July 25, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 25, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Benaroya Sephardic Center to Mark Shloshim of Rabbi Yaacov Cohen z”l

Englewood—World-renowned speaker Rabbi Eli Mansour will speak about Purim on Monday, March 21, beginning promptly at 8 p.m., in the Chetrit sanctuary at the Benaroya Sephardic Center of Congregation Ahavath Torah. The event is being generously sponsored by an anonymous donor in memory of the chazan of the Benaroya Sephardic Center, Rav Yaacov Cohen, Yaacov ben Sumbul a”h, who passed away last month.

“Yaacov did not care if you were Yemenite, Egyptian or even an ‘Ashkenaz Sephard by choice.’ All Jews were princes to him and that’s how he treated everyone,” said Sephardic minyan member Frederick Horowitz. That sentiment appeared to be a constant theme throughout conversations between the Jewish Link and members of Rav Cohen’s minyan. Words like honest, pious, beloved and warm flowed from the lips of the minyan members. Some even noted that he provided parent-like love and chinuch in terms of his teaching of Sephardic niggunim and tefillah.

“My father’s passion to connect to Hakadosh Boruch hu was through tefillah and zmirah,” Rav Cohen’s son, Teddy told the Jewish Link. The rabbi clearly shared his passion with the Englewood Sephardic community. Rabbi Cohen helped found the small Sephardic minyan at Congregation Ahavath Torah more than 35 years ago, and through his leadership, love and perseverance, saw it grow into today’s flourishing Benaroya Sephardic Center. From a minyan begun by a small group of Sephardic men in the synagogue, Rabbi Cohen transformed it into a vibrant and viable congregation unto itself, with 300 attendees on the High Holidays.

Rav Cohen and his family moved from Jerusalem to Englewood in 1979 and he looked to establish a place for the community’s small Sephardic population to daven. A few months later, he and a few others requested a room in Congregation Ahavath Torah for the High Holidays, which led to a larger room, which ultimately led to the Benaroya Sephardic Center.

“He set the Sephardic minyan in motion,” said Teddy. “Now it is huge and includes a whole new generation of families.”

According to many minyan members, Rav Cohen was a beloved member of the Englewood community, and was well known throughout Sephardic communities in Brooklyn, Deal and Israel. He was always the first to come to shul and the last to leave. He was with the community during both its happiest of smachot and saddest of times. He helped educate the younger members of the congregation in Sephardic davening and everyone looked up to him.

“Rav Cohen was a wonderful, wonderful man who was not only one of the founders of our Sephardic Center—which is a jewel of the Englewood community—but its guiding spirit and its heart,” commented Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, spiritual leader of Congregation Ahavath Torah. “He was so welcoming and always greeted everyone with a smile. His davening was from the heart. He was just a great man who really was very much a part of the success of the Sephardic minyan. We will miss him, but he will always remain with us in a very real way.”

Rabbi Cohen learned chazzanut from his father, Binyamin haCohen, and was never without the Bakashot—Sephardic niggunim for Shabbos and praising Hashem—on Shabbos.

“We would sing zemirot for two hours every Shabbos, and even during the week,” added Teddy, who was privileged to have been able to see and speak with his father every day of his life. “He was my inspiration, my guide through parenting, leadership and halacha, and he was my best friend.”

The Benaroya Sephardic Center of Congregation Ahavath Torah is located at 240 Broad Avenue in Englewood.

By Jill Kirsch

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles