Rabbi Cohen, Freedom Fighter

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

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