Skip to main content

Cohen, Joseph Isaac


COHEN, JOSEPH ISAAC (1896–1981), Sephardi congregational rabbi and communal leader in Havana and Atlanta and active Zionist. Born in Istanbul, Cohen was educated at an Alliance Israélite Universelle school, the prestigious Galata Saray gymnasium, and studied law at the university. In the Turkish army, he rose to the rank of captain in intelligence and served from 1915 to 1918 in the Dardanelles, Syria, and Ereẓ Israel. He was taken prisoner by the British in Beersheba. After the war, he remained in Ereẓ Israel, working for the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund; he then immigrated to Cuba in 1920. He set up a Jewish day school, Colegio Herzel, and served as its headmaster, and as an active Zionist, he was co-founder of the Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund in Cuba. He served as an active spokesman for the Jewish community in its dealings with the Cuban authorities. In 1930, after being ordained privately by local rabbis in Cuba, he became head of the Sephardi congregation Shevet Ahim Union Hebrea in Havana.

Cohen subsequently served the Atlanta Sephardi Congregation Or Veshalom of Rhodian and Turkish Jews from 1934 until his death in 1981. In 1935, he reorganized the Talmud Torah, added a Sunday religious school for pre-kindergarten until 10th grade, and hired accredited teachers for both.

He encouraged his Sephardi congregants to become active and integrate into the general Jewish community and Federation philanthropic activities. He placed emphasis on giving to charity locally for orphans, Jewish welfare needs, and causes in Israel and elsewhere abroad, i.e., through the Jewish National Fund, and the return of *Marranos to Judaism in Oporto, Portugal.

For his efforts, he received the Bringer of Light award from the Jewish National Fund of America, and in 1969 he was elected president of the newly formed Atlanta Rabbinical Association.

Upon retirement in 1969, he was elected rabbi emeritus of his congregation and continued serving the congregation and community until his death. He was succeeded by Rabbi S. Robert Ishay, a native of Morocco, who had served previously in Manchester and Rhodesia.


S. Beton (ed.), Sephardim & a History of Congregation Or VeShalom (1981), 108–110; J. Papo, Sephardim in Twentieth Century America, In Search of Unity (1987), 281–83.

[Yitzchak Kerem (2nd ed.)]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Cohen, Joseph Isaac." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . 22 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Cohen, Joseph Isaac." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . (February 22, 2019).

"Cohen, Joseph Isaac." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved February 22, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.