BY ALLEN RABINOWITZ / AJT//
Temple Kol Emeth (TKE) honored the life and contributions of longtime member and teacher Suzette Felsberg Cohen by re-naming its ecumenical outreach and adult education initiative in her memory. Rabbi Erin Boxt will serve as dean of students for the program.
The curriculum for the Suzette Felsberg Cohen Outreach and Adult Education Initiative includes introduction to Judaism classes, advanced Jewish study and interfaith education to illuminate and underscore an appreciation of Judaism and its customs for congregants, residents of Cobb County and the general community. The Initiative kicked off activities with a 12-student conversion program beginning on Jan. 15, which would have been Cohen’s 55th birthday.
“Reaching out to the community and providing the services we feel that people need is very important to us,” said Rabbi Boxt of the core purpose of the initiative. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish or not Jewish – black, white or whatever, we’re all equal.
“At TKE, we provide opportunities for people to connect spiritually to G-d and a community. Though our services are partly in Hebrew and follow a Jewish liturgy, we are extremely satisfied and comfortable with people who come in here to connect to us whether they’re Jewish or not, [and] this was also important to Suzette. Our congregation is 50 percent interfaith in some way, shape or form.”
A graduate of Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Life, Cohen also received a master’s degree in Judaic Studies from the Siegel College of Jewish Studies. She served for many years as lead kindergarten teacher at both TKE in Marietta and Gesher L’Torah in Alpharetta.
Additionally, she a member of Shalom B’Harim in Dahlonega, where her husband Mitch Cohen serves as spiritual leader. Her other community activities included tutoring, leading trips to Israel with interfaith couples and leading a mother’s circle group of non-Jewish women raising Jewish children.
“When she worked with the [New York-based] Jewish Outreach Institute,” said Mitch Cohen, “Suzette was instrumental in developing the mother’s circle groups here in Atlanta, which spread to other cities in the country.”
The idea for renaming the Initiative occurred when Rabbi Boxt and Rabbi Steven Lebow paid a condolence call to Cohen’s husband on the Sunday evening after she passed away.
“We were talking about the unbelievable influence Suzette has had on the community here in Atlanta, from her interfaith work to her Jewish educational work to the generations of children she had taught in kindergarten in our religious school here,” Mitch Cohen said. “She had such an amazing effect on our community, which was evident through the 60- plus people at her funeral and the dozen or so rabbis present.
“As she was a member of our congregation and we were embarking on this brand-new adult education and outreach initiative it just seemed right.”
Although he will not officially be a part of the initiative, Mitch hopes to one day teach classes in the program. Regardless, he believes that his wife’s energy, enthusiasm and commitment will be felt in the classes and the community.
“It’s so sad because I don’t think she realized how many people she touched,” he explained.
Contributions can be made to the Suzette Felsberg Cohen Outreach and Adult Education Initiative at Temple Kol Emeth, 1415 Old Canton Road, (770) 973-3533 or kolemeth.net.