Cohen, Naomi Wiener

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COHEN, NAOMI WIENER (1927– ), scholar of American Jewish history. Cohen was born in New York City and educated at Hunter College and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, receiving her Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in 1955. She taught for 30 years at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City of New York and also served as adjunct distinguished service professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary. In 1948, she married Gerson D. *Cohen, a historian who later became chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Following her retirement in 1996, Cohen moved to Israel.

Cohen focused her research on various aspects of American Jewish history. One special area of interest was the German Jewish community in the United States; scholarly works in this area includes A Dual Heritage: The Public Career of Oscar S. Straus (1969), Not Free to Desist: The American Jewish Committee, 1906–1966 (1972), Encounter with Emancipation: The German Jews in the United States, 1830–1914 (1984), and Jacob H. Schiff: A Study in American Jewish Leadership (1999). Cohen addressed the distinctiveness of American Zionism in three books, including American Jews and the Zionist Idea (1975) and The Americanization of Zionism, 1897–1948 (2003).

Cohen also made an important contribution with her work on the complex interaction between American Jews and Christians and on the separation of church and state in the United States. Articles on the legal arguments made by American Jews in defense of equal rights and religious freedom, as well as on their positions on religion in the public schools, appeared in the 1970s and 1980s, followed in Essential Papers on Jewish Christian Relations in the United States: Imagery and Reality (1990), an edited volume on Jewish-Christian relations in the United States. Jews in Christian America: The Pursuit of Religious Equality (1992), which details American Jews' efforts simultaneously to secure equality in American life and to protect their distinctive identity as non-Christians in a Christian country, is considered a landmark work on the separation of church and state.

Cohen received numerous awards for her work, including the American Jewish Committee's Akiba Award for Scholarship and Teaching; the Jewish Cultural Achievement Award in History; the National Federation for Jewish Culture Award in Historical Studies; and two National Jewish Book Awards for Jewish history.


T. Kaplan, "Cohen, Naomi W," in: P.E. Hyman and D. Dash Moore (eds.), Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, 1 (1997), 246–47.

[Jennifer Sartori (2nd ed.)]