Compiled by: Eliora Gdanski (10th)
This week, the Warrior Word interviewed Rabbi Jack Cohen, the high school’s new Director of Jewish Education and Community Engagement. Meet Rabbi Jack Cohen as he shares his hobbies, why he decided to work in education, and his goals for the year.
Eliora Gdanski: Where are you originally from?
Rabbi Jack Cohen: I was born in Philadelphia, but my parents grew up in Venezuela. I was supposed to grow up in Venezuela, but my dad made the decision to move to Connecticut, and that's where I was raised.
EG: How many kids do you have?
RJC: I have 4 kids.
EG: Where did you live and move from?
RJC: Before I moved here, I lived in New York City on the Upper East side.
EG: What community do you live in here?
RJC: I live in a small community named Presidential. It's a Spanish speaking community near NMB (North Miami Beach).
EG: What are your hobbies?
RJC: I enjoy running, hiking, traveling, art, and outdoor activities.
EG: What is your favorite hike?
RJC: My favorite hikes are in the South of Israel, in the desert.
EG: Where did you work before this?
RJC: I worked at an organization called Olami, which supports young professionals. I was the director of education there.
EG: Does anyone in your family work in education?
RJC: Nobody in my family works in education.
EG: What made you decide to work in education?
RJC: I was a counselor on a program called Machon, which was run through the camp Young Judaea. We were being trained by the Director of Education, and she said that every day, you must have a “Jewish moment”. When the staff asked what that was, she was flabbergasted. The Director of Education herself didn't know how to answer that question. I just felt like it was the blind leading the blind–nobody knew anything. I felt it was an important moment where I needed to be more educated on Judaism and with my knowledge so that I can help educate others.
EG: What made you come to Hebrew Academy?
RJC: I was asked to talk to the teenagers of my community during a meal on Shabbat. I asked the kids about their schools and what they enjoyed about it. One of the kid’s moms overheard me talking to the kids and mentioned to my wife that Hebrew Academy was looking for a Judaics head and that I should look into it.
EG: How long have you lived here?
RJC: I have lived in Miami for 2 years now.
EG: What are your goals this year?
RJC: My goals this year are that the students are attentive during class and look forward to coming to class. One of the goals I have for the school is to help the students understand the meaning of and look forward to davening.
EG: Do you enjoy working with everyone here?
RJC: I really enjoy working with the staff. We all work really well together. It's really nice that every grade is learning the same Chumash and Gemara so the teachers are able to communicate with each other. The students here also are amazing to work with. The students here have a lot of Chen, and they are always looking for more to learn.
EG: Who are your religious inspirations?
RJC: My religious inspirations are two of my Rabbis that come from a mesorah, a yeshiva in Europe in Svedka. Rav Nassan Tzvi Finkel’s whole philosophy was about individualized education and bringing out the best potential of each person.
EG: Who is your most inspiring person from the Torah?
RJC: Someone in the Torah that I am really inspired by is Aron Hacohen. He was someone who was involved with everyone personally in a way that others weren’t able to be because of their roles in the Torah.