About Rabbi Paul Cohen

Rabbi Paul F. Cohen, D.Min., D.D. is originally from Chicago. He graduated with a bachelor's degree from Grinnell College where he studied biology and comparative religion. Upon graduation, he moved to Minneapolis where he worked for two years in a short-term residential treatment program for delinquent adolescents. Rabbi Cohen received his Masters of Arts and rabbinic ordination and the honorary degree, Doctor of Divinity, celebrating 25 years in the rabbinate in March 2015, from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio. While there, he served as the student rabbi for the United Hebrew Congregation in Ft. Smith, Arkansas and the auxiliary chaplain at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Rabbi Cohen's rabbinical thesis was titled "Modes of Divine Communication: Some Aspects of the Rabbinic Views" which focused on some of the less conventional ways rabbis expect to send and receive communication vis a vis heaven. Rabbi Cohen was awarded a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Bangor Theological Seminary in May 2001. His dissertation is entitled "Digging Our Parent's Wells" and deals with congregational renewal. While in Cincinnati, Rabbi Cohen met his wife, Cathy, and together they moved to Norfolk, Virginia where he served as the assistant and then associate rabbi of Ohef Sholom Temple. Active on many community boards of directors, Rabbi Cohen was the founding president of the South Hampton Roads Campaign for the Homeless. Immediately prior to serving Temple Jeremiah, Rabbi Paul Cohen was the spiritual leader of Congregation Bet Ha'am in South Portland, Maine and served on the boards of the Jewish Federation, Cedars Nursing Home, the Equity Institute and the Cancer Community Center. He was the president of the Greater Portland Interfaith Council, a founding member of the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination and the Maine Interfaith Coalition for Reproductive Choices and sat on its executive board. Politically and communally active, Rabbi Cohen has been asked on several occasions to offer testimony before state legislative committees. Rabbi Cohen served as chair of the Rabbinic Advisory Committee of Olin-Sang Ruby Union Institute, he is President of the Chicago Association of Reform Rabbis and is a past board member of the Interfaith Housing Center of the North Shore (now called Open Communities), was a founding board member of Family Promise of Chicago North Shore, served as President of the Chicago Board of Rabbis and is a member of the Winnetka Interfaith Council, served on the Ethics Committee of the North Shore Senior Center. He is a graduate of the Kellogg Management Education for Jewish Leaders program, sits on the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation Board of Directors and the Jewish Center for Addiction Advisory Board and serves on the Clergy Advisory Board for the Public Defender of Cook County. He is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

Shabbat D’varim

By |2021-07-14T11:10:40-05:00July 14, 2021|

Beloved Friends, This week we begin reading from the book of Deuteronomy. Moses is still deeply involved in the work of building a sacred community. The Israelites have struggled to understand God’s instruction and Moses’s leadership. As a consequence, there have been many missteps along their 40-year journey. Though our

Shabbat Korach

By |2021-06-10T19:06:21-05:00June 10, 2021|

Beloved friends,  Thou shalt not engage in binary thinking. This command, though not explicitly articulated in the Torah, is one of the most powerful mitzvot that speaks to me in this moment. Binary thinking places all people into one of two boxes. Binary thinking records every situation as black or white, good

Praying for Peace

By |2021-05-12T15:57:27-05:00May 12, 2021|

Beloved Friends, The news from Israel is terrifying and heartbreaking. From the protests and violence in Jerusalem to the hundreds of rockets unleashed against the entire country, the citizens of Israel are being terrorized, lives have been lost and many more have been injured. The escalation is frightening. I


By |2021-05-06T13:45:32-05:00May 6, 2021|

Beloved Friends, This week we read the last two portions of the book of Leviticus, Behar and Bechukotai. Leviticus is my favorite book of the Torah because of its essential message: if it can be broken, it can be repaired. This message of hope brings me strength as I face

No One Can Do Everything But Everyone Can Do Something

By |2021-04-21T09:58:07-05:00April 21, 2021|

Beloved Friends, I write to you as the jury in Minneapolis voted to find Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts for the killing of George Floyd. I bring this forward as an affirmation of the essential teaching of the book of Leviticus from which we are reading now: “That

Pesach VII

By |2021-04-01T16:59:49-05:00April 1, 2021|

Beloved Friends, This week we bring our Pesach celebration to a close. Shabbat is the 7th day of Passover and so we have a special Torah reading from Chapter 13 of the Book of Exodus. In Verse 8 we read: ‘And, you shall explain to your child on that

Shabbat Tetzaveh

By |2021-02-23T16:55:18-06:00February 23, 2021|

Beloved Friends,  This past Sunday I had the privilege of teaching a group of 7th and 8th grade students. I gave them the opportunity to ask me questions about Judaism, myself, or both. As you might imagine, things began slowly. Actually, my opening to them was met with silence,

There Is Hope

By |2021-01-07T15:07:28-06:00January 7, 2021|

Beloved Friends, I cannot help but reach out to all of you in the midst of the horrific violence, physical and verbal, that has been unleashed and the attack on the core of our democracy.  Even still, I am heartened by the story of Moses as it unfolds in

Shabbat Toldot

By |2020-11-19T18:31:19-06:00November 19, 2020|

Dear Friends, I am a lifelong learner. This may not be such a surprising revelation as I am, by trade, by training, by choice and by love a teacher. I am fortunate in that I inherited this love from my parents, of blessed memory. As you may recall this did

Shabbat Nitzavim-Vayeilech

By |2020-09-10T14:06:47-05:00September 10, 2020|

Dear Friends,  The Torah portion for this Shabbat is called Nitzavim from the book of Deuteronomy. We will read part of this portion again on Yom Kippur morning. Among many other lessons, we learn about the Mussar middah of Anavah, the character trait of humility.  I was honored to contribute a chapter to The Mussar Torah Commentary that I will

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