The Cohen Kadima Program

It is with tremendous excitement that we announce The Cohen Kadima Program, Mishkan’s dynamic education program for 6th graders, 7th graders, and post-BMitzvah teens and their families, honoring the educational vision of Bernice and Buddy Cohen, may their memories be blessings, and their legacy of supporting Jewish education.

Kadima, “onward” or “forward” in Hebrew, is a fitting name for a program that supports tweens and teens in their journey toward Jewish adulthood. Designed to empower students during a time of transition and identity formation, The Cohen Kadima Program will support our teens and their families with existing and new programs, planting the seeds for a lifelong journey of Jewish discovery and meaning-making.

The Cohen Kadima Program supports:

  • Fundamentals (6th Grade): A weekly class focused on building Jewish skills, literacy, and confidence, with an eye towards BMitzvah preparation. 
  • Kehillat BMitzvah (7th Grade): This monthly program engages both kids and parents in preparation for their BMitzvahs, helping to build community with the other families who are going through this major lifecycle ritual at Mishkan. 
  • MishTeens (8th – 12 grade): Programs, service and learning opportunities, and immersive experiences (trips, Shabbatons, service learning, etc) to support teens growing into Jewishly confident and engaged young adults who find meaning, purpose, and inspiration in Jewish life. 

We are immensely grateful to the vision and generosity of Bruce and Lisa Cohen, who wanted to honor Bruce’s parents by supporting Jewish education at Mishkan. If you’re inspired by this gift and want to discuss supporting a program at Mishkan, please contact our Executive Director Rachel Cort.

Bernice and Buddy Cohen were visionary philanthropists with a deep commitment to Jewish community and education. They are remembered for their attributes of love, strength and generosity, which continue to live on through the actions of their many children and grandchildren.

The Buddy and Bernice Cohen Legacy​

Buddy and Bernice Cohen were born in Chicago exactly two weeks apart in 1929 and, while aware of each other, found themselves neighbors 25 years later when Bernice’s family moved into the apartment next to Buddy’s. Smitten by her beauty and radiant smile, it didn’t take long before Buddy was calling to take her out.  Although the family business led Buddy to move to Japan shortly thereafter, he wrote Bernice often and enlisted his mother to report on her comings and goings.  When Buddy’s father became ill and he was called back to Chicago, it marked the true beginning of what became a storybook romance.  They were married on August 12, 1956, and were together for 63 years before Bernice passed on Memorial Day 2019.  Buddy lived another 3.5 years before passing on February 24, 2023, never allowing a day to go by without some mention of his beloved Bernice and how much he missed her.

Sharing an overarching sense of family, their lives were anchored by their love for and devotion to their parents and siblings, until their 4 kids arrived and became the epicenter of their universe.  Throughout their time together, family was always their priority, and that for which they were the most grateful. Buddy often spoke of his strong faith in G-d, which was the only way he could explain Bernice moving in next door to him and their life together. 

They also both found joy, identity, strength, and comfort in their Judaism.  They deeply valued Jewish culture and traditions and felt strongly about the importance of their continued presence from generation to generation.  As parents, they were able to impart that to their kids, but they wanted to do more.  That led to the creation of the Jack and Mildred Cohen Religious School at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, named for Buddy’s parents, which they funded and supported for 40 years. It is this legacy of love, commitment, education and giving to others that we now honor through the establishment of the Cohen Kadima Program at Mishkan Chicago. Bruce and Lisa see Mishkan as a place where Judaism comes alive and are motivated by helping the next generation access inspired, down-to-earth Judaism, Mishkan-style.