Page 69 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 30

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M O R T I M E R J. C O H E N
A Memorial Tribute
o r t im e r
Joshua Cohen was born in New York City on
March 1, 1894, to Joseph and Rachel Cohen. Upon gradu­
ation from the local elementary school, Mortimer enrolled in
Townsend Harris Hall, a high school then connected with City
College into which he was promoted and from which he received
a B.A. degree in 1915. Subsequently he took several courses in
philosophy at Columbia University. At the same time, concur­
rently with his undergraduate and graduate studies, he attended
The Jewish Theological Seminary of America from which he was
graduated and ordained as rabbi in 1919.
Cohen was a diligent student of the Humanities, with a special
aptitude in philosophy. He often recalled his relationship to the
late Morris Raphael Cohen, a teacher of philosophy and logic
at CCNY who hoped Mortimer would make philosophy his career.
In those days, Professor Cohen had little concern with the future
of the Jewish people. When Mortimer divulged to him his deci­
sion to make the rabbinate his career, the professor expressed his
chagrin in no uncertain terms. For Mortimer Cohen was concerned
about the fate of the Jewish people. Moreover, he early discovered
that he possessed impressive oratorical skill. His intellectual inter­
ests, his emotional concerns, and his pristine personal qualities
inclined him toward service to Judaism.
Before graduating from the Seminary, Cohen served as rabbi
at the Young Women’s Hebrew Association, then located on 110th
Street near Fifth Avenue in New York. His Friday evening ser­
mons attracted large numbers. Immediately upon his ordination
as rabbi, he was called by the newly-organized Beth Sholom con­
gregation in Philadelphia, then located at Broad and Cortland
Streets. He moved to Philadelphia, along with his mother and
sister, his father having passed away some years earlier.
The congregation had made an excellent choice. The charm,
poise and eloquence of the young rabbi brought about a rapid
increase in the congregation’s membership and made the erection
of the synagogue building easier than had been expected, Here,
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