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Mountain States Spotlight with Sara-Jane Cohen

  • June 6, 2016

Sara-Jane Cohen

Anti-Defamation League Board Member and Boulder Steering Committee Member Sara-Jane Cohen shares how her early involvement in the fight for Civil Rights led to becoming an ADL advocate.

How did you first become involved in ADL? How are you involved now?

My husband Bill and I got involved in ADL probably 15 years ago (maybe more?) because issues kept coming up in Boulder that needed ADL’s expertise, advice, and general help.  We and several other Boulderites met for a few years to try to get an ADL office here, and (former Regional Director) Bruce Deboskey was very helpful in making that happen with a generous grant to fund the office.  Alas, the Boulder office is now closed, but having that level of ADL presence in Boulder for several years really put us on the Boulder radar.  I am now still on the Boulder Steering Committee, and also on the Regional Board.

What do you do in your professional life?

I am a very-retired lawyer!

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Believe it or not, I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom – like my mother, who was an indefatigable volunteer.

Where were you born? From where do your ancestors hail?

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY.  My parents were also native New Yorkers.  My mom’s family came from Pabianice, Poland, and my father’s from Drogobych in what is now Western Ukraine.

What’s your favorite holiday?

Definitely Pesach – I love seder, and I love making all the great food!!

What’s your favorite food?

Dark chocolate.  Also just about anything made with eggplant.  I’m looking for a great eggplant and chocolate recipe. [Editor’s Note: Try this kosher vegan chocolate eggplant torte recipe! ]

What are you reading?

“The Teenage Brain,” by Dr. Frances Jensen.

What’s a special place you have visited?

Israel, of course, but also the Dordogne in France.

What’s one thing every person should know or experience?


What teacher or class stands out to you the most in your education and why?

My high school English teacher, Gladys Bernstein, was extraordinary.  I can’t tell you now why (it’s been a long time) but I know that she really molded me as a student and a learner.

What are you passionate about personally? What can’t you stop talking about?

My grandchildren, and on a less personal level, trying to solve the challenge of homelessness in Boulder (and everywhere).

Where can we find you when you’re not working?

Since I’m not “working,” you can find me lots of different places:  at home in my kitchen; working with unhoused men and women in Boulder; volunteering at my synagogue; playing mah jongg (yes!!); hanging out with our local grandson; wherever!

What would be impossible for you to give up?

My family.

If you had to teach something, what would you teach?

I DO teach something:  Torah chanting.  I love that!

Tell me a story that immediately pops into your mind that was a defining or significant moment for you.

I was in college in the early ‘60s, during the Civil Rights movement.  Two young men (older than I was, but looking back, really young!) came to my college to talk about what was happening in the South.  They were from SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee) and they were passionate about the struggle for civil rights.  That’s when I decided to go to law school, so that I could be more useful in that fight than I might be as a protester or demonstrator.

Why do you choose to make a financial investment in ADL?

ADL is the voice that speaks out against anti-Semitism, racism, and all the other “isms” of hate.  ADL has wonderful programs to teach kids and adults how to value and support an inclusive community.  ADL supports Israel and the values we cherish in the United States at the same time.

Complete this sentence: For me, the ADL is …

… the primary organization in America (and beyond) that gathers critical information about the bad guys, shares that information with law enforcement and the public, provides programs to counter the messages those bad guys are promoting, stands up for all victims of discrimination and hate, and helps us live our Jewish values to the fullest.