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2018-11-30 digital edition
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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


November 30, 2018  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Jewish doc who oversaw care for shooter to get museum’s Humanitarian Award

Dr. Jeffrey Cohen is president of Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. Dr. Jeffrey Cohen is president of Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. The Florida Holocaust Museum will bestow its highest honor on a Jewish doctor who not only was a member of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh where 11 worshipers were slain by a gunman shouting “All Jews must die!” but also directed care for the shooter at the hospital he oversees.

Dr. Jeffery K. Cohen, a urologist who is president of Allegheny General Hospital, lives so close to the synagogue that he and his daughter heard the gunshots when the attack began on Shabbat morning, Oct. 27.

He initially checked on where his mother-in-law was because she often attended Shabbat services at Tree of Life. Once he learned she was not there, he went to the synagogue and offered help to first responders, and EMTs, and alerted his hospital and others to expect mass casualties.

Dr. Cohen will receive the Loebenberg Humanitarian Award – named for the founders of the museum Walter Loebenberg and his late wife, Edie, at the museum’s annual To Life benefit, on Saturday, Feb. 9 at the Vinoy resort in downtown St. Petersburg.

Bill Graham at the Fillmore Bill Graham at the Fillmore This year’s event is aptly titled, To Life: Rock, Roll, Remember, as the museum also will posthumously present the same award to iconic rock promoter Bill Graham, with his sons, David and Alex, expected to be on hand to accept on his behalf. A traveling exhibit celebrating the life of Bill Graham and taking note of his Jewish heritage, opened here in August and will close the day after the To Life dinner.

Dr. Cohen, who will also be the guest speaker at the dinner, personally knew many of those who lost their lives or were wounded in the assault that day in the predominantly Jewish Squirrel Hill community.

Ironically, among those who were called in after the doctor alerted the hospital of the shootings, was a nurse who was the son of a rabbi. The nurse wound up tending to the gunman from the synagogue shootings. Cohen later visited the shooter to assess the care he was receiving and expressed compassion for him, saying he felt the man was confused.

In a television interview, Dr. Cohen said of the shooter, “He’s taken into my hospital, and he’s shouting, ‘I want to kill all the Jews.’ The first people who are taking care of him are Jewish. Ain’t that a kick in the pants?”

Later, Dr. Cohen said, “I am extremely proud of the exceptional care and compassion that our staff provides to every patient who comes through our doors. In this incredibly difficult situation, they did what they always do, setting their emotions aside and rising to the occasion to help us fulfill our mission of healing the sick.”

“Dr. Cohen’s actions exemplified true leadership, the leadership of compassion and humanity,” said Elizabeth Gelman, executive director of the Florida Holocaust Museum. “He and his team demonstrated to the world what it means to be an Upstander.”

The Allegheny Hospital medical team will share in the 2019 Loebenberg Humanitarian Award along with Cohen.

A museum official said the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue was a horrible attack on humanity and could not be ignored by the museum. One of the primary lessons of the Holocaust is that people cannot remain silent when they are confronted by hatred and prejudice, the official said.

“Unfortunately we live in a society where divisive rhetoric and discourse runs rampant – in the news and social media and on the public stages of our daily political theater. In the midst of all of this noise, we often forget that words truly do matter and their unintended impact can be devastating,” Dr. Cohen said. “I can only hope that the professionalism and humanity that our team demonstrated in responding to this tragic event provides some comfort and reassurance to our community, to the country and to the world that even in our darkest days the light of benevolence, forgiveness, and decency will always prevail.”

Honoring Bill Graham

Both of Bill Graham’s sons were in St. Petersburg earlier this year for the opening of the museum’s exhibit, “Bill Graham and the Rock and Roll Revolution.” The pop-culture exhibit includes hundreds of artifacts, photos, documents and memorabilia, along with a psychedelic light show that pays tribute to Graham’s career.

Over the years, Graham worked with such iconic musicians as the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, the Who, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. He also conceived rock & roll as a powerful force for supporting humanitarian causes and was instrumental in the production of milestone benefit concerts such as Live Aid (1985) and Human Rights Now! (1988).

Graham was born in Berlin in 1931 and due to the increasing peril to Jews, Graham’s mother, who later died at Auschwitz, placed her son and the youngest of five daughters, in a Berlin orphanage that sent them to France in an exchange of Jewish children for Christian orphans. After the fall of France, Graham and his sister were among a group of Jewish orphans spirited out of France, some of whom finally reached the United States. His sister was among a large number of children who did not survive the difficult journey.

Graham arrived in New York at age 11, and grew up there before fighting in the Korean War, then relocating to San Francisco just as the hippie movement was gathering steam. The rest is rock and roll history.

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To purchase tickets to the To Life dinner, visit: or call (727) 820-0100 ext. 276.

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