Emma (Perlstein) Cohen
Emma Perlstein Cohen died Thursday (April 28, 2005) at age 100. The widow of Dr. Morris N. Cohen, with whom she eloped in 1927, she was the oldest child of Hillel and Libbe (Sherry) Perlstein, and was predeceased by her brothers Abraham and Elliot Perlstein and her sister Shirley Brown. Love of and for family formed the core of her life, and she leaves incredible memories for her devoted and grateful family. Survivors include her son and daughter-in law Michael and Naomi Cohen of Bloomfield, her daughter Judith Shapiro of Hooksett, New Hampshire, her brother and sister-in-law Julian and Florence Perlstein of Bloomfield, sisters-in-law Miriam Cohen of Bloomfield and Ruth Cohen of Florida, grandchildren Harry Shapiro and his partner Emanuel Bando, Elisabeth Shapiro and her husband Jeffrey Keerking, Sharon Shapiro Spurling and her husband David Spurling, Joshua Cohen, Jonah Cohen and his fiancée Kristie Mazzoni, Matthew Cohen and his fiancée Lisa Deutsch, great grandson Eli Moshe Keerking and special friends and care-givers Betty Campos and Opal Garvey. What a century Emma enjoyed, living an extraordinary life as family matriarch and devoted community volunteer. A student at the University of Connecticut, she left college to work in New York and returned to Hartford as proprietor of the Aladdin shop, a lending library and specialty shop selling imported items. She described her biggest regret as not having a college degree. Throughout her life she studied, read voraciously and encouraged others to do the same, especially in areas of Jewish learning. Moving to Bloomfield in 1932, she was President of the Mothers’ Club, the forerunner of the school system’s PTA. She was a co-founder 54 years ago of the Hartford Association for Retarded Citizens. Together with her husband of 61 years she traveled widely, including more than a dozen visits to Israel. Emma’s leadership roles in the Jewish community were extensive, and she served until her death as a member of the Board of Visitors of the University of Hartford Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies. She was a co-founder and first President of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford where she initiated what has become a vast collection of oral history tapes. She was also President of American Jewish Congress and the Emanuel Synagogue Sisterhood, a founder of the first flourishing Jewish bible study group in Connecticut, active in Beth Hillel Synagogue and a member of many other Jewish organizations here and in Israel. An avid Democrat, she began her interest in politics as a member of the Socialist Party, helping to organize an appearance in 1932 at the Bushnell Memorial for presidential candidate Norman Thomas. Throughout her husband’s career in local and state elected offices, she was his enthusiastic booster, scrapbook maker and photographer of his speeches, legislative debates and committee work, with many of her pictures appearing in the local press and in campaign materials. Guided by Judaism’s teachings and history, she understood and imparted to her children and everyone else who would listen the importance of appreciating their roots and living Jewishly. She and her husband devoted their time and their resources to preserve Jewish institutions, especially Hartford’s Jewish history. Their efforts culminated in the underwriting of “Making a Life, Building a Community”, a history of Hartford’s Jews published in 1997. Her family will commemorate the rich legacy she has left to all who knew her at a funeral service Monday, May 2nd, at 1:30 PM in the Chapel of the Weinstein Mortuary, 640 Farmington Avenue, Hartford. Burial will be in Beth Hillel Cemetery, East Granby. Shiva will be observed at the home of Michael and Naomi Cohen, 24 Wyndcliffe Park, Bloomfield, Monday following the funeral, Tuesday through Thursday from 2:30-5:00 PM and 7:00 until 9:00 PM, and Saturday evening from 7:00 until 10:00 PM. Minyans will take place at 7:30 PM. To applaud Emma’s remarkable life, the family suggests contributions to honor her memory be made to the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford, 333 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford, CT 06117 or the Hartford Association for Retarded Citizens, 900 Asylum Avenue, Hartford, CT 06115. May her memory be for a blessing.

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