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Julius Cohen Short Biography

Written by him at the direct request of Alter Truss

Among the landslayt who through their own efforts earned a worldly education, I must also include Julius Cohen, born in Bransk in 1888.

In the [old] home he was called Yudl Yentchman, his parents' youngest, the 8th child of his parents. Up to the age of 12 years he studied in Bransk with the best teachers, such as Binyomke, Khaim Groshun's and Maishe Hertsken. He then travels to Bialystok, where he comes to the Jewish Religious School to prepare to study at Rabbi Pinkhas in the yeshiva. He suffered much there because the head of the yeshiva expected much more from him, explaining that he had good talents but does not want to make use of them.

From Bialystok he arrives in Sokolke at the famous yeshiva head Rabbi Shimon Katzenelenboygen. There, together with Yisroel Mikhlen, the son of the Bransker older Maishe Hitsls, who died as rabbi of a community in a town in Kovner Province.

He then decides to travel somewhere to the larger city of Tkhum where he intends to devote himself to a worldly education. He travels usually as a

blind” investigator, i.e. under cover, he cannot buy a ticket.

It happened that he was caught by an official of the trains. They drag him out from under the bench and throw him out at a station, this was the city of Pinsk.

He is in the waiting–room in the Pinsk station, and his greatest fear is that someone might ask him for his passport, which he did not have. It was a cold morning, so he inquired how to get to the city. He arrives at a synagogue during the day on the linishtzyes (?) and sits down to read a gemora (Talmud).

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He was heartsick. He was yet still a child 15 years old and alone. He poured out his entire sorrow in the melody of the gemora.

Ezriel Vokhernik's son, a well–known learned young man, was at that time already in the synagogue/house of learning. He asks him from where he came. Instead of an answer he receives heart wrenching sobs. He becomes interested in him, finds places for him to eat, and Yekhiel the sexton permits him to sleep in the synagogue/house of learning for several days until they will find a place for him to sleep.

Yudl remains in Pinsk, studies in the synagogue, and becomes beloved by the congregants who consist mostly of poor working men of the area. He uses this opportunity to get four books from the young men and he studies Russian and other worldly subjects.

In 1905 he returned home from Pinsk, a learned young man. He finds children to teach writing in Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian and arithmetic.

At this same time, the air around him is filled with the revolutionary spirit that had reached Bransk.

Together with Yosl Libofsky and Khaim Baker, Maishe Hitzl Mendel's, they establish the first library in Bransk. He is interested in the workers' movement even though he is one of the intellectuals. He addresses many secret meetings in the forest and beneath the mills. He becomes well–known as a good orator, most especially as one who can popularize the difficult pretentious subject and helping everyone to understand.

In 1906, when the danger for all who were considered to be revolutionary activists was great, he decides to leave for America.

The time comes for him to part from his parents, he finds out that his mother, Khana, about whom everyone in Bransk will agree, that there was no end to her goodness, a quiet, hard–working woman who helps supply a bit of food for children, lies with her head buried in the pillows, sobbing, unable to say goodbye to her youngest son.

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His father Shloyme Hersh, a khasidic Jew, a Gerer khasid, took courage and said to his youngest son:

__ Yudl, you are going to America and I want to tell you in one word, that God, is also in America. He could not utter any more words. The proud Jew burst into tears.


In America

On the 7th of May 1906 he arrives in New York. He begins to work into the trade of tailor, learning for four weeks how to sew pants. He then had to receive three dollars a week. The owner, a well–known Mr Mager, of the worst type of sweat shop owners on Cherry Street, has his shop above a horse stable. The air in the shop is unbearable. The smell of the horses downstairs poisons one's breath.

When at the fifth week he expected to receive the three dollars, he is terribly shocked when Mr Mager handed him a half dollar.

With a bitter spirit, he leaves the smelly palace and went to work on Elizabeth Street for Miller and Kaplan, a firm that had existed in New York for almost 50 years. He worked there for 18 years, until gladly gave this trade up. According to Mister Max Perlman, the only one of the firm of Miller and Kaplan who still with us, who now tells us he felt sorry for the quiet, genteel young man and permitted him to work regardless of his work not being good at the beginning.

He joins the union as a talented speaker at gatherings during a time of strikes, that occurred every season. Because at the end of the season, everything they had gained from the previous strikes, was lost. The Union delegates, Nekhemyes, Weiss, and a little later, Goldberg, pin big hopes on him as the leader of the workers. But Julius Cohen, as he now called himself, is more interested in furthering his self–education. The rest of his time,

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after the long work–hours, was spent in studying English and in general, to become better acquainted with the American system of government.

