Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
The Schmooze

WATCH: Amazing Yiddish Rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’

Leonard Cohen died exactly a year ago on November 7, 2016. In honor of his yarzheit, or the anniversary of his death, the Forward is proud to reprise this story and video of an amazing version of ‘Hallelujah’ in Yiddish.

The Berlin-based singer-songwriter and “punk-Klezmer” musician Daniel Kahn is one of the most innovative performers working with Yiddish today. A world-class singer of more traditional Yiddish fare and a brilliant songwriter in English in his own right Kahn’s unique genius lies in his self-described “tradaptations,” his translations and adaptations of songs across languages.

He, along with his friend and mentor the late Theo Bikel, is one of the few masters of creating singable English versions of Yiddish songs. Kahn is particularly adept at taking Yiddish songs from generations and even centuries past and getting them to sound like contemporary American songs. At the same time he remains loyal to his source material, always performing the original Yiddish lyrics interspersed with his new English versions.

Besides singing his own English translations of Yiddish and German songs Kahn also translates German and American songs into Yiddish. When I heard his Yiddish “tradaptation” of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at a party in honor of the Yiddish Studies journal “In Geveb” I immediately knew that it would have wide appeal. I invited him to record the song for the Yiddish Forward in our studio and he came by a few weeks later. My colleague Nukhim Koyfman recorded Kahn’s performance and prepared the video.

Due to the confines of rhyme and meter song translations always vary a bit in literal meaning from their source material. As such the English subtitles are a literal translation of Kahn’s version of the song rather than Leonard Cohen’s original text. As you will see the two vary in some ways but match entirely in spirit. The song’s text in Yiddish and in Yiddish in transliteration can be read here.

Jordan Kutzik is a staff writer at the Forverts. He can be followed on Twitter @thrownpeas.

Engage

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.