Rabbi Cohen, Freedom Fighter

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Reviewed by Dr. Matthew Zizmor, president of the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts
Originally Published in The Jewish Advocate

This biography shows how remarkable it was that the late Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen accomplished so much in so many fields, especially around the founding of the State of Israel.

I was skeptical about Rabbi Cohen’s early accomplishments in Torah, but his learning with his father, Rabbi David Cohen the Nazir, every day for at least two hours made a tremendous impact. After helping to organize the Hasmonean Covenant, he eventually joined the Haganah.

Eye-opening chapters of this biography included, “Under Siege” and “The Battle for Jerusalem,” which gave a first-person account of the War of Independence and the fall of Jerusalem. It is a modern day Kinah, and should be read on Tisha b’Av and Yom Hazikaron. “To Jerusalem” should be read on Yom Yerushalayim. “In Captivity” is interesting because many people do not realize that Jews were captive in Jordan folowing 1948.

If there is one flaw, it is that the book is too short, a mere outline of Rabbi Cohen’s life. The chapter on being the chief rabbi of Haifa, for example, should be longer. During my two decades on the board as as president of the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts, I tried to instill an air of civility between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox world. I wonder how he was able to be a rabbi of all citizens of Haifa, the less religious, liberal, Masorati, secular and Hasidic groups. How did he, and how do we, make all Jews feel included?

Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen: Between War and Peace
Urim Publications, 2017

Review of Carmel College in the Kopul Era

Originally Published June 2017 by the Midwest Book Review

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In 1947, Rabbi Kopul Rosen, a graduate of the Mir Yeshivah and the then Principal Rabbi of the British Federation of Synagogues, began to develop his dream of establishing a residential boys school which would combine the ideals of the British Public School with the study and practice of traditional Judaism. As a result, Carmel College was born. Despite financial problems and administrative obstacles, Rabbi Rosen succeeded remarkably well with his project. “Carmel College in the Kopul Era: A History of Carmel College September 1948-March 1962” by Rabbi Dr. Chaim Simons is the detailed and comprehensive story of Carmel College during that time. Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, enhanced for scholars with the inclusion of a five page bibliography, a four page index of names associated with Carmel College, and a section of color photos, “Carmel College in the Kopul Era” is a very highly recommended addition to academic library 20th History Judaic Educational History collections in general, and Carmel College History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.


Carmel College in the Kopul Era: A History of Carmel College September 1948-March 1962
Urim Publications, 2016

Review of Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen

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Originally Published June 2017 by the Midwest Book Review

Although mainly known as the chief rabbi of Haifa, Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, born in the year 1927, has lived an intriguing life, playing an important role in the establishment of the state of Israel. As the son of Rabbi David Cohen (1887-1972), the legendary Nazirite of Jerusalem, Rabbi Cohen grew up among some of Israel’s greatest rabbis. Destined to become a Nazirite until the age of sixteen, Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen studied under the influence of Rav Kook. During the 1948 War of Independence, Rabbi Cohen fought to defend the Old City of Jerusalem, until he was severely wounded and taken to Jordan as a prisoner of war. After his return he became Chief Rabbi of the Israel Air Force, and then governed as the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem with Teddy Kollek. Rabbi Cohen served as the Chief Rabbi of Haifa and President of their rabbinical courts for 36 years. The details of his achievements and captivating life in this biography are further encapsulated in excerpts of his diary, which include vivid details of the battles he fought in and his imprisonment in Jordan. The biographers, Rabbi Yedidya HaCohen is a disciple of Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, from whom he received rabbinical ordination. While Prof. Yechiel Frish is the President of Michlelet Shaanan (Shaanan College), a religious teachers training college established in 1951 near Haifa, Israel. “Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen: Between War and Peace” is an informed, comprehensive, and ultimately inspiring read from beginning to end and very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections.

Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen: Between War and Peace
Urim Publications, 2017

Author Lenny Ben-David at Urim’s Booth at Jerusalem International Book Fair

Author of American Interests in the Holy Land, Lenny Ben-David is scheduled to appear at Urim’s booth in the Hangar at the First Station in Jerusalem today, Tuesday, June 13, 2017 between 6 and 7:30 pm

We also have a special sale of 1+1 running at the fair. See related post below for details.

Author Lenny Ben-David signing his new book American Interests in the Holy Land at the Urim booth at the Jerusalem International Book Fair.

Book review: Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen — Between War and Peace

Originally Published on June 6, 2017, in Times of Israel
Written by Ben Rothke

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Biographies of those who lived during transitional periods are particularly fascinating. One of those people who did was Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen. While most people associate him as the former chief rabbi of Haifa; he was also a Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, President of Ariel Institutes, Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Air force, and much more.

In Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen: Between War and Peace (Urim Publications 978-9655242539), authors Yechiel Frish and Yedidya HaCohen present a fascinating and very enjoyable biography of a pivotal figure in the history of Israel.

Rabbi Cohen’s father Rabbi Dovid Cohen was known as The Nazir. His father was a scholar, mystic and ascetic, and it’s that environment that shaped his worldview. An interesting sidenote the books details is that the Nazir’s commitment to being a Nazir was not a binding vow; but rather a custom that he voluntarily took upon himself and his son voluntarily; in order to raise their spiritual levels. Rabbi Shear Yashuv would later disavow being a nazir in his late teens.

The two main themes of Cohen’s life which the book details are Torah and the land of Israel. The book writes of his interactions with Torah personalities, including the Brisker Rav, Chazon Ish, Lubavitcher Rebbe and more.

One of the questions he asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, is why he never visited Israel. The book details an intimate conversation Rabbi Cohen had with Rabbi Schneerson where he explained his rationale. When Rabbi Cohen tried to suggest a way around that to facilitate a visit, the Rebbe remained silent for a time and his eyes filled with tears. They then changed topics.

A large part of the book details Cohen’s experience during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. He was involved in the fight for the Old City of Jerusalem and when the Old City surrendered, was taken captive by the Jordanian army. He is one of but of a few rabbis who were also a prisoner of war.

Cohen was a man of incredible brilliance, depth and compassion. While not as well known amongst Americans as many of his contemporaries, his life story is a mesmerizing one. And this book makes for an equally mesmerizing read.

Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen: Between War and Peace
Urim Publications, 2017