Jewish Dylan Anecdotes

Robert Zimmerman's Bar Mitzvah

"A friend of my mother's who attended Minnesota during Dylan's frat boy days... [said] he met Dylan more than once, and all he ever talked about was how he had the biggest Bar Mitzvah in the history of Hibbing."

--Greg, via Rec.Music.Dylan

Dylan as Bar Mitzvah Guest

This interesting tale of Dylan attending someone else's Bar Mitzvah took place in a Minneapolis synagogue in the 70s, according to Ken, who says the scene was "reported by a friend of mine who married a cousin of Bob's."

"Bob was evidently very taken by the Yiddish singing that was going on at the party and started tape recording all the older folks singing. What began as a frosty relationship between this scruffy guest and the rest of the folks took a real positive turn when they found their common bond - music."

--Ken, via RMD

Dylan as Wedding Guest

Alan Zoldan tells the following:

Our synagogue's Rebbetzin hails from Minneapolis, and her mother once attended a wedding of some distant cousin along with Bob.

Three of the women attending had a tradition of singing a medley at all family simchas. Bob seemed apprehensive and muttered something about how "they better not ask me."

One of the women, overhearing this, then exclaimed "Oh take it easy! Nobody's here to hear you!"

A little shot of humility, along with the hor d'oeuvres!

Dylan & Rosh Hashanah 1974

The November 21, 1974 issue of Rolling Stone featured an article entitled "Blood on the Tracks: Dylan Looks Back," by Larry Sloman. It previewed of that upcoming album, providing some background on its recording, beginning September 16th:

--Mark Landis

Passover with Lubavitch and Dylan, St. Paul Minn.,1984

"The night of the Seder, I was listening to the Dylan albums - even the "Slow Train Coming" album, which is moving even with the "Christian" message.

I went to the Lubavitch House, and there were services beforehand. In between the services, the rabbi gave a sermon. After he was done, he went running out of the room. He came back in with - well, you know who.

I just about fell on the floor.

I then had Passover Seder with Dylan and the other 40 or so people there.

He had brought his family.

His presence took away my role as an observer, for only he could do this. He seemed to watch certain things very intensely. I remember him looking at a young boy he was sitting next to in a manner that I had not seen before.

On the other hand, he also seemed to be searching for something (the true spirituality of the early Chasidic movement, I suspect) and not finding it. There was an attempt at some spirited singing and dancing by the Rabbi and others, but it seemed without true Spirit."

--J.M. via the 'Net

Tracking Bob's Passovers

"He was at a seder with us [in 1985 or 86]"

--testimony heard first hand from source requesting anonymity.

Crown Heights in the 80's

In the late eighties I was a regular at the house of Meir R. Meir and his wife are ex-hippies turned elders of the Lubavitcher ba'alei teshuva [returnees to Tradition].

At some point, Bob was a regular in their house in Crown Heights. I guess he could relate to them better then to regular Lubavitchers. I met Bob in their house twice, on a Shabbat meal and on Purim, when Bob came with his friends and his then 15? year old son. I am from Russia, so Bob talked to me about his trip to Moscow. He was upset that the Russians (it was just at the start of perestroika) did not allow him to visit Odessa, his grandparents' hometown.

--e-mail from A.N.

High Holiday Dylan-Spotting


In 1989 I attended high holiday Chabad services in Pacific Palisades, CA. It was there that I meet with Bob Dylan for the first time.

Having been a large fan since college, it was beyond belief that my favorite folk musician could be sitting in the same room.

Of course I had to meet him, and of all things one might say after the traditional Shana-Tova, I asked who was the “Jokerman?”

His face turned flush white and he became speechless. Moments later I was balled out by his close friend for having asked such a question. Some connection! Thought you would be amused to know.

--e-mail from R.G, 10/28/01.

1994 or 1995

It was either 1994 or 1995. I was davening at Chabad of Pacific Palisades, California. I was asked by the rabbi, a boyhood friend of mine, to help newcomers into shul by giving them a tallis, a machzor. I gave out honors, asking people to and assisting them with opening the ark. saying the brachos if they got an aliyah.

One of the machers of the shul was a boyhood friend of Bob. Right as we were beginning mincha, in walks in Bob Dylan along with a younger man. I gave Bob and his "Shamesh" a tallis and a machzor. I showed them the place. they sat in a corner and bob was reading the English part of the machzor.

As a Lubavitcher myself, I must admit that blue eyed stare that I got from Bob on that day as I showed him the place and helped him put on his tallis was very similar to the blue eyed stare that the Rebbe used to give as I passed him for "Dollars" and "Kois Shel Brochah."

They both have/had penetrating stares that made you feel as if they are peering into your soul. Also, both have a shade of blue eyes that makes/made you feel as if you could look into their soul. As if you are looking into a clear blue pool. As if you are looking into a pure soul. He specifically conveyed to his boyhood friend that he did not want an aliyah. Instead the rabbi asked me to honor him with P'sicha for Avinu Malkeinu.

I walked up with him and he opened the ark. Yes there was a hush in shul as people recognized who was opening the aaron.

After he opened the Ark he alternated between looking into his machzor, at the Torah and at me to see when he should close it.

The congregation began to sing Avinu Malkeinu, chaneinu v'aneinu, ki ein baanu maasim.

The first time they sang it he began to sway with the music. As they began singing it again, I heard him hum the song along with the crowd.

After Avinu Malkeinu was over, he closed the ark, I shook his hand and walked with him back to his seat. He stayed in his corner until after Ne'ilah. he then spoke with the Rabbi, the son of Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, of Chabad of California. He then looked for me, walked over and thanked me, shoking my hand and leaving.

At that time, I was a huge Deadhead and, let's face it, Dylan wasn't much of a performer back then. He was often drunk, moody or crabby at concerts. I would listen to the old stuff, but Dylan the man. They were saying he was washed up and I believed them.

But, as I heard him hum Avinu Malkeinu, the Lubavitcher in me kicked in. Here I was, watching a man's "pintele yid" inspire him to come to shul, to daven, to sway, he was definitely "shukeling," to hum Avinu Malkeinu and to see him with the "awe" that a Jew is supposed to have on Yom Kippur. In that moment, I became I huge Dylan Ba'al Teshuva. And I have been a Chasid of Rabbeinu Bob since.

--Yaakov Arnold


Keeping a low profile this year over Yom Kippur, musician Bob Dylan attended
services at Chabad of Encino. He received an aliyah during the morning service, attended Yizkor and didn¹t leave until the end of Neila, when the holiday had ended.

-- LA. Jewish Journal, Merav Tassa, Contributing Writer

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