to New York, befriended Andy Warhol and penned the song Suzanne, which was to be his first successful foray into the world of music.

Despite a prolific, 60-year career, Cohen never charted highly in the mainstream. His highest ranking song in Canada, Closing Time, reached Number Five, while in the UK it was only the reissue of Hallelujah that ever charted at position 36.

Originally released in 1984, Hallelujah has become the song Cohen is most renowned for. The singer never had much success with it himself, but it was remarkably covered over 300 times, most notably by the late US singer Jeff Buckley, who scored a Number One hit with it.

As well as music, Cohen was also known as an accomplished author. Over the years he published two novels – The Favourite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966) – and 13 anthologies of poetry. 

Eleven albums down the line, in 2005, Cohen was in the public eye for something other than his art after his close friend and manager Kelly Lynch was exposed for misappropriating over $5m from Cohen’s accounts. This hefty loss formed a big part of Cohen’s reasons for writing new music and touring again.

Earlier this year Cohen’s former lover Marianne Ihlen died. She was the Marianne of the song So Long, Marianne, which Cohen wrote about her when the pair dated and lived in Hydra, Greece for much of the 60s. Shortly before Marianne passed Cohen penned her a heartfelt letter saying: “Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.”

The world has lost a truly talented spirit that will live on in Leonard Cohen’s songs, poetry and legacy.

By Danielle Goldstein

Help fund the UK's first ever Jewish farm

jr-sadeh-farm Next month Sadeh Farm in Kent is set to open its gates. This may not seem like news in itself, but Sadeh (field in Hebrew) is a unique kind of farm: a Jewish farm. Founded by Talia Chain and co, who have already begun work in the grounds of Skeet Hill House, Sadeh aims to reconnect people with their faiths and each other by working together on the land to grow vegetables. "Here Jewish people of all ages and backgrounds can connect with our rich tradition of Jewish farming and be inspired by a religion based in agriculture," they promise in their mission statement. While the group are almost set up, they still need financial help to acquire polytunnels, sheds, tools, marketing and legal help and more. Visit their Chuffed crowd-funding page for more info and to donate.

By Danielle Goldstein


Help raise funds for a new Jewish vegetarian centre in Golders Green

JVS old building

JVS old building

The Jewish Vegetarian Society has launched a crowdfunding campaign to open the UK’s first vegan and vegetarian community centre at its headquarters in Finchley Road this autumn.

Vegetarians, non-vegetarians and people of all faiths and none will all be able to enjoy the eco-friendly centre’s open-plan hall, community garden and demonstration kitchen where a number of cookery classes will take place. Other events planned include film screenings, workshops and talks.

Having first started in 1966 by a group of plucky Jewish vegetarians, the JVS has been going strong ever since. JVS director Lara Smallman said: “This is a very exciting time for the JVS as we embark upon a new chapter. We are delighted to be creating a home for vegetarianism and environmentalism.”

By Danielle Goldstein

Donate to JVS via tinyurl.com/newjvscentre and see an architect’s drawing of the proposed layout below:

JVS architect plan

JVS architect plan

Review: The Angry Boater – Joel Sanders nitpicks his way through a new nautical solo show

Joel Sanders – Angry Boater  

Joel Sanders is angry. This could be down to the fact his parents went against their Jewish-ness and sent him to a Christian school. Perhaps it’s due to his high blood pressure, which he makes a point of taking on stage. Or maybe it’s because living the life of Riley on London’s canalways isn’t as relaxing as the comedian thought it would be.

Born and raised Jew-ish – the laidback kind that eat “circumcised pigs” – in Ruislip, Sanders has remained loyal to our busy capital. Apart from the few years he spent in America, which he’ll be sure to vent to you about in the show. The 40-something comic once taught English at northwest London’s Haydon School, before devoting all his time to the Comedy Bunker club, also in Ruislip. Then one day the stress of city life became too much and, against his father’s advice – “Jews don’t live on boats” – Sanders bought a boat.

Split into two 40-minute halves, The Angry Boater is loaded with absurd anecdotes. Have you ever been shouted at for putting rubbish in a bin? Sanders has. How about being ignored by a coal-toting Frenchman? Because Sanders has checked that one off too. In fact some of his stories are so laughable that they seem unreal, until you notice fellow boaters in the audience grinning and nodding in agreement.

Like many pro funnymen, Sanders is affable and unassuming, dressed simply in a plain black t-shirt and jeans. He looks a bit like a dad and has a habit of waffling on like one too, but the wait for his punchlines is always worth it. And they’re not all nautical either. Sanders weaves in enough general gripes to keep us land-dwellers happy. After all, you need only be human to understand just how frustrating a trip to Homebase can get. And while these stressful encounters may be pushing Sanders’ blood pressure to new heights, his accounts of them are raising laughs.

