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Rabbi Cohen Brings Jonah To Life

Rabbi Dr Jeffrey Cohen During a recent evening at our Shul to launch Rabbi Dr Jeffrey Cohen's Siddur in Poetry and Machzor in Poetry, the audience were treated to a wonderful poetry reading from both books.

After undertaking a signing session for those purchasing these two new gems from our former Minister, everyone settled down to hear the author read excerpts from his latest collection.


In his introduction, Rabbi Cohen talked about his love of poetry and about our liturgical prayers and the Torah already being in prose, demonstrating this with some printed examples. He explained that there also is history of Hebrew poetry and a fixed form of liturgy developed in the 6th Century School of Poetry. He quoted comments made by the Education Minister Michael Gove that many young people do not read and that literacy is at an all time low.

Since he retired 6 years ago, Rabbi Cohen (already an accomplished author) has become more prolific in his writing and his first poetry book "Genesis in Poetry" was published two years ago.

Intended to be an accompaniment, rather than an alternative to the Siddur, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Machzors, these books took Rabbi Cohen almost 6 months to write.

Rabbi Cohen read a number of extracts from the Siddur in Poetry and then turned to the Machzor in Poetry where he recited a number of old favourites like the communal Un'tanneh tokef prayer and Hinneni, the chazan's plea to G-d before musaph, but the finale left his audience spellbound.

The final reading of the evening was the Book of Jonah, which is normally read on the afternoon of Yom Kippur. Rabbi Cohen brought Jonah to life with his theatrical portrayal of this story, so familiar to everyone. Just when reaching the exciting climax, Jeffrey Cohen left the story suspended, suggesting that his audience continue reading the story themselves from his book.

Rabbi Dr. Norman Gale gave a very warm vote of thanks and discussion about the books continued over refreshments.

Glynis Kuzuk

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