The Temple-Tifereth Israel will install Rabbi Jonathan Cohen as its 12th senior rabbi since its establishment in 1850.

Cohen’s installation will take place as part of a Shabbat service May 17, and will be followed by a full day of events, including a symposium with a dozen rabbis on May 18, a workshop for teens with hip-hop artist Napoleon Maddox and culminating with a hip-hop concert where Sorg & Napoleon Maddox with Ease will perform.

Cohen joined the staff of The Temple in July 2018. In his first nearly year at The Temple, he said he has learned every day and has noted, what he called, “a richness of activity.”

“I have been struck by the layers of activity in every corner of the Temple and really every level of, if you like, constituency…” he said. “My core priority, my first and principal priority is to grow, to advance and to extend Jewish life here for our members and to articulate the Jewish message to the greater community.”

The Temple has 1,300 member families, to which Cohen adds book clubs, art and photography clubs, its museum and groups for young families and senior members of the congregation. 

“This Temple is one of the founding temples in the Reform movement,” he said. “And the legacy and story of this Temple and the contribution of its leaders throughout its history to the development of the hallmark institutions of our Jewish community, including what we know today to be the Jewish Federation (of Cleveland), including the National Council of Jewish Women, including a whole number of other institutions and frankly the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, let alone the engagement of Abba Hillel (Silver) in the establishment of the state of Israel speak to not only the vibrancy of this congregation but a leadership role in the shaping of Reform Judaism and Jewish life. And this is a platform. This is a mission that our leadership embraces.”

Taking part in Cohen’s installation are Rabbi Richard A. Block, The Temple’s senior rabbi emeritus, as well as Rabbi David Ellenson, Rabbi Steven A. Fox, the Rev. Mitra Jafarzadeh, Rabbi Samuel K. Joseph, Rabbi Jennifer Lader, Rabbi Sally Priesand, Rabbi Uri Regev, Rabbi Anna Levin Rosen and Rabbi Julie S. Schwartz. 

The Shabbat morning event, the Silver Scholar Symposium, will include all of the above listed rabbis, plus three participating remotely from Israel: Rabbi Meir Azari, Rabbi Michael Marmur and Rabbi Naamah Kelman.

Cohen previously served as dean of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion since September 2011. Previously, he had been director of HUC’s University of Cincinnati Ethics Center. 

Cohen was born in Israel and served in an armored corps unit of the Israel Defense Forces from 1987 to 1990. He has a law degree from the University of Liverpool and was ordained as a rabbi in June 2012 from HUC-JIR. Rabbi Cohen was chair of the Central Conference of American Rabbis Responsa Committee in 2017. 

His grandfather, Chaim Cohn, was an Israeli Supreme Court Justice and his father was a prominent diplomat who served the state of Israel at critical junctures for a period spanning approximately four decades. 

Cohen is married and has three children. His wife, Yael Senamaud, is a concert violist. She was a tenured member of the Chamber Orchestra of Paris as well as the Palau De Les Artes Reina Sofia Opera in Valencia, Spain. She also has played in orchestras in the United States. 

Cohen followed Block’s retirement on June 30, 2018, after serving The Temple since May 1, 2001. 

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