Jonathan Cohen is many things: He’s a practicing attorney with a JD/MBA, a Manhattan resident who grew up in Livingston, and a fitness enthusiast—he even served in the IDF! One of the things he’s gained throughout his experiences is a strong work ethic that has pushed him to achieve the goals he sets for himself.
Both of Cohen’s grandmothers, Dora Menkin and Ziva Cohen, passed away from Alzheimer’s disease, an incurable condition that slowly causes a person to lose their memories. Jonathan was close with both of them, and watching them decline was extremely difficult. Ziva actually passed away earlier this year, on February 9, which incidentally is Jonathan’s birthday.
“As I said in her eulogy, I wrestled with what it meant to have someone you love so much pass away on a day that you celebrate with family and friends,” Jonathan shared with The Jewish Link. “I couldn’t think of a way to spin it. Until I realized that there was really only one way to look at it—what would my Safta say about it? I believe she’d tell me that we share something deeper now.”
At the time of Ziva’s passing, Jonathan was in the process of training for the Goggins Challenge, a rigorous running challenge that involves running four miles every four hours for 48 hours. However, after his grandmother’s passing, he decided the purpose for the challenge would be to honor her memory.
“I started in December and planned to run in March with everyone else virtually,” Jonathan said. “However, after I received the news that my grandmother passed, I stared at my computer looking at old photos of her. I wanted to do something for her. This run was initially intended to be an intrinsic exercise independent of raising money and just to keep my mind sharp. After the news, there was no question about where my mind was going and I knew what I had to do to honor her.”
And so Jonathan continued to train, and he created a GoFundMe to raise funds for an Alzheimer’s cure as a fundraiser.
“Funding research is important because there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s right now,” Jonathan said. “To me, that’s scary. I try to be solution oriented, and finding a cure through research as opposed to logistics feels right. We spend our whole lives working on or towards something, only for Father Time and Mother Nature to take what they want, when they want. When we can articulate our fears and define what really scares us—in short, identifying the threat—suddenly, it’s not as scary.”
But as Jonathan continued to train, the GoFundMe campaign started gaining traction and catching peoples’ eyes. Before he knew it, people were following him on social media, rooting him on, and adding donations to his campaign.
“I set a goal of $1,200 for myself—to donate $100 following each of the 12 runs to reach 48 miles,” Jonathan said. “Once we broke the goal before I even donated a dime, I was pretty shocked.”
Jonathan completed the Goggins Challenge earlier this month, and shared the final moments of the run on his social media. He said finishing the challenge was a euphoric moment.
“My grandmother’s memory represented something bigger than myself, which meant there was no way I could stop,” Jonathan said. “I ran to honor her and all of those that suffered from this disease. I trained in as low as 18 degrees in New York City when Central Park was so empty. … I believe in breaking barriers, and this was just one more way to do it personally, and in turn do something meaningful in the process.”
At press time, Jonathan’s GoFundMe page had raised over $15,000, a number that still astounds him.
“The amount of money we raised is more than I ever imagined we would raise in honor of my grandmother,” Jonathan continued. “Her memory and her legacy can now be associated with not only bringing people together, but also finding a cure. That’s impact—that’s my Safta Ziva.”
Rabbi Mendel Solomon, spiritual leader at Chabad at Short Hills, and the family’s rabbi for many years, commented, “I wasn’t at all surprised at Jonathan’s initiative as his parents instilled within each of their children the art of caring and leading and Jonathan is a shining example of that.”
Rabbi Solomon continued, “In addition to the funds that go towards helping find a cure, I find that it also brings tremendous amounts of comfort to the family members who agonize watching their loved ones live with this. On a personal level, this hits home deeply as my mother has been struggling with dementia for many years. Jonathan’s commitment to help find a cure therefore allows us all to live with hope.”
Jonathan’s campaign is still actively accepting donations. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so at www.gofundme.com/f/4x4x48-challenge-in-memory-of-ziva-cohen.
Additionally, Jonathan runs a podcast, “Inside the Inspired,” which he describes as “a platform for professionals, entrepreneurs and so much more to share their lessons and blueprint as they go on their journey.”
If you would like to follow Cohen on social media, you can do so at @jonathanzcohen. “Inside the Inspired” can also be visited at @insidetheinspired.
Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. He blogs at www.adamssoapbox.com.