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Henry Cohen (rabbi)

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Subject: Galveston, Texas, Henry Cohen, David Lefkowitz, American Council for Judaism
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Henry Cohen (rabbi)

Henry Cohen (April 7, 1863 – June 12, 1952) was a Jewish Texan rabbi who served Congregation B'nai Israel in Galveston, Texas from 1888 to 1952, a period of rapid growth after early 20th century immigration. He organized the Galveston Movement, which worked from 1907 to 1914 to attract eastern European Jewish immigrants to Galveston and the Gulf Coast, away from Northeastern cities. Ten thousand passed through Galveston, Texas.

When his congregation built a community house in 1928, they named it in his honor. Together with rabbi David Lefkowitz of Dallas, Coehn interviewed many Jewish Texans to collect their histories for the Texas Centennial in 1936.

History in Galveston

Born in 1863, Henry Cohen was the rabbi of Congregation B'nai Israel from 1888 to 1949, a period of rapid growth and heavy immigration from eastern Europe. He worked to ease relations between German Jews and new Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe, who had different cultural values.

In addition, he organized the Galveston Movement, leading it from 1907-1914. Its goal was to attract Jews fleeing Russia and eastern Europe to Galveston and the Gulf Coast rather than the crowded East Coast cities. Ten thousand Jewish immigrants passed through Galveston during this era, approximately one-third the number who migrated to Palestine during the same period.[1][2] Cohen personally petitioned President William Howard Taft for an immigrant.[3][4] Members of the congregation would meet Jewish immigrants arriving at the port, and help them find places to stay, work, and to adjust to the United States.

Cohen is also known for having saved a Greek Catholic from deportation from Texas. He worked to persuade the Galveston School Board to banish William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice from the Galveston public schools, as he considered the character of Shylock to be anti-Semitic.[4]

In 1928 Congregation B'nai Israel decided to add a community center on the lot next to their synagogue; they named it the Henry Cohen Community House in his honor.

Jewish Texan historian

The Handbook of Texas states that,

"The formal preservation of the history of Texas Jewry goes back to Rabbi Henry Cohen of Galveston and David Lefkowitz of Dallas, who set out to interview as many early settlers and their families as possible. They produced a historical account for the Texas Centennial in 1936."[5]

See also

Further reading

  • Cohen, Kindler of Souls: Rabbi Henry Cohen of Texas (University of Texas Press 2007), ISBN 978-0-292-71461-8


External links

  • Temple B'nai Israel
  • Article on Rabbi Henry Cohen
  • Review of book on Rabbi Henry Cohen called Kindler of Souls
  • Galveston Synagogue
  • Handbook of Texas Online Entry

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