By Danielle Goldstein

The Angry Boater runs every Tuesday until 17 March. 7.30pm. £10, £7 adv. The Bargehouse, 46a De Beauvoir Crescent, N1 5RY. www.angryboater.com

Artist Julian Hanford seeks crowdfunding to commemorate the Holocaust with six million domino tiles

FALL by Julian Hanford, art, coffin image London-based artist Julian Hanford is planning to create an art installation composed of six million domino tiles to commemorate World War II and the 70 years that have passed since its end. The project, FALL, is estimated to cost £1.58m and Hanford is looking to you, the public, for help.

A Phundee.com page will be set up for people to make donations directly. The more you give, the bigger your gifts, which range from FALL t-shirts to owning one of the custom dominoes.

FALL, which will be stacked by domino champion Robin Weijers and co, is said to be bigger than the halls at Alexandra Palace once completed. The scale of the installation is meant to communicate the number of lives lost during Hitler's reign, including Gypsies, Poles, Communists, homosexuals, Russians, the mentally ill and, of course, Jews.

The art piece will be on display in Berlin at the end of 2015 and stand for six days to mark the six years of WWII. At noon on the sixth day, while streamed live online, a Holocaust survivor will knock over the first domino and set off a chain reaction that won't stop until the last tile falls 12 hours later.

For more information, visit www.fall15.com or follow them at @fallevent15.

By Danielle Goldstein

Review: Bad Jews – Joshua Harmon's new play about faith, family and funnies

© Robert Workman – Bad Jews Daphna is angry. She’s back from her Ivy League college and is storming petulantly around a claustrophobically small studio apartment like a disgruntled toddler. Her cousin Jonah (Joe Coen) tries relentlessly to ignore the young tyrant as she moans about the fact that Jonah’s brother Liam (Ilan Goodman) has missed their Poppy’s (grandpa) funeral because he was skiing in Aspen with his girlfriend, who isn’t even Jewish. This opening scene sets the audience up perfectly for what’s to come – an hour and a half of increasingly un-passive aggression that’s full of belly laughs.

This new show from 31-year-old Joshua Harmon made its debut in New York in 2012 and was such a hit that in the past year it has become the third-most-produced play in America. The New York-born playwright conceived the idea for Bad Jews just over a decade ago after he attended a “depressingly unmoving” Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial). The service involved grandchildren of Holocaust survivors offering up dispassionate dialogues about their relatives’ traumatising experiences. This got the budding writer considering what it means to be a young Jew in the modern world and whether we should strive to keep alive our religious beliefs and cultures in our children or work towards a religionless and nationless world. Because at the end of the day, should who we are matter?

© Robert Workman – Bad Jews

This issue, while never tackled head-on, throws up various viewpoints throughout as the characters defend their religious and familial loyalties. Daphna – a pushy, furiously sincere “super-Jew” portrayed skilfully by Jenna Augen – and Liam – incredibly bright, but atheist part-time and Jewish when it suits him – bicker and manipulate their way through scenes, ultimately fighting for Poppy’s Chai (symbol for life) necklace, which comes with a heart-breaking backstory.

Kudos must also be given to set designer Richard Kent, whose level of detail plays as huge a part in drawing you in as the actors do. The studio apartment and entrance hallway where Bad Jews takes place is solidly constructed, with minutiae, such as plug sockets, bins and even a leaflet under the neighbour’s door, that make it satisfyingly easy to forget you’re watching from a theatre seat and become fully absorbed in the fast-paced dialogue.

© Robert Workman – Bad Jews

There’s a great comic moment in Bad Jews when Gina Bramhill’s Melody, Liam’s girly gentile girlfriend coyly professes to a fiery Daphna: “It doesn’t matter to me that you’re Jewish,” in a bid to explain we’re all human after all. But it backfires and a leer of sheer disgust remoulds Daphna’s brow as she spits, “It matters to me!” This is just a snippet of Harmon’s deft penmanship – the way he can hint at importance of identity while maintaining a sense of humour. And he does well not to force his personal opinions on the audience, merely planting the seeds of ideas and leaving people to go away thinking about their own. It’s a play full of depth, quick-wit and poignancy. Bad Jews has it all.

By Danielle Goldstein

Bad Jews runs until Saturday 28 February. 2.30pm & 7.30pm. £10-£30. St James Theatre, 12 Palace St, SW1E 5JA; 084 4264 2140. www.stjamestheatre.co.uk

© Robert Workman – Bad Jews

© Robert Workman – Bad Jews