Saturday, November 25, 2006

This Week in Texas Methodist History Nov. 26

Rabbi Henry Cohen Addresses Conference Dec. 2, 1910

The Texas Annual Conference met in Galveston in December, 1910 with Bishop Murrah presiding. Among the other events of that conference was a short address of greeting by one of the most important figures in Texas religious history, Rabbi Henry Cohen (1863-1952). Cohen's talk was "as to the spirit of comity and friendship that should exist between the Jewish and Christian civilizations.

Cohen had been born in London and lived in South Africa and Jamaica before coming to Temple B'nai Israel in Galveston in 1888. For the next sixty-plus years he was involved in a multitude of civic, philathropic, literary, and religious endeavors. He was active in the fight against the Ku Klux Klan, and for women's suffrage and the humane treatment of prisoners. His greatest national fame came because of his participation in the Galveston Movement. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Eastern European Jews were sujected to vicious pogroms. One response was immigration to the United States. Jewish leaders in the northeastern US felt it best if newly arriving immigrants were dispersed throughout the United States rather than being crammed into the teeming cities. Galveston was thus the port of entry for 15,000 Jewish immigrants between 1907 and 1914.

Rabbi Cohen met the immigrant ships and provided social services and passage to inland cities in Texas via the rail system that centered on Galveston--especially Tyler, Palestine, Marshall, and Texarkana, all of which could be reached by fares of less than $5.00.

In addition to his rabbinic duties and civic volunteering, Cohen also found time to write a number of books and serve on several boards. One of those boards was the Seaman's Bethel, a project of the Southern Swedish Conference of the MEC.


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