Jody Cohen

Jody Cohen

Induction Category:
Arts & Humanities

Born: 1954

Inducted: 1994

Town: West Hartford

When Jody Cohen was appointed Associate Rabbi to the Congregation Beth Israel in West Harford, Conn., in 1984, she became the first woman in Connecticut to serve a synagogue in that position. She later became the first woman to have an extended tenure as rabbi of her own congregation.

Cohen was born and raised in Newark, N.J. She received her B.A. in political science from Mt. Holyoke College and her M.A. in Hebrew letters from Hebrew Union College. She was ordained in May 1984 and came to Connecticut to serve as Associate Rabbi and Educator to the Congregation Beth Israel. When she began this position, she was also the new mother of a 5-month-old for whom her husband was the primary caregiver. While there, she established Noah's Ark Day Care Center, which was the first synagogue-run daycare center in North America for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years.

She authored an article on Noah's Ark, which was published in Compass magazine, and she has spoken nationally about the project. Cohen was the first recipient of the Hartford College for Women's Pioneer Woman Award (1985), organized the first Conference for Clergywomen of Greater Hartford (1986), and from 1991-1993 was co-president of the Women's Rabbinic Network, a national organization of reform women rabbis.

In 1989, Cohen became Rabbi of her own congregation, Temple Beth Hillel in South Windsor, Conn. In February 1993, she co-led an interfaith tour to Israel with a local minister, and in March of that year hosted the first AIDS interfaith healing service at a synagogue in the greater Hartford area. Rabbi Cohen served as the solo rabbi and educator for the Temple Beth Hillel in South Windsor until 1995. After moving to Florida with her husband, Moshe Cohen-Gavarian, and two sons, Rabbi Cohen served for nine years as the regional director for the Union for Reform Judaism for the Southeast United States. In that role, she operated as the liaison for the Reform movement to almost 100 congregations. From 2007-2012, she was the spiritual leader for Temple Israel of Greater Miami.  Rabbi Cohen now heads her own company focused on services for the elderly.

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1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice