Baruch Cohon didn’t have to go very far to get a good Jewish education or excellent cantorial training. His early foundation in Jewish music came from Abraham Zevi Idelsohn, an icon of Jewish musicology and friend of the family. Baruchs father, Rabbi Samuel S. Cohon, a well-known Judaic scholar, supervised his other studies.
Learning his weekly Torah readings, young Baruch chanted the words the way Idelsohn taught him, and mastered their meaning with his father’s help. Samuel S. Cohon came out of a Russian yeshiva and brought his depth of Jewish knowledge to Cincinnati’s Hebrew Union College, where he was instrumental in bringing the warmth of tradition to his Reform students. Baruch shared his father’s appreciation of historical Judaism, and he implements that drive in his weekly blogs, finding commentaries and observations – from powerful to amusing – to reach all of today’s Jews.
Baruch Cohon’s early music education included cantorial training from Jacob Beimel, a widely respected teacher of cantors, as well as studies in piano and harmony. Cohons cantorial talents co-existed with his desire to become a rabbi. It is, perhaps, no surprise, then, that he has managed successful careers in both fields.
A veteran of the US Navy during WWII, Cohon and his wife, Claire, have raised four children: Rachel, Deborah, Samuel and Jonathan; and have six grandchildren.
Baruch Cohon sums up his feelings about being a Jewish musician by telling about an incident that occurred while he was performing at a Hadassah dance at the Hollywood Palladium. At the end of the evening, as he was wrapping up the gear and chatting with the bands guitar player, he noticed a young couple. Most of the audience that night was somewhat older than these two so he was curious about why they were hanging around to talk to him.
The girl said “You don’t know what you did to me tonight.”
“What do you mean?” he replied, not quite sure what she was talking about.
“Well,” she said, “I’ve been interested in Zen, Yoga, and other philosophies, but tonight, your music made me glad to be Jewish!”
“Better than that, no Jewish performer can wish for,” he replied.
Baruch writes some newspaper columns from time to time, and some of his sermons are anthologized in a quarterly called The American Rabbi.