Mark S. Cohen is an attorney who splits his time between West Hempstead, NY and Jerusalem. Mark is a frequent participant in Pardes’s Community Education Program and is also an alumnus of the Pardes Summer Program (1991, 2016 and 2018).
You recently endowed Pardes’s Rosh Chodesh Community Breakfast Program, which brings Pardes students together to celebrate the new Hebrew month. What inspired you to make an endowed gift to the Campaign for the Generations?
I was inspired to support Pardes’ capital campaign because I appreciate the valuable work that Pardes does and support it wholeheartedly. Being the “first coed yeshiva” is meaningful to me as I am a strong supporter of advanced learning for both men and women. I particularly appreciate the Pardes approach of teaching from the traditional perspective, yet respecting everyone wherever they presently hold on the observance and learning spectrums.
Rosh Hodesh has been a very meaningful day to me for many years. My Bar Mitzvah was on a Rosh Hodesh; my son led a Rosh Hodesh service at the Kotel to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah and, especially relevant with respect to a donation in his memory, my father passed away on a Rosh Hodesh. Thus, sponsorship of the Rosh Hodesh breakfast program resonates strongly with me.
What are your personal hopes for Pardes in the coming years?
My personal hopes for Pardes in the coming years is that it should be zocheh (merited) to build its new building and expand its footprint in the Talpiot/Baka area. I would like to see continued expansion of the Community Education program, which is one of my favorite activities during the months that I live in Yerushalayim. I hope to deepen my connections with Pardes, and look forward to more personally enriching learning opportunities with Pardes and its faculty.
I also hope that Pardes continues to encourage “generationally diverse” learning opportunities, since I believe that learning crosses all boundaries, including that of age, and each generation should inspire those who are both younger and older.
Are there specific Pardes experiences that have strongly impacted you?
My participation in the Summer Programs, twice during the past few years and once during the 1990’s, was extremely meaningful to me. And I greatly appreciate being able to participate in the Community Education program, which is one of the reasons why I purchased a home just a couple of blocks from Pardes!
Are there teachers who you feel particularly fond of – and why?
I have enjoyed almost all of the teachers that I have been privileged to learn from at Pardes. I do need to point out that although the Summer Program, in which I participated during 1992, was very meaningful, it was my association with Rabbi Danny Landes, who was one of my favorite teachers in the Wexner Heritage Foundation program, that kept me “in the Pardes loop” for many years. Danny met with me regularly, updating me on Pardes, and urging me to sit in on a class from time to time when I was in Israel, that ultimately led me to participate in more Summer Programs and the Community Education program.
Although he has now moved on, Pardes should maintain a position of hakarat hatov (gratitude) with Rabbi Landes for all that he accomplished for many years. My favorite teachers include, but this is not to exclude anyone that I am just not remembering at the moment, Rav Shai Finkelstein (who is now my Rav in Israel), Michael Feuer, Alex Israel, Michael Hattin, Dena Freundlich, Marty Lockshin, Rahel Berkovitz, Leah Rosenthal and Meir Schweiger.