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San Bernardino

A profound thought leader and peace maker, Rabbi Hillel Cohn stands among the most respected advocates for practitioners of multicultural dialogue in the Inland Empire. His name is synonymous with respect and dignity, serving a key role in unifying local communities after the December 2, 2015, tragedy in San Bernardino.

Dr. Cohn served as Rabbi of Congregation Emanu El in San Bernardino from 1963 to 2001 and 2014 to 2015; he is now Rabbi Emeritus of the congregation. Dr. Cohn is a native of Germany and was brought to the United States as an infant by his parents, who were refugees from Nazism. He came to Congregation Emanu El in 1963 and in 1971 became the senior Rabbi of the Congregation. During his tenure, Dr. Cohn compiled numerous prayer books, oversaw the construction of the Norman F. Feldheym Religious Education Center and wrote two national award-winning curricula for the Congregation’s Jewish education program.

On the occasion of his 25th year of service to the Congregation, the Social Hall was named the “Rabbi Hillel Cohn Social Hall.” The Rabbi Hillel Cohn Endowment Fund was also established in his honor. Dr. Cohn received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from University of California, Los Angeles in 1959. His rabbinical training was established at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles and Cincinnati, where he was ordained as a Rabbi in 1963 and received a Master of Arts degree. He earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Claremont School of Theology in 1984, specializing in ethics and communication, and in 1988, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by Hebrew Union College.

Based on Dr. Cohn’s leadership and advocacy, members of the community joined together to raise more than $200,000 for CSU San Bernardino to establish an endowed speaker series in the Rabbi’s name on the contemporary Jewish experience, to be housed in the university’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Dr. Cohn’s achievements demonstrate many of the core values of the San Bernardino community. He represents the California State University system and CSU San Bernardino with distinction. In recognition of his many accomplishments and extensive contributions to the university and the community, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, San Bernardino are proud to confer upon Rabbi Hillel Cohn the honorary degree ​of Doctor of Humane Letters.​​