Bob Dylan: A Jewish Journey Between Home and Exile
Dr. Stephen Hazan Arnoff
Bob Dylan revolutionized popular music by bringing the great questions that have driven religious and spiritual quests for millennia to the radio. The riddle at the heart of his 1965 song Like a Rolling Stone—“How does it feel / to be on your own / no direction home?”—affirmed the search for spiritual meaning that defined rock and roll for all who followed him.
While Dylan’s challenge to a generation of seekers is universal, it also resonates strongly with the continuing Jewish journey between home and exile in America. Dylan’s restlessness models how, even as Jews have felt more at home in America than perhaps any other country or kingdom in the past two thousand years outside of the Land of Israel, they have also wrestled with their individual and collective Jewish purpose in ways that intertwine with and influence not just rock and roll, but the American spirit as a whole.
Dylan’s career-long search for a “direction home” is one of the essential creative journeys of his era. It is deeply Jewish, deeply American, and still deeply unresolved.