Why I Give: I Saw Dachau

Philip T. Cohen and his wife, Helene. Philip believes we all have to pitch in to help Jews around the world.

Photo provided by Jewish Federation of Cincinnati


Philip T. Cohen, 98, was honored at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s annual meeting on May 16, and I met with him afterward to talk about why he has given for so long.


Danielle V. Minson: Why did you start giving to the Federation back in 1945?

Philip T. Cohen: My brother and I watched our parents giving every day to the pushke (a tzedakah box for saving money for charity). When times were good, when times were bad.

I was an engineering officer in a fighter crew. When the war ended in Europe, our outfit got sent home. Then I got a call that a general was coming to see me. His first words to me were, “I have an operation in headquarters in the General Command, I have been looking at your record.” I volunteered.

I went to headquarters in Munich. One of the first things I did was walk through Dachau. It was clear to me what had happened to the Jewish people there.

I came home in September 1945 as a Major. One of the first things I did upon my return was to give to the Federation.


Danielle V. Minson: So you continued to give?

Philip T. Cohen: I continued to give, and I continued as a board member of Federation. I worked a lot on committees, I chaired the campaign in 1968 and I became the president of Federation in 1982. So this was a continuous thing for me.


Danielle V. Minson: Why is it important to you to give?

Philip T. Cohen: I’ve been to Israel seven times. One of the trips I went with David Mann, and we went with the Israeli army all the way to Lebanon to the airport in Beirut. Some months later we went back, and we went again into Lebanon, and we could see all the Syrian tanks in the Bekaa Valley.

So all these things were necessary to me and I wanted to help Israel, as well as the Cincinnati Jewish community. I was involved in every campaign and every agency except two in the Jewish community.

We’ve continued to give. I’m 98 years old and my wife Helene is 95, and we don’t know what the future holds, but we continue to give.


Danielle V. Minson: Thank you so much. Last question: What would you say to young Jewish Cincinnatians about why giving to a cause you care about is important?

Philip T. Cohen: It is important for the young Jewish community to know that for Judaism to survive, we all have to pitch in and do what we can to help Jews around the world.


Cohen is the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s longest continuous donor and a longtime volunteer to Jewish causes. Born in Cincinnati at the old Bethesda Hospital in Avondale, Cohen graduated from Middletown High School in 1937, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s Mechanical Engineering Program in 1942, where he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. In 1948, he married Helene, a lifelong member of Rockdale Temple. Cohen joined Rockdale that same year, then joined the board, serving as its president from 1965-1967. 


The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati funds over 50 programs and agencies locally and around the world. It is located at 8499 Ridge Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236. To get involved or give back, call 513.985.1500, email info@jfedcin.org or visit www.JewishCincinnati.org. Together we can do almost anything.