Suzanne F. Cohen, a dedicated philanthropist and Jewish community advocate, died Monday, Nov. 19, of cancer. She was 83.
Her awards and philanthropic endeavors were many, and touched organizations from Baltimore to Israel in areas of education, community-building, the arts and Jewish community.
“Sue was a dedicated and passionate leader to The Associated for decades,” said a statement from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s chair of the board Debra S. Weinberg and president Marc B. Terrill. “Her wisdom and deep concern for the Baltimore Jewish community as well as her passion for enhancing the entire Baltimore community were truly legendary.”
She served in a number of capacities in The Associated system, including as the second woman to be chair of the board, from 1989 to 1991, and president of the Baltimore Jewish Council from 1998 to 2000.
“Not only was Sue an irreplaceable leader, she and her late husband, Nathan, were generous and committed philanthropists enhancing numerous organizations in our community and leave lasting legacies through many innovative philanthropic initiatives,” Weinberg and Terrill said. “Sue was a mentor and a friend to many and her legacy and memory will last through those lucky enough to know her. She will forever carry the crown of a good name.”
Cohen, who was a member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation, served as president of the Nathan & Suzanne Cohen Foundation. Through various philanthropic arms, the Cohens supported The Associated and emergent Jewish issues, and looked to create opportunities in underserved communities, according to her donor profile on The Associated website.
“Her leadership extends into the community at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore Community Foundation and local, smaller nonprofits focusing on helping young people in Baltimore City,” the profile reads.
A past chair and honorary trustee of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Cohen initiated and funded the museum’s free admission, which she spoke about in a video interview for her 2013 induction into the JCC of Greater Baltimore’s Jewish Hall of Fame.
“My championing free admi- ssion at the Baltimore Museum of Art, that is probably the accomplishment that makes me happiest of everything I’ve done because it coalesces everything,” she said.
Considering herself a professional volunteer, her accolades include being named a distinguished alumna and woman of distinction at her alma mater, Goucher College; being named to The Daily Record’s Maryland’s Top 100 Women; vice chair of Middle Grades Partnership, which focuses on Baltimore City students; trustee emerita at the Baltimore Community Foundation, Open Society Institute and Goucher College; and initiatives at the Park School, Johns Hopkins University and in Jewish-Arab schools in Israel, among many others.
“My Jewish values, my sense of social justice, motivate my entire life,” she said in the 2013 video.
Coming from a generation where women didn’t work, as she said, “there had to be other ways to skin the cat.”
She remembered her grandfather being installed as president of Levindale when she was about 5 years old, and her mother, Florence Fineman, was auxiliary president of Sinai Hospital and Levindale.
She started volunteering as a teen, and began her work with The Associated in its annual campaign the first year she was married. She then became chair of the women’s campaign.
“I remember at that point giving one of my first speeches, and I said, ‘I am a very fortunate, free, American Jewish woman,’” she said in the 2013 video. “And thinking about it, it still resonates with me, it’s still who I am.
“I provide opportunity for people less fortunate than I’ve been. And it gives me a chance to open minds and hearts and eyes to new worlds.”
Cohen is survived by daughter Janet Cohen and her husband, Daniel Kramarsky; daughter Nancy Cohen and her husband, Jonathan Parfrey; her brother Howard Fineman and his wife, Janice; and four granddaughters.