Abby Joseph Cohen


Press Release:

Abby Joseph Cohen Named Chair of the Board of Trustees of
The Jewish Theological Seminary,
Succeeding Gershon Kekst

Abby Joseph CohenNew York, NY, June 12, 2009—Abby Joseph Cohen, Senior Investment Strategist and President of the Global Markets Institute at Goldman Sachs, has been named the first woman to chair the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) effective July 1. She succeeds Gershon Kekst, founder and President of Kekst and Company Incorporated.

Ms. Cohen, one of the most prominent women on Wall Street, joined the JTS board in 2004. Her involvement with JTS has spanned many areas, including committee work on governance and investment and service on the chancellor search committee. Ms. Cohen was honored by JTS in 2001 with the Louis Marshall Award, presented to individuals who demonstrate the philanthropic commitment embodied by Louis Marshall, an esteemed constitutional lawyer and former board chair of JTS. Ms. Cohen joined Goldman Sachs in 1990, where her work is focused on the intersection of economic trends, public policy, and financial markets. She provides research and counsel to investors, corporations, and governments around the world.

"We are incredibly fortunate to have the experience and insight that our new chair, Abby Joseph Cohen, brings to JTS," said Professor Arnold M. Eisen, Chancellor of JTS. "I have gotten to know her—since her pointed questions to me when I appeared before the chancellor search committee—as a probing intellect and a wise, committed, and caring human being. She is not only a visionary leader in finance, but a dedicated philanthropist in a number of areas, particularly higher education and the preparation of future Jewish leaders. Abby is deeply committed to Judaism and to JTS. I am excited at the prospect of working with her closely in the months and years to come.

"Abby assumes the helm of the JTS board from Gershon Kekst, whose tenure has been marked by years of incomparable growth at JTS," continued Chancellor Eisen. "He has brought to the leadership of JTS a great deal more than business acumen and public relations expertise. Gershon is a man of deep faith whose dedication to Conservative Judaism and this institution make his counsel utterly invaluable. It has been an honor and privilege for me, as well as a source of enormous pleasure, to work with him. All of us at JTS are profoundly in his debt and look forward to his continued involvement as a trustee and chair emeritus."

"I'm honored to serve as board chair," said Ms. Cohen. "JTS, founded in 1886, has long played an essential role in educating leaders in the clergy, academia, and the community. This will continue. The century-old tradition of academic excellence is reflected in all our undergraduate and graduate schools and in our deep commitment to the next generation of students. My colleagues on the JTS board enthusiastically support the institution's core mission to provide outstanding educational opportunities on campus and to respond to the growing demand for high-quality instruction in the Jewish world more broadly. Leaders trained at JTS will engage in the vital religious and secular issues of our day as rabbis, cantors, academics, Jewish educators, and well-informed laity."

"The past eighteen years have been transformative for JTS and the school stands today as a vital institution of Jewish learning with a bright future," said Mr. Kekst. "It is a great center of scholarship and research, teaching, and training, and a steadfast base for building thriving Jewish communities. I am thankful to have worked with and learned from its exceptional leadership, faculty, student body, and Board of Trustees, and it has been gratifying to work with Abby Joseph Cohen; I am very pleased that she will be succeeding me as chair. Abby's career in business and public service has decisively proven her to be a thinker and leader of rare perceptiveness, drive, and character. I can think of no one better qualified or more appropriate to shepherd the JTS board, and I look forward to continuing to work with her as a fellow trustee of JTS."

Many of Abby Cohen's other volunteer commitments also focus on education and on public policy. She is a Trustee Emerita and Presidential Councillor at Cornell University and a member of the boards of the Weill Cornell Medical College and the Brookings Institution. She previously served as chair of the board of the 90,000-member Chartered Financial Analyst Institute from which she received the Distinguished Service Award. An adviser to the investment committees of Cornell University and Major League Baseball, she serves on the national board of the Smithsonian Institution and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Abby Cohen holds degrees in economics from Cornell University and George Washington University and has received three honorary doctorates, including one in engineering. Ms. Cohen has been recognized as a leader in US portfolio strategy for more than fifteen years, and has been ranked number one by Institutional Investor magazine and Greenwich Associates. Her career is the subject of a Harvard Business School case study and a Business Week cover story. Ms. Cohen has been honored by many groups, including the Financial Women's Association, New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street Week Hall of Fame, and leading financial publications. She began her career as an economist at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington DC.

The Cohen family is deeply involved in Jewish campus life. Abby's husband, David M. Cohen, serves on Hillel's International Board of Governors, the organization's highest consultative body, and has been a member of Hillel's Executive Committee for several years. Abby and David received the Cornell Hillel Tanner Prize for their contributions to Cornell and the Jewish people, and were honorees at the Hillel 2006 gala. David Cohen is Deputy Commissioner and Labor Counsel of the New York City Police Department.

Gershon Kekst has been a JTS trustee since 1989 and assumed leadership of the board in 1991. His tenure, at eighteen years, is the longest continuous service in that role since Louis Marshall. The son of Hebrew teachers, he has focused his philanthropy and communal leadership on Jewish education and science.

Highlights of his tenure include the appointment of Chancellor Eisen, the establishment of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, and the creation of the Women's League Seminary Synagogue. He also oversaw the expansion of JTS internationally through the formation of Jewish education programs in Russia, Argentina, and Israel. In addition, Mr. Kekst supported the forging and strengthening of critical partnerships between JTS and other arms of the Conservative Movement and other Jewish institutions. A notable accomplishment is expanded interfaith outreach, most recently with the Muslim community, that has resulted in frank dialogue and joint social action projects.

