This week it is my honor to introduce you to Rabbi Dovid M. Cohen, previously director of community engagement for Yached, an affiliate of the OU, and a development executive who recently assumed the position as Ashkenazic rabbi of Congregation Ohr Torah in North Woodmere. For the previous nine years he was rabbi at Manhattan’s Young Israel of the West Side.
Ohr Torah was founded over 50 years ago by Rabbi Theodore Jungreis and his wife, the famed Rebbitzen Esther Jungreis, both of blessed memory, who left a gifted legacy of kiruv that will forever be the touchstone of American Jewish life in outreach to those distant from the richness of our faith.
Rabbi Cohen’s goal is to continue the Jungreis legacy and enhance Ohr Torah as a valued center for kiruv in both our community and beyond.
According to Rabbi Cohen, Ohr Torah has a nice mix of older members, some dating back to the days of Rabbi Jungreis’ spiritual stewardship, and many new, younger families who are committed and enthusiastic about renewing the rich foundation created by the Jungreis family. All of this involves developing synergies with Ohr Torah’s growing Sephardic membership that includes merging of the boards of directors and establishing a mikvah.
This past High Holiday season witnessed a capacity crowd of over 250 people. According to the rabbi, “our current demographic consists of many who have a strong yeshiva background as well as newcomers and beginners who are all welcome and are inclusive in the organization and revitalization of the shul’s sevices and its growing educational programs.
Currently, the Ashkenazic minyan sponsors weekly parent-child learning sessions, social events for both men and women, and an active Torah class on Thursday evenings given by Rabbi Cohen on topics dealing with Jewish philosophy.
The rabbi is a lawyer, therapist and a special needs advocate. He has semicha from Yeshiva University and also did advanced learning at the kollel of Yeshivas Birchas Mordechai of Beitar Ilit, an outgrowth of the popular chaburah of the Mir Yeshiva of Jerusalem. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from Columbia Law School and sits as a rabbinical judge for the Beis Din of America.
Rabbi Cohen’s rabbinical and scholarship skills were recently brought to my attention from a gracious endorsement by my former rebbe, Rabbi Hersh Weinreb, the former executive of the OU who wrote the following:
“Wisdom is the rarest of all commodities, especially these days. But occasionally a book comes along that embodies real wisdom. Not in an overwhelming or overtly intellectual way, but with simplicity, clarity, and great warmth.
“My dear friend and colleague Rabbi Dovid Cohen has produced just such a book, “We’re Almost There” (Mosaica Press, 2016).
“It is based upon his own life experiences, which makes it all the more relevant and valuable. It is engrossing because it shares dozens of precious anecdotes. It is uplifting because it discusses life’s challenges and instills hope in coping with them. And it is an easy way to absorb sophisticated Torah thoughts and not even be aware of how sophisticated they are.
“Kol Hakavod, Reb Dovid, You toiled in writing a book, and now you’ve written one, and a very good one.”
I conclude this week’s essay with one further heartfelt, albeit short, tribute by Howard Jonas, founder of the IDT Corporation, who wrote the following: “Rabbi Dovid Cohen combines the clarity of a top attorney with the insights of a modern-day spiritual leader in this remarkable book.”
Rabbi Cohen and his wife Ruchi (nee Eisenberg), daughter of the chief rabbi of Austria, are the proud parents of four children.
We wish them all the best upon this new and challenging position in our community.