Letter to the Editor: Cantor Mourns Cohen’s Death

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I just picked up my Exponent and was beyond saddened to learn of the passing of Elias Cohen (“Advocate for Elderly Elias Surut Cohen Dies at 93,” Dec. 17).

There was a whole aspect to Cohen’s persona that should be mentioned, especially poignant for me at this moment in that in a few hours I will kindle the last candle of Chanukah.

Cohen singlehandedly maintained all the religious objects at Main Line Reform Temple for more than 30 years, including the many chanukiyot in the Temple’s possession. This was not a few hours’ work. He came into the building weeks before the High Holidays, painstakingly cared for every kiddush cup, Havdala set, Torah breastplate, Shabbat candelabrum, etrog holder, Megillah container, Passover plate and other objects beyond counting.


This was not the act of someone who expected or wanted recognition. As always, Cohen simply saw a need and quietly stepped up. He did it because he loved the klei kodesh (sacred objects) that beautify Jewish life. Most people were unaware of Cohen’s contribution but, when the Holy Ark was opened on Erev Rosh Hashanah, his handiwork gleamed as brightly as did his soul.

May this beloved shammash be bound up in the bonds of life eternal.

Marshall Portnoy, cantor emeritus | Main Line Reform Temple

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