Seymour S. Cohen, B’nai B’rith official

Seymour S. Cohen, an official for 47 years of B’nai B’rith, the Jewish humanitarian and human rights organization, died June 19 at his home in Olney. He was 89.

The cause was metastatic prostate cancer, said his wife, Nancy Cohen.

Mr. Cohen, who was known as Si, was a regional director of B’nai B’rith’s youth organization in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia before coming to the Washington area in 1961 as assistant national director of programs and publications.

He later was director of the Washington office, director of adviser training and director of community and volunteer services. He was instrumental in launching B’nai B’rith’s national housing program for the elderly. He retired in 1995.

In 1977, Mr. Cohen was one of 123 persons held hostage for 39 hours when a group of Hanafi Muslims took over B’nai B’rith headquarters in Washington.

Mr. Cohen received B’nai B’rith’s Julius Bisno Professional Excellence Award in 1994.

Seymour Sidney Cohen was born in Paterson, N.J. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1944 and received a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh in 1953.

His marriage to Ruth Fagan Cohen ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 29 years, Nancy Miller Cohen of Olney; two children from his first marriage, David Cohen and Beth Singer, both of Silver Spring; and three grandchildren. A daughter from his second marriage, Leah Cohen, died in 2011.

— Bart Barnes

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