Remembering Lynda

Remembering Lynda A. Cohen, October 2010

Photo: Marshall Weiss
Lynda A. Cohen oversaw DJCC Early Childhood Services for 30 years


By Vicki Bernie, Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer

The Dayton community lost an incredible friend with the passing of Lynda A. Cohen. Best known for her work with children, parents and educators, her absence will leave a huge hole in the hearts of countless people whose lives she enriched.

“Everyone at some time came across her and you always remembered her,” says Helene Blumenthal, a former DJCC preschool teacher. “Lynda is in my heart. She taught me so much. It’s incredible how many lives she touched. When new Jewish families came into the community, they found a connection through her. That’s what she did — connected people.”

The connection was immediate for Julie Halpern.

“The very first day we moved to Dayton in 1997,” she says, “I took my son over to the JCC. Lynda literally took me by the hand and introduced me to all these women — ‘You have to meet so and so’ she said over and over again. And they are my very best friends today. She was one of the good ones.”

“When I came to Dayton in the early ‘60s, Lynda took me to my first Hadassah meeting,” says Linda Patterson, former coordinator of DJCC adult programming. “Our connection was that we had both just moved here from Queens. The Federation preschool grew into the wonderful place it is today and it was all Lynda. She infused Judaism creatively into her program and added so many additional programs that enhanced what the Center had to offer. She learned to write grants to get what we needed. She communicated with the families of Russian Jews through her fluency in Yiddish — helping them to assimilate. To Lynda, a challenge was an opportunity. Life isn’t fair. Lynda still had so much to give.”

Lynne Ellman Goldberg says that many of Lynda’s campers and preschoolers reconnected with her as adults.

“Lynda ran a tight ship at day camp and was very firm, but also very loving,” Lynne remembers. “She was a true master of weaving Judaism into every aspect of camp life.”

Felice Shane was one of so many high schoolers who worked at the DJCC summer camp.

“There was no slacking off on that job,” Felice recalls. “Lynda demanded the best and she got the best. As I got older, she became a great reference person. If you had any parenting issues, you talked to Lynda. If she didn’t have the answers, she would find them. Once when I was at her house for an Early Childhood dinner — she had cooked for the whole committee — I was helping her clear the table and put the leftovers away and she pulled me aside and said, ‘Felice, you were brought up right.’ I thought to myself, ‘I want someone to say the exact same thing to my kids someday.’”

To parents, Lynda was larger than life — until we got to know her. For me, it was the day 25 years ago when I wanted to spend time alone with my 2-day-old baby. I wasn’t supposed to drive but I really wanted to take my other children to camp so I could have mommy-baby time. Who would notice?

Of course, Lynda was in the DJCC parking lot, helping with the campers. I tried to hide but she motioned for me to roll down my window and she poked her head into my car.

“Didn’t you just have a baby?” she asked incredulously. “Um, yeah.” I really didn’t have to elaborate — he was screaming his head off in his car seat.

With her voice, she said, “You should have called me. I would have picked up your kids.”

With her heart, she said, “We’re all in this together.”

Previous post

Albums of a people

Next post

Justice you shall pursue