Monsey Memories: Rabbi Yaakov Cohen
By Yitzy Fried
A prominent congregation in Spring Valley for many year was the Jewish Community Center (JCC), and for decades it was led by Rabbi Jacob Cohen, a talmid of the yeshivos of Chevron and the Mir who hailed from prominent rabbinic stock.
Yaakov Cohen was the son of Rav Lieber Cohen, a New York Rav and an expert in the fields of kashrus and gittin. He was born in Russia in the year 1908, and the family came over when he was a young child. At first, Rav Leeber served as a Rav in Memphis, Tennessee, but due to the concern for the chinuch of his sons, he moved to the Bronx, New York, where Yaakov was raised. There, Rav Lieber established himself as an expert in the aforementioned fields and issued teshuvos in related matters.
He attended the yeshiva in New Haven, which Rav Yehuda Heschel Levenberg founded. He followed his time in New Haven with three years of diligent study in the Chevron Yeshiva, where he narrowly survived the infamous bloody massacre of 1929. He reunited with his friends from New Haven in the Mir, in Poland, where he went on to receive semichah from the Roshei Yeshiva, Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel and Rav Avraham Tzvi Kamai.
Returning to America, he spent the next 50 years as a Rav in Spring Valley. In 1946 he led a delegation of Mir alumni to San Francisco to welcome a group of refugee students of the Mirrer Yeshivah in Shanghai.
In addition to his many years of service in leading the Jewish Community Center, and in addition to his many years at the helm of Congregation Ohav Shalom in Spring Valley, Rabbi Cohen was also a chaplain to Rockland State Hospital, as we read in the Journal News:
“Rabbi Cohen Assists. Rabbi Hershon is assisted by Rabbi Jacob Cohen of Spring Valley, who had been associated with Rockland State Hospital since its opening. Jewish services are held each Saturday at 10:00 a.m. in the auditorium of the hospital and at 1:30 p.m. in building 7 for elderly patients who are unable to get out.”
At the time of his passing in 1994, Rabbi Cohen left behind a beautiful legacy of half a century in Rabbonus.