An old Rabbi who is said to have helped save 56 Jewish families during the holocaust has died of the COVID-19 corona virus.
Rabbi Romi Cohn, 91, died Tuesday, shortly after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Just two months earlier, he had delivered the opening prayer for the US House of Representatives, in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz’s release.
Cohn was born in Czechoslovakia in 1929 and was 10 years old when the country was attacked by Germany. After his family fled to Hungary, he joined the partisans in the war against the Nazis, returned to Czechoslovakia and falsified Christian identification documents which helped the Jewish family to escape. His mother and four siblings were then killed in a concentration camp.
“As a 10-year-old young man I was sentenced to death, killed with my entire family … by one bad person, may his name be erased forever,” Cohn told MPs during the January prayer.
After emigrating to the United States, Cohn served as a rabbi in Brooklyn, New York and is known as a mohel, doing more than 3,000 circumcisions on newborns for free and training more than 100 people about the practice. He also had a career in real estate development and co-authored a book based on his early life experiences, entitled The Youngest Partisan: A Young Boy Who Fought Against the Nazis.
Rabbi Romi Cohn delivered the opening prayer for the US House of Representatives on January 29, 2020.
Screenshot / YouTube
Jewish community leaders paid tribute to Cohn, noting that his departure was also a reminder of the threat posed by the pandemic.
“Rabbi Cohn is a role model for the Jewish community,” Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding told Newsweek by telephone. “This tragic death reminds us that faith in God does not mean that sadness will never enter our homes, or that sickness will never strike our loved ones.”
Representative Max Rose (D-N.Y.) Invites Cohn to deliver the Council’s prayer and express his sadness on Twitter after learning about the surrender on Tuesday.
“It is heartbroken to hear Rabbi Romi Cohn z”l (may he rest in peace) die from COVID-19,” tweeted Rose. “Rabbi Cohn lived an extraordinary service life, helping 56 families escape Nazi tyranny. 2 months after he led the Parliament opening the prayer, I hope you will join me in praying for him & his family.”
Heartbroken to hear Rabbi Romi Cohn z”l die from COVID-19.
Rabbi Cohn lived an extraordinary life of service, helping 56 families escape Nazi tyranny. 2 months after he led the DPR opening the prayer, I hope you will join me in praying for him & his family. × ™ × ”× ™ × – × ™ ×› × ¨ × • × ‘× ¨ × • × š pic.twitter.com/aIFpBnRNWC
– Rep. Max Rose (@RepMaxRose) March 24, 2020
Cohn is one of two New York City rabbis who were reported to have died Tuesday after testing positive for the virus. The other is 60-year-old Rabbi Yaakov Meltzer, who is said to have died from a pre-existing condition.
COVID-19 has killed religious leaders from various religions from around the world. One of Iran’s leading Islamic scholars was stricken with the disease last week, while at least 50 Italian imams are also believed to have died of the virus.
Measures of social alienation and the prohibition of large gatherings have also resulted in the temporary abolition of religious services in private in many areas, although some have switched to online streaming platforms. Schneier acted as a rabbi at Hampton Synagogue, which has expanded the already popular recording service offered on television by the Jewish Broadcasting Service.