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Cohen, Samuel Herbert


COHEN, SAMUEL HERBERT (1918–1969), Australian labor politician. Born in Bankstown, New South Wales, of Russian Jewish parents, Cohen practiced law in Melbourne, becoming a queen's counsel in 1961. He was a member of the Victoria Central Executive and of the Australian Labor Party's foreign affairs and defense committee. Cohen was elected to the Senate in 1961 (the first Jew elected to the Australian Senate) and became deputy leader of the labor opposition party there in 1967. He was Labor spokesman on education, and was responsible for the party's state aid program in the 1969 elections. From his youth he was involved in Jewish community affairs, particularly in combating antisemitism, and was a patron of Montefiore homes and welfare projects. A leftist and an early opponent of the Vietnam War, in 1962 Cohen became involved in a fierce controversy within the Melbourne Jewish community when he failed to support an opposition measure condemning Soviet antisemitism, arguing that Soviet Jews enjoyed equal rights. Cohen's stance sparked considerable outrage in sections of the Jewish community. Despite this incident, Cohen was much respected and his early death at only 51 was widely regretted.


Australian Jewish News (Oct. 10, 1969), 3. add. bibliography: P. Mendes, "The Senator Sam Cohen Affair: Soviet Anti-Semitism, the alp, and the 1961 Federal Election," in: Labor History, 57 (2000), 179–97; idem., "Samuel Herbert Cohen," in: Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate, vol. 3 (2006); W.D. Rubinstein, Australia ii, index.

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