Editors/Reporters: Abby Joseph Cohen, Gershon Kekst, and Chancellor Arnold Eisen are available for interviews by contacting Eve Glasberg at (212) 678-8089 or evglasberg@jtsa.edu.


Abby Joseph Cohen's Bio:

Abby Joseph Cohen is Senior Investment Strategist and President of the Global Markets Institute at Goldman Sachs.

Abby Cohen joined Goldman Sachs in 1990, after specializing in quantitative strategy and economics at other major financial firms. She began her career as an economist at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington DC. Her work is focused on the intersection of economics, public policy, and financial markets.

Abby Cohen's outside activities focus on education and public policy. Ms. Cohen, who has been a member of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Theological Seminary since 2004, will become board chair effective July 1, 2009, the first woman to head the board. She serves as a presidential councillor at Cornell University, and on the boards of the Weill Cornell Medical College and the Brookings Institution. She previously served as chair of the board of the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, from which she received the Distinguished Service Award.

Ms. Cohen serves as an adviser to the investment committees of Cornell University and Major League Baseball. She is on the national board of the Smithsonian Institution and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is a frequent guest lecturer at universities and graduate schools of business.

Abby Cohen holds degrees in economics from Cornell University and The George Washington University. She has received three honorary doctorates, including one in engineering. Ms. Cohen has been recognized as a leader in US portfolio strategy for more than fifteen years, and has been ranked number one by Institutional Investor magazine and Greenwich Associates. Her career is the subject of a Harvard Business School case study and a BusinessWeek cover story. Ms. Cohen has been honored by many groups, including the Financial Women's Association, New York Stock Exchange, the Wall Street Week Hall of Fame, and leading financial publications.


 

Words of Praise for Abby Joseph Cohen:

"I have a great deal of admiration for Abby Joseph Cohen, and she will be a wonderful chair of the JTS Board of Trustees. In my work with Abby, as trustees of Cornell University and on the board of overseers at Weill Cornell Medical Center, I have found her to be a person of outstanding thoughtfulness and sensibility. She has a proven ability to gather and build support. I look forward to working with Abby as JTS and HUC work together to benefit the larger Jewish community."

Barbara Friedman, chair of the board of governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

"For a woman who has moved world markets with her every word, Abby's leadership style is remarkably understated. It is defined by forceful, but quiet wisdom; by humility and compassion; and by setting ambitious goals and implementing them with rigor and excellence. Particularly during these challenging times, her passion and wisdom will inspire creative solutions and help position Jewish education at the top of the communal agenda."

— Richard Joel, president, Yeshiva University

"Abby Joseph Cohen is a truly rare person—someone whose exceptional intelligence is equally and amply matched by her wit, her warmth, and her clear moral compass. In these turbulent times, The Jewish Theological Seminary is lucky to have such a wise and committed supporter at its helm."

Debora L. Spar, president, Barnard College

"Abby Cohen is an experienced leader. She is smart, analytical, and has good judgment. JTS is fortunate to have her as its new chair."

Harold Tanner, former president, American Jewish Committee

"Abby Cohen is one of the great leaders of both the Jewish community and our society. She is compassionate, thoughtful, insightful, and wise. She has proven through her intellect and her motivational skills that she can and will be a most effective leader. I applaud The Jewish Theological Seminary for its selection."

— Andrew Tisch, co-chair of Loews Corp.

"Abby Cohen is an outstanding leader and a terrific choice to chair The Jewish Theological Seminary. Abby has always impressed me with her enthusiasm, intelligence, willingness to give back to society, and ability to bring organizations to new heights."

Sanford I. Weill, former chairman and CEO of Citigroup

"I congratulate Abby Cohen on her election at JTS. Along with her experience, she will bring leadership and honor to a distinguished Jewish institution of higher learning. Abby's career on Wall Street has inspired students and teachers alike. She has demonstrated, with talent and commitment, that it is possible to reconcile financial achievement with ethical principles."

Elie Wiesel, author and activist


Words of Praise for Gershon Kekst:

"Gershon Kekst has served as chairman of the JTS Board of Trustees for eighteen years—a term unprecedented in length and productivity. During those years he has earned the respect, admiration, and affection of his colleagues on the board, JTS's faculty, its students, and the broader community that JTS serves. JTS is a better place by virtue of Gershon's leadership, and it is reassuring to know that he will continue on the board as our chairman emeritus."

Robert Rifkind, JTS board member

"Gershon has led JTS with the same wisdom and integrity and special humanity that he has brought to all his endeavors. All of us—institutions and individuals alike—are enriched by his leadership and his friendship, and his unerring and unselfish commitment to JTS."

Jeffrey Rosen, JTS board member

"Gershon Kekst brought together his extraordinary skills, his business and communal experience, the respect in which he is widely held, his wisdom, and his deep affirmation of the import of JTS for the Jewish future and infused them all into the institution that he loves. His record of volunteer leadership will provide a model long into the future."

John Ruskay, executive vice president & CEO, UJA Federation of New York


Gershon Kekst positively impacted so many people in the JTS community. We invite you to submit your reflections and thoughts by emailing your impressions here.