In its new initiative to reach out to Jewish communities across various regions throughout the United States, the Orthodox Union’s Department of Community and Synagogue Services has announced the appointment of Rabbi Dovid Cohen from West Hempstead as its regional director for New York City, Westchester, the Bronx and Connecticut to work with synagogues and communities in these areas.
OU national vice president and chairwoman of the department, Barbara Lehmann Siegel of Silver Spring, Maryland, stated, “The synagogue is the cornerstone of Jewish spiritual growth, social connection, educational development and of deepening Jewish identification and commitment. Rabbi Cohen, the OU’s first New York-Connecticut area regional director, will serve as its ‘ambassador’ to strengthen the bond between the OU and the nation’s largest Jewish community, as well as to deepen the relationships among the region’s various shul communities.”
Rabbi Judah Isaacs, director of the OU’s Department of Community and Synagogue Services, added, “The OU aims to bring to the entire network of Orthodox synagogues and communities positive vitality, shared resources, programming ideas, and solutions to varied challenges. We deliver strength in numbers and are a respected, powerful voice in the political arena. Rabbi Cohen will listen, ask and learn from the region’s rabbis and lay leaders, to help determine their communities’ and synagogues’ individual challenges and needs.”
Rabbi Isaacs continued, “Coming from the pulpit of the Young Israel of the West Side, Rabbi Cohen brings a gravitas and depth to the position that will no doubt be well-respected by the community at large as well as by our OU community. By virtue of his extensive experience, he certainly understands the demands, needs and challenges of synagogue rabbinic and lay leaders. He knows that our goal is to forge productive relationships with those leaders by offering the full menu of support that the OU’s Community and Synagogue Services provides its member shuls.
“His work will also enhance the crucial role of the shul as the gateway to the broad range of OU programs and services. And we are certain that by being our ‘man on the ground,’ Rabbi Cohen will be able to forge robust relationships with the Jewish communities in the region.”
Mrs. Lehmann Siegel agreed. “Rabbi Cohen can help strengthen the role of the synagogue in the lives of the congregants, and will open the gateway to the wide range of OU services that run the gamut of support for all ages and backgrounds. His personable nature, his enthusiasm and depth of experience augur well for deepening relationships within both the OU family and the general Jewish community.”
Rabbi Cohen just completed nine years serving as rav of the Young Israel of the West Side, where he was instrumental in making it one of the more popular synagogues in Manhattan. He received his BA from Yeshiva University in 1994, graduating with honors in history. He was ordained by the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at YU in 1997 and studied at a kollel affiliated with the Mirrer Yeshiva in Jerusalem. He earned his JD at Columbia University Law School in 1999 and is a member of the New York Bar. In 2007, the University of North Texas awarded Rabbi Cohen an MS degree in counseling, with a concentration in family therapy.
Rabbi Cohen served on the national board of Yachad, the OU’s flagship program of the National Jewish Council for Disabilities (NJCD). He was also a member of the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council of America, which provides numerous services for rabbis and their communities, and served as a rabbinical judge on the Beth Din of America. His first book, We’re Almost There: Living With Patience, Perseverance and Purpose, published by Mosaica Press, is soon to be released in stores.
He is married to Ruchi (Eisenberg) Cohen, daughter of the Chief Rabbi of Vienna. She is an honors graduate of the Hebrew University and is a pediatric intensive care unit nurse at the New York University Langone Medical Center. The Cohens have four children: Yedidya Shlomo (10), Tzippora Anaelle (9), Meir Simcha (6) and Aharon Yochanon (3).
Rabbi Cohen explained, “Every region is unique, particularly New York City shuls. The city serves a very affluent population on the one hand, and yet at the same time serves a very financially vulnerable population. Often, New York City communities consist of a transient type of demographic. The pace of life is different from non-urban areas and what people desire from the shul is different and usually more weekend focused. Critical demographics found in a suburban community, like in Westchester and Connecticut, can be missing in an urban shul. My nine years serving as rav of this type of shul makes me well-suited to effectively help make the experience more satisfying for all involved, whether urban or suburban.”
He continued, “I will be a ‘traveling salesman’ of sorts. I plan to spend time in the region’s shuls and hope to serve as a scholar in residence approximately once a month on Shabbat in the various shuls of the region, as well as delivering week-night lectures and regional programming. I also look forward to using tools of social media to connect more effectively with our constituents, as well as establishing leadership ‘lunch ’n learns.’ There are many other exciting and innovative new ideas and concepts that we look forward to rolling out shortly.”
Rabbi Cohen concluded, “Our goal is to engage synagogues and communities on an entirely new level. The OU is devoting significant resources to ensuring that our relationship with our member shuls is as strong as ever. The OU is a vast enterprise touching every segment of Jewish life. We’d like to ensure we are availing our members of the fullest array of our resources and support and this can only be done with a personal touch and a more intimate dynamic. To achieve our goal, we will be very actively engaging through numerous platforms in a more consistent fashion with our members, as well as bringing new members into our synagogue network.”