President Joe Biden announced plans on July 21 to nominate David L. Cohen, former vice chairman of the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and a Comcast executive, to serve as the United States ambassador to Canada.
Jewish Federation President and CEO Michael Balaban expressed his support for Cohen.
“We are proud that David L. Cohen, one of Jewish Philadelphia’s most prominent leaders, has been nominated to serve as ambassador to Canada,” Balaban said. “In his various roles within our community throughout the years, David L. Cohen has demonstrated time and again his ability to navigate tricky waters; he is the consummate negotiator. He has been a wonderful partner to our Jewish Federation, and we know he will continue to make us all proud.”
Though now the senior adviser to the CEO at Comcast, Cohen has long been involved in Philadelphia and national politics, serving as chief of staff to former Philadelphia Mayor Edward Rendell, as well as host of Biden’s first official fundraiser for his presidential campaign in April 2019 in his Philadelphia home. Cohen also was a partner at and chairman of Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP, one of the country’s 100 largest law firms.
In addition to serving as Comcast’s senior executive vice president, Cohen’s time at the Philadelphia-based company was shaped by his desire to champion diversity and equality in his communities as Comcast’s chief diversity officer.
In that role, Cohen helped build a partnership with the National Urban League, an organization providing professional development, counseling, and youth empowerment programming to Black Americans.
He also was an avid supporter of “Comcast Cares Day,” a company-wide day of volunteerism, which he called his “favorite day of the year.” According to Comcast, the annual event is an opportunity for the 100,000 Comcast employees to volunteer at more than 1,000 organizations, including UnidosUS, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Cohen believes that Judaism has instilled in him the values of encouraging diversity and acceptance.
“One of my great passions is to bring people of diverse backgrounds and cultures together,” Cohen said in an interview with the Jewish Exponent in 2013. “This is the way I try to live my life.”
His work to promote equality at Comcast extended further to the Jewish Federation, where he and his wife, Rhonda Cohen, were co-chairs for the Jewish Federation’s 2017 annual campaign.
During his time as vice chairman, Cohen wanted to extend the Jewish Federation’s reach beyond support for Israel, pushing to educate the community on local issues, such as poverty, that were impacting the community.
“Twenty years ago, you say, ‘Federation’ and people are thinking support for Israel,” Cohen said to the Exponent in 2017. “And there is this sense among too many in the Jewish community that there aren’t a lot of poor Jews living in Philadelphia, that there aren’t hunger issues and social service issues and education issues within this community.”
In 1993, the Anti-Defamation League awarded Cohen the Americanism Award, which honors community leaders advocating for human rights and equity.
“My friend David is a world-class guy. He’s smart, savvy, astute, politically adroit, well-liked, discrete, a problem solver and a multi-dimensional thinker,” said Stephen Cozen, founder of Philadelphia-based law firm Cozen O’Connor and vice chairman of the board of the Jewish Federation alongside Cohen. “The president likes and trusts him. He will be a great ambassador for an important post. Besides all of that, he is philanthropic and a real mensch.”
If confirmed, Cohen will have to navigate COVID-19 restrictions and economic recovery following the pandemic.
On July 21, the Biden administration extended travel restrictions to Canada until Aug. 21, due to concerns about the more contagious delta variant. The U.S. and Canada are working together to fund Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, and COVAX, with the goal of increasing global access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“I look forward to working with our neighbors in Canada, and continuing to develop and grow what is a very strong and important relationship as we continue to fight the pandemic and build our economies back stronger,” Cohen said in a statement.
Having grown up in Highland Park, New Jersey, Cohen attended Swarthmore College in 1977, earning bachelor’s degrees in political science, history and economics. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1981. Cohen served as chair of Penn’s board of trustees until July 1, 2021.
Biden nominated University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann as U.S. ambassador to Germany earlier this month.
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