Steven Cohen’s position as the executive director of Israel Bonds Maryland is more important than ever in the current political climate. Interest in the investment company has grown as people seek to offer financial aid to Israel while it continues its war against Hamas.
As a result, Cohen has been very busy as of late — facilitating the sale of bonds, organizing and attending solidarity events and working with Israel’s Ministry of Finance to help support the war effort. But according to Cohen, a lifelong Zionist, he’s just doing his part.
“Everyone at Israel Bonds who is fighting on behalf of Israel … we all feel like family,” Cohen said. “It keeps us strong.”
Cohen, 64, lives in Pikesville and is a member of both Beth Tfiloh Congregation and Chizuk Amuno Congregation. He has three children: two daughters and a son.
Born on Long Island, he was raised as a Conservative Jew and recalls that his father was a devout Zionist who was incredibly dedicated to Soviet Jewry.
“He was developing a group that was part of the Soviet Jewry movement on Long Island in the early 1970s to help Jews escape persecution in Russia,” Cohen said of his father. “We would regularly host a Jewish family who had managed to leave the Soviet Union at our Passover seder each year, and that was very special to our family.”
Cohen graduated from law school in 1984 and went on to practice in New York for five years. While he does not mainly work as a lawyer anymore, he still keeps his license active and regularly applies his legal skills to his work at Israel Bonds.
He first became involved in the financial sector when a legal client at Merrill Lynch invited him to become an in-house counsel. He would go on to become Merrill Lynch’s vice president, firmly cementing himself in the financial world.
Cohen later moved to Pikesville to assist his father with running a small bank. Over 15 years, he grew Hopkins Federal Savings Bank’s assets from $110 million to $354 million.
“I did keep my legal hat on, but essentially, I was a business person,” he said.
Hopkins Federal Savings Bank was where Cohen first became involved with Israel Bonds. The bank started a matching program in concert with Israel Bonds, where it would do a 50% match of all bond purchases during the High Holidays, which is still in place to this day, having since become a 100% matching program.
He became Israel Bonds Maryland’s executive director in 2016, a position he has held for the past seven years. He and his staff work to facilitate bond sales in Maryland, as well as in Buffalo and Rochester in New York.
“We have this great community of 100,000-plus Jews in Baltimore … and Buffalo and Rochester have smaller, but also beautiful Jewish communities,” Cohen explained.
He said his greatest accomplishment in his time at Israel Bonds Maryland was his work with WesBanco, which came into ownership of Hopkins Federal Savings Bank after a series of company mergers and acquisitions a number of years ago.
WesBanco appreciates “what we do here in the community for Israel, and they support and purchase bonds to continue matching programs,” Cohen said.
Since Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Israel Bonds Maryland has gone into overdrive to support the Jewish state. Cohen said that he is proud of his staff for having put together several Israel solidarity events on short notice, including one organized by Israel Bonds Maryland’s women’s division that featured social media influencer Lizzy Savetsky as a speaker and had over 300 attendees.
Recently, Israel’s Ministry of Finance asked Israel Bonds to sell an additional $200 million in bonds to aid war efforts. That number was reached in four days, with the organization raising over $1 billion since the beginning of October.
“The Ministry of Finance needs us,” Cohen said. “They have told us they need our support, because war is expensive. Our goal is to support this effort to keep Israel strong.”
Even when he is not working, Cohen’s Zionist identity strongly affects his life. In his spare time, he teaches classes at a local yeshiva. At work and at home, Israel is his life.
“Everything I do is connected to Israel and to Israel Bonds,” he said.