July’s Mensch of the Month: Sid Cojac

He is extremely well-known and admired at Huntcliff-Summit, the senior independent living Sandy Springs community where he lives. He is the “mayor of Main Street” at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA) in Dunwoody. He is the honorary commissioner and founder of increasingly popular sport of Pickleball at the MJCCA.

Sid Cojac is the amazing and beloved role model for everyone who has the good fortune of knowing him. One hears the mantra over and over again from Sid’s friends, colleagues and members of various organizations that he is part of: “When I get to be 98, I want to be just like Sid Cojac.”

Cojac was born in a Harlem, N.Y. tenement apartment in the year 1913 to an Orthodox Jewish family. In addition to his parents, Sid had three brothers and three sisters, all of whom are now deceased.

Just to put things in perspective and to marvel at this year, consider the following events that occurred in 1913, the bar (or is it bat?) mitzvah year of the 20th century:

The President of the United States was the newly inaugurated Woodrow Wilson; Jim Thorpe was signed by the New York football Giants; and the 16th Amendment on the income tax and the 17th Amendment requiring the direct elections of United States Senators were ratified.

Needless to say, Cojac has lived his life in a changing world, but it is certain that he has embraced that life.

Sid has always advocated a relevant education to go along with a person’s energy and motivation. He attended P.S. 184 and James Fennimore Junior High School in Harlem and completed his formal education at Harlem Evening High School. It was not unusual for Sid to leave his home at 6 a.m. and work and go to school, returning at 11 p.m.

He worked as an apprentice and soon became a full-fledged printer. Ready to start his own business at age twenty-three, he did so first in The Bronx and then in Manhattan. Hard work and good fortune helped him become a successful entrepreneur, and he spent the rest of his life in the printing business in New York and in Charlotte, N.C.

In terms of his religion, he was brought up in a strictly observant home; Judaism was an integral part of the Cojac family orientation. Still, in a reflection of the times, Sid remembers his bar mitzvah being a 10-minute affair on a Thursday morning in 1926 when he read from the Torah and then went about his routines and his father went to work.

He continued going to cheder (Hebrew school) until he was 17 years old, and religion today remains an important part of his life in one way or another. When he lived in Wantagh on Long Island, he was part of the group that formed Suburban Reform Temple, a successful religious venture that met his and the community’s needs for many years.

He is currently an active member of the Reform Temple Beth Tikvah in Roswell. He has a strong sense of faith; a copy of the Ten Commandments sits on the dashboard of his car, and he says that if everyone followed them, most of the world’s problems would dissipate.

Why is Sid Cojac admired and acknowledged as one of the great inspirations of not just the Jewish community, but the entire Atlanta area? He is a role model of what everyone should aspire to as they become “mature adults” and “super seniors.”

Despite his 98 years of normal aches and pains, he is guided by magnificent experiences and he has a willingness and desire to learn, do, think and basically LIVE.

Written and nominated by Ed Feldstein