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Jerry Cohen Papers

Identifier: MS 0925
Finding aid note: Forms part of the Houston Jewish History Archive. Stored on-site at the Woodson Research Center in small collections.

Content Description

Correspondence, speeches (by Jerry Cohen, Ira Tumpowsky, and Jerry's daughter, Elise Cohen Passy), a news clipping, a photograph, and an invitation document a tiny part of the life of Jerry Cohen, the first president of Congregation Beth Am, from 1973 to 1987.


  • 1973 - 1987

Conditions Governing Access

This material is open for research. Stored on-site at the Woodson Research Center.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from the Jerry Cohen Papers must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library.

The Woodson Research Center use policy is that researchers assume sole responsibility for any infringement of privacy, literary rights, copyrights, or other rights arising from their use of the archival materials. In addition to any restrictions placed by donors, certain kinds of archival materials are restricted for the life of the creator plus 50 years. These materials include, but are not limited to, student grades, transcripts, and any job applications or recommendations.

Biographical / Historical

Jerard "Jerry" Yale Cohen was born December 4, 1941, in Yonkers, New York, to Hilda (Green) and Edward Cohen. Jerry grew up in New York and married Adele Schwartzenfeld in New York City in 1966. The couple moved to Houston around 1972 where Jerry worked in marketing for Shell Oil Company.

Jerry was one of the organizers in creating the first synagogue on the western edge of Houston called Congregation Beth Am. He was the first president of Congregation Beth Am from 1974 to 1975. Jerry died unexpectedly on May 16, 1977, and is buried at Beth Yeshurun Cemetery. Congregation Beth Am dedicated the Jerald Y. Cohen sanctuary in 1987.

The history of Beth Am: On October 12, 1972, a group of young Jewish people met for the first time in the Kendall Branch Public Library on Memorial Drive to discuss the possibility of starting a Congregation to serve the needs of the increasing number of Jewish families settling in the Memorial-Northwest area of Houston. The need for a West Houston synagogue was recognized at that first meeting. Interest in forming a synagogue spread quickly and by January 1973, seventy people had already formed committees, held a Hanukkah service, and agreed that a religious school was a necessity. The first Board election was held in April 1973, and that month the members voted to become a conservative congregation. Within a six-month period both a Sisterhood and a Men's Club were formed, an ark was built to house the newly acquired Torah, and Rabbi Irwin Halpern became the congregation's first spiritual leader and school administrator. In 1975 Beth Am purchased a facility on Brittmoore Road. As the membership continued to grow a new sanctuary, kitchen, and offices were added. The youth group, Beth Am Synagogue Youth, was also created around this time. As the years passed the members decided that further growth was hampered by the somewhat industrial location of the synagogue. As a part of that decision, Congregation Beth Am merged with Congregation Or Hadash in 2001 and became Congregation Or Ami.


1 Files (1 folder)

Language of Materials



The collection, spanning from 1973 to 1987, consists of one folder containing correspondence, speeches, a newsclipping, a photograph, and an invitation.


The materials in this collection have been arranged in one series as follows:

Series I: General

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The materials were donated by Adele Cohen Segel in December 2019.

Related Materials

MS 733, Congregation Beth Am (Or Ami) Records
Guide to the Jerry Cohen Papers. 1973-1987
Traci Patterson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas Repository

Fondren Library MS-44, Rice University
6100 Main St.
Houston Texas 77005 USA