Seymour Cohen (b.1922), Papers.

  • Dates: ca. 1974-1989
  • Size: 16.25 linear ft.
  • Number of Boxes: 13
  • Languages:
    • English
    • Hebrew
    • Yiddish
  • Location: Special Collections Reading Room, Jewish Theological Seminary Library.
  • Restrictions: Reproduction of fragile items is not permitted; consult the archivist about literary rights.
  • Gift Of: Seymour and Naomi Cohen
  • Date: January 20, 1991

TSH, 1/3/92

Table of Contents:

A Note on Folder Headings

Individual folders are identified in the following way on the left side of each folder: Name of Collection, box #/folder#, as in Ben Zion Bokser Papers, 4/22. Please use this format in citations and when referring to files for any other reason.

Biographical Note

Seymour Cohen was ordained at The Jewish Theological Seminary in 1946 and began his thirty-year rabbinical career at Congregation Anshe Emet in Chicago in 1961. Prior to that time he served two other congregations: Patchogue Jewish Community Center in Patchogue, New York (1947-51) and B'nai Israel in Pittsburgh (1951-61).

While at Anshe Emet Cohen instituted a variety of changes: he introduced the Conservative movement's Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book; reinstituted the observance of the second day of festivals; increased the participation of the laity (especially women) in the synagogue's functioning; and encouraged the development of the synagogue's physical plant. Cohen also pushed for Anshe Emet's institution of a Hebrew high school and visits by an annual scholar-in-residence.

In addition to his pulpit responsibilities, Cohen was also actively involved in the larger Jewish and non-Jewish communities. In 1965 he was chair of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry; from 1965 to 1967 he was president of the Synagogue Council of America; in 1965 he was a delegate to the first worldwide Jewish-Christian Consultation in Geneva, Switzerland; from 1967 to 1969 he was president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis; from 1968 to 1976 he was Visiting Professor of Judaism at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois; from 1980 to 1982 he was president of the Rabbinical Assembly; from 1982 to 1984 he was on the Gannon/Proctor Commission on the Status of Women in Illinois.

Cohen has published a number of collections of sermons as well as English translations of Hebrew texts, including A Time to Speak (1968), Form, Fire, and Ashes (1978), Affirming Life(1986), Orchot Tzaddikim: The Ways of the Righteous (1969, 1982), Sefer Hayashar: The Book of the Righteous (1973), and Iggeret Ha-Kodesh: The Holy Letter (1976).

Collection Description

Rabbi Cohen's papers, ca. 1974-1989, consist of correspondence, typescripts of sermons, printed material, notes, and a few photographs. The arrangement established by Cohen, into correspondence files, weekend files, subject files, and files concerning the Rabbinical Assembly, has been maintained here.

Series List

  • I. Correspondence, 1978-1989
  • II. Weekend Files, 1974-1989
  • III. Subject Files, 1970s-1980s
  • IV. Rabbinical Assembly Files, ca.1978-1987

Series Descriptions


Boxes 1-3

Included is Seymour Cohen's correspondence with congregants, members of the Chicago Jewish community, and rabbinic colleagues, arranged chronologically, then alphabetically within time periods. The subject matter of the correspondence includes: synagogue programs, weddings, funerals, b'nai mitzvah, and other events; letters of congratulations and condolence; acknowledgments of contributions; and interoffice memoranda. Extra-synagogal correspondence here is primarily personal, but also includes a limited number of queries regarding points of Jewish law. There is also a sizable amount of professional correspondence devoted to the discussion of happenings in rabbinic and other Jewish organizations and their meetings.

II. WEEKEND FILES, 1974-1989

Boxes 3-8

The weekend files contain typescripts of sermons which Seymour Cohen delivered on Sabbaths, holidays, and other special occasions such as funerals and weddings. The sermons are developed around Torah or other biblical readings assigned for the given occasion. Also interspersed with these texts are a variety of notes regarding b'nai mitzvah, aliya assignments, Torah and Haftarah readers, yarzheits, etc. There are also many newspaper and magazine clippings, scholarly articles, and other excerpts which served to inform the day's sermon.

Of note among these items are materials related to Congregation Anshe Emet's centennial in 1973, including copies of the service of rededication and letters of congratulations to the congregation from Chicago's John Cardinal Cody, Mayor Richard J. Daley, and Illinois Governor Dan Walker (see June 7, 1974).

For a synopsis of Cohen's views on the status and role of Conservative Judaism, see a letter he wrote to The Jewish Theological Seminary's Chancellor Gerson Cohen on August 4, 1980 (see also, October 17, 1980).

III. SUBJECT FILES, 1970s-1980s

Boxes 8-12

This series consists of subject files as they were maintained by Seymour Cohen. These files served as a store of resource material which was likely used to develop sermon topics, lectures, and other lessons. The files reflect a wide-ranging array of subjects, including: abortion, the Holocaust, Zionism, and Cohen's own work. Also included amongst these files are the names of many national and international Jewish organizations, including the Chicago Board of Rabbis, the World Council of Synagogues, and the World Jewish Congress. Of particular note is material documenting Anshe Emet Synagogue's 100th Anniversary, 1973; the Ivan Boesky affair - see for Cohen's essay on ethical behavior from the perspective of Jewish tradition; Rabbi Cohen's twentieth anniversary at Anshe Emet -including letters of congratulations from Jewish notables; intermarriage; the Vietnam War - see for Cohen's letters to the editors of newspapers regarding the reporting of events related to Vietnam (June, 1971); Watergate - see for Cohen's sermon on this topic; women - see for Cohen's views on the place of women in Jewish life.


Boxes 12-13

Included here are correspondence and subject files documenting Cohen's work with the Rabbinical Assembly. The correspondence consists especially of items documenting Seymour Cohen's presidency of the Rabbinical Assembly (1980-1982) and includes items regarding such issues as Rabbinical Assembly legislation, meetings, and committees, as well as special concerns of the RA, such as conversion, divorce, and insurance (Cohen was chair of the Rabbinical Assembly's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Retirement and Insurance, 1980). Of particular note is Cohen's letter to Jewish Theological Seminary Chancellor Gerson Cohen (August 19, 1981) on allowing women to enter the Rabbinical Assembly as well as the role of Conservative Judaism in greater American Jewry.

The subject files in this series consist especially of correspondence sent to Rabbinical Assembly members regarding Rabbinical Assembly legislation, meetings, and procedures, as well as descriptions of the work-in-progress of various committees. Items are grouped according to general topics, including conversion, insurance, intermarriage, ordination of women, retirement, and others. Of particular note is the address given to the Rabbinical Assembly by Cohen at the end of his presidential term (see Seymour Cohen - Presidency).

Box List

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