People A-Z / Ann H. Cohn
Ann Cohn née Holland, was born on June 2, 1926. Growing up in Kenmore, through the Depression in the first “suburb” of Buffalo, she came of age during the Second World War. The Holland family were affiliated with Temple Beth Zion and her mother, Regina Holland, was an active volunteer with several Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, (Temple Beth Zion, the American Red Cross, Hospice and Rosa Coplon Old Jewish Folks Home). During the 1930s, her father, Henry Holland signed numerous affidavits for Jewish refugees and after the war for Displaced Persons (DPs), some of whom were very distant family members. As a teen, Ann was a camp counselor at the old Jewish Community Building on Jefferson during the early 1940s. Post High School, she studied at the Pratt Institute and joined the Junior Board of the Albright Knox Art Gallery, one of the few Jewish women, to serve at the time.
After marriage to George Altman Cohn in 1949, the Cohn’s lived in New Haven, Connecticut, before returning to Buffalo a few years later. Ann began volunteer service associated with her children on the Sunday School Board at Temple Beth Zion and the board of Buffalo Seminary, as well as beginning a long association with Rosa Coplon Old Jewish Folks Home. Joining the board in 1970s, she witnessed changes in eldercare as the developing specialty of geriatrics emerged. As the first female president of the Rosa Coplon Old Jewish Folks Home from 1978 to 1980, she helped grow its philanthropic base despite simultaneous community appeals from other institutions, notably, Kadimah and the suburban Jewish Community Center. Beginning in 1973 (coinciding with the year of the Yom Kippur War), Ann Cohn was part of Buffalo Jewish Federation Mission to Israel and continued with other missions until 2004. In 1975 she was part of a broad steering group for Expo’76, a week-long celebration of everything Israeli and Jewish which took place at the Jewish Community Center and Temple Beth Zion in May 1976.
Through working as an art class instructor for seniors at the Jewish Community Center, she identified an unrecognized need for safe and subsidized senior housing. Out of this, she worked with a team led by Shirley Joseph and Donald Day to create a senior Jewish Federation Housing facility that opened in 1979, where she also served as an officer. She headed a Women’s Division of the United Jewish Fund campaign and then served as President of the Federation from 1984 to 1986, during which she worked with Kadimah lay leaders to stabilize its economic base. From 2000 to 2001 she was president of the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies.
Although known for her Jewish communal leadership, especially at Rosa Coplon and the Jewish Center, Ann Cohn had multiple volunteer positions outside of this setting. In addition to Buffalo Seminary and the American Red Cross, she was active with Hospice Buffalo from 1980, a member of the local Hospice Foundation’s board during the mid-1990s, establishing an endowment fund in 1996 as well as supporting the capital campaign to build the Hospice Mitchell Campus in Cheektowaga. One of Ann Cohn’s lasting contributions to the broader Buffalo community, however, was the turnaround of the Jewish Community Center on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo. Now a thriving and further expanded site, used by a diverse membership in the neighborhoods that surrounds it and beyond, it looked likely to close in 1995. It’s building fabric dated to the original 1940s and was in dire need of renovation. Community leaders were weighing whether to close it and sell it, as the facility increasing lost members and struggled financially. With a $1 million bequest from her family, she led a charge to keep the building open, that spurred other donations. In recognition of her leadership that allowed for its regeneration, the “Holland Family Building” name was added to its name in 1998. From 2017, a Buffalo Jewish Federation award in her name: the Ann Holland Cohn Community Leadership Award has continued her legacy through its award to its recipients and to the greater community beyond.
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