He becomes interested in helping the workers of his shop to become citizens, to make it possible for them to be able to vote at the elections, and to not remain silent followers. During the first campaigns of the Socialist Party, almost all his co–workers, through his help, became citizens. He taught them to understand how the city, state and federal governments were organized so they would not fail the examinations.

The first to make use of this was Joe Sillen, father of the well–known radical editor of the New Masses, Sam Sillen. Julius Cohen was then an insignificant naturalized citizen.

He also joined the Landsmanshaft Society and was elected as secretary. In this society he has been an official until today, for the past 42 years.

This brought him close to the landslayt, and during the First World War he becomes active in the Bransker Relief. He is involved in this work to this very day, devotes much of his best time to such activities, paying no attention to his own economic interests and suffering the results of this.

In 1924, he gladly gave up his trade and became an insurance broker, a business in which he is employed until now.

Being more or less self–employed, he has more time to help his landslayt in various ways.

In 1931 he is drafted by the Bransker Young Men's Benevolent Association to be its secretary. To this very day, even though he is 60 years old, he is not free of his heavy duties in the Society. He is forced from year–to–year to continue in his position.

At this same time, something happened that hurt him deeply. He saw in this the beginning of the

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Jewish tragedy. Believing in democratic America, he is disappointed when he noticed how his son, Philip, a graduate engineer from Cooper Union and New York University could not find any employment for two years. Many advertisements and newspapers called for people like he. He wrote letters to the firms but received no responses. His friends who did not have any particularly Jewish names did find employment.

As a bitter joke he wrote a letter to a firm which he signed Philip H. Cole. He received the position. This forces him to change his name. And yet this was not an impediment when he enlisted in the United States army which for five years, he served with his unique talents and worked his way up to the rank of captain.

Julius Cohen foresaw in this the beginning of the hatred that was developing in America. Is this the beginning? Or only a passing occurrence?

Who knows?

In 1937 the Bransker Young Men's held a testimonial banquet for him as appreciation for his good and devoted work for the Society during the six years he served as secretary.

Julius Cohen was also the secretary of the Bocker Young Men's Club for quarter of a century. He conducted a well–known relief that grows larger every time, but he resigned as secretary of the Bocker to be able to devote himself to his primary work for the Branskers.

The Bocker landslayt recognized his work of 25 years and arranged a lovely banquet for him on November 15th 1947. There were 300 attendees and all wished him good luck and thanked him heartily for his active service.

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With his speech to those gathered there, he elicited great interest when he accused the world of being more interested in strengthening the hands of the Nazis rather than helping the remnants of refugees, the victims of the Nazi murderous hands. He did not foresee the last situation that developed in a rush to help rebuild the world's greatest murderous country with an open hatred towards all Jewish hopes.


Officials of the Bocker Young Men's at a banquet in honour of Julius Cohen's 25 years of service


At the Golden Jubilee of the Bransker Brothers Aid Association in March, 1946, he published a journal in which he pointed out the continuous behavior of England against the Jews. He accused England of wanting to destroy the Jewish community in Eretz Yisroel because of its desire to provide itself with a half–civilized Arab country that would replace the Jews who are sliding out of their grip.

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The certificate to Julius Cohen for his help to the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies

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Julius Cohen and his family and closest relatives at the banquet of the Bodker Young Men's
From the right in bottom row: Philip and Ida, his son and daughter–in–law, Avrum and Enye Richman, his brother and sister–in–law
Second row: Philip Lutsky and wife Ida, his nephew, Sam and wife Esther, Evelyn and Benny, his son and daughters–in–law
Standing: Julius Cohen and his wife Sarah

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How true it has turned out today in light of current events.

Julius Cohen also dedicated a lot of his time to raising funds for the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in New York, for which he was honored with a certificate from Judge Jonah Goldstein, the Chairman of the Organizational Council of the Federation.

During the war years he devoted much time in helping to sell government bonds. For this work he was also honored several times with special certificates.

Regarding his special efforts for the Bransker Relief, please refer to earlier chapters.


Special recognition to Julius Cohen for his help in selling war bonds


This is how Julius Cohen, from his very youth in New York, became part of the community social work. His work to publish the Bransk book for all to read is his primary goal at the present.


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