Richard Cohen, media spokesman for a large cross-section of Jewish organizations and individuals, died in his sleep Sunday night. He was 71 years old and had been suffering from lymphoma for some time.
Cohen died three days after putting out a news release naming his wife and business partner, psychologist Aphrodite Clamar-Cohen, president and chief executive officer of his media relations firm, Richard Cohen Associates.
Funeral services were scheduled for Wednesday in Manhattan, with Rabbi Alexander Schindler, a longtime friend and client, officiating.
Cohen, a decorated Air Force navigator in the Pacific during World War II, was to be cremated and his ashes interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
Despite several bouts with pneumonia that further weakened his strength, Cohen continued working until the end, even going to the office six or seven days a week.
Among his firm’s clients are the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and other Reform Jewish groups; Rabbi Arthur Schneier and the Appeal of Conscience Foundation; the American Zionist Movement; the Committee for the Economic Growth of Israel; and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.
He also handled public relations for the recent film, “Schindler’s List.”
One of his longtime clients, Benjamin Meed, founder of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and the Warsaw Ghetto Remembrance Organization, said Cohen “was everybody’s best friend.
“He was not just a public relations company open for everybody. He was a public relations agency open for the causes in which he believed. He was a humanitarian, he was a Jew, he was an American and it had to be all three together,” said Meed.
Cohen was a seminal participant in the struggle for Soviet Jewry. He served as chief press officer for the three World Conferences on Soviet Jewry, in Brussels (1971 and 1976) and Jerusalem (1983).
And he authored “Let My People Go,” the first comprehensive history of the Soviet Jewry struggle.
For years, Cohen’s hectic pace often included returning to the office following a late-night event to write a news release.
Israel Levine, his business associate and a friend for 56 years, said, “He was a fighter. He believed in survival.”
Levine, who is now chief operating officer of Richard Cohen Associates, knew Cohen from their days at De Witt Clinton High School in the Bronx, the U.S. military and the City College of New York.
Cohen was born in 1923 in New York. After his war service, he spent four years in Paris working for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. During that time Cohen was also a correspondent for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
He then spent four years working for the JDC in New York in public relations.
He then worked in the St. Louis regional office of the American Jewish Congress and continued with AJCongress in New York as public relations director, assistant executive director and finally associate executive director.
He resigned in 1979 to form his own firm, where he served as the voice for a disparate group of clients.
Cohen was also politically active in the Democratic Party, serving in the presidential campaigns of George McGovern in 1972; Jimmy Carter in 1976; the 1980 primary campaign of Edward Kennedy; and the 1980 Carter presidential campaign.