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Cohen, Sir Samuel Sydney (1869–1948)

With profound regret the Society records the death of Sir Samuel Sydney Cohen, one of its Patrons, who passed away on 27th August in his eightieth year.

Sir Samuel was the eldest son of the late Mr. and Mrs. George Judah Cohen, and was born in Sydney on the 11th March, 1869. He began his commercial career at the age of sixteen, when he joined the firm of David Cohen & Co., of Sydney and Newcastle, and later he directed the management of the company until his death. His business acumen was quickly recognised, and in later years he held the appointment of Chairman of Directors of the following companies: Australian Gaslight Co. Ltd; Edward Lumley & Sons (N.S.W.) Pty. Ltd.; J. A. Bull & Co. Ltd.; Paul & Gray Ltd.; Newcastle & Hunter River S.S. Co. Ltd.; The Commonwealth Investments Pty. Ltd. and the North Western General Stores. He was also director of Tooth & Co. Ltd.; Paget Manufacturing Co. Ltd.; The Central Trading Co. Pty. Ltd. and the Royal Exchange of Sydney.

Throughout his life Sir Samuel evinced a proud interest in his Jewish heritage and actively associated himself with the welfare of the Jewish community. While resident in Newcastle he helped to establish the local Synagogue and continued to support it generously. On returning to Sydney in 1915, he joined the Board of Management of the Great Synagogue as Hon. Treasurer, and retained his affiliation with its management for over thirty years, during seven of which he guided its affairs as President.

In appreciation of his long and valuable tenure of office, his colleagues on the Board in 1939 elected him one of its Life Members when he retired from the Presidency. When, as the result of Nazi persecution, a steady stream of Jewish immigration set in from Germany to Australia, Sir Samuel assisted in the foundation of and became the first President of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society, which devotes itself to the many problems incidental to the selection of' immigrants and their transport to and settlement in Australia.

Realising the imperative necessity for a Jewish Community Centre, Sir Samuel gave liberally to the fund for the erection of the New South Wales Jewish War Memorial. His name was also to be found on the subscription lists of practically every Jewish organisation in Sydney. This Society was frequently indebted to him for his assistance in historical research.

In the wider field of civic affairs, Sir Samuel Cohen identified himself with numerous interests. The pressing need for a higher standard of civic administration led to the establishment of the Citizens' Reform Association of Sydney, on which he held executive office since its inception.

Suffering humanity found in him a generous, sympathetic and ardent worker. He was President of the Newcastle Hospital and served for many years on the Board of Sydney Hospital. His deep human sympathy, however, found its best expression in his efforts to bring happiness to the tens of thousands of children living in industrial areas. For a quarter of a century Sir Samuel, as President of the N.S.W. Kindergarten Union, made it a labour of love to provide free kindergartens throughout the metropolis and to obtain the necessary finance for their maintenance. Therein he found his greatest happiness.

He identified himself with numerous other organisations. He was Treasurer of the Women's College of Sydney University; Vice-President of the British Orphans' Adoption Society; a Trustee of the Queen's Jubilee Fund; an executive member of the Lord Mayor's Comforts Fund; and a member of the Boards of the Newcastle Club, the Big Brother Movement and the Council of Social Services of N.S.W.

His knighthood, conferred in 1937 in recognition of his public work, proved a source of gratification to Jew and non-Jew alike.

A large and representative gathering assembled at the Great Synagogue for the Memorial Service held prior to the funeral, when Rabbi Dr. I. Porush paid fitting tribute to the memory of one who combined within himself the highest qualities of Jew and citizen.

And so has gone to his eternal rest an outstanding figure in Australian Jewry, a man of warm sympathy, sterling integrity, broad vision, directness of purpose and genial presence, gifted with the powers of leadership.

He is survived by his daughter, Mrs. Keith P. Moss, and his two sons, Major George J. Cullen, M.B.E., and Lieut.-Colonel Paul A. Cullen, D.S.O.

Lady Cohen, who was the daughter of the late Alfred Hart of Melbourne, died in 1946.

Original publication

  • Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal, vol 2, 1948, pp 565-68

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Cohen, Sir Samuel Sydney (1869–1948)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/cohen-sir-samuel-sydney-5718/text24307, accessed 24 October 2017.

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