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Rose Cohen leaves an indelible impression

Rose Cohen, who died on April 17 at the age of 95, was a renowned and inspirational teacher of English and history. She taught at King David High School, Linksfield, for more than three decades. For many of those years, she was head of the English Department.

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PROF DAVID MEDALIE

By PROF DAVID MEDALIE – a former student of Rose Cohen



Rose was a teacher par excellence. Her influence on the lives of generations of young people was incalculable. Her students sensed that she cared deeply for them and was finely attuned to their individual needs, whatever their abilities; and, as she led them in learning, they responded with appreciation, respect and, frequently, love. 

She never found it necessary to be a disciplinarian and, in all the years I knew her, I never once heard her raise her voice.

Rose was frequently described as “wise”. The word says a great deal about the kind of person she was. Cleverness may sometimes be perceived as remote or theoretical, but Rose’s intelligence was intensely human: honed by experience and warmed by generosity of spirit.

Her knowledge of literature, history, art and classical music was vast; and she was an astute judge of literary and artistic merit.

Her memory was extraordinary. “Do you perhaps recall so-and-so?” people would ask, referring to one of her former students.

“Of course,” Rose would say of the former pupil. “She matriculated in 1978. She wrote an essay on The Great Gatsby in the June exam and one on The Crucible in November.”   

Rose was also a most entertaining raconteur. She loved to tell of how, when Nelson Mandela visited King David, he made a beeline for her. “I’m so pleased to see someone of my own age here,” he said, while Rose beamed at him.

For me, as for many others, she embodied the human spirit at its most impressive: cultured, dignified and magnanimous.    

Rose’s husband, Syd, to whom she was married for almost 60 years, died in 2004. She is survived by her daughter, Frances Schwartz (of Austin, Texas), her son, Alan Cohen (London), her son-in-law, daughter-in-law, eight grandchildren and a sister, Pearl Colman.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Moira Kessel

    Apr 23, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    ‘Thanks Prof. David Medalie for a most moving tribute to my beloved Aunty Rose. She was my late father, Benny Kessel’s sister.’

  2. Jane Starfield

    Apr 24, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    ‘What a beatiful tributes by David Medalie. English teachers, more than most, can influence our development as creative individuals and, often, as concerned human beings. She taught so many of my King David friends! May she rest in peace.’

  3. Judith Ancer

    Apr 26, 2015 at 5:38 am

    ‘Thank you for this tribute David. She taught me and my memory is indeed of a wise, calm and thoughtful teacher. ‘

  4. Barry Shmeizer

    Apr 26, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    ‘I was privileged to have been taught by Rose in both Form 4 and Matric. She instilled a fantastic interest in literature and was inspirational. My condolences to her family.’

  5. Elisa Galgut

    Apr 28, 2015 at 7:39 am

    ‘Rose was a true ‘mensch’ and a wonderful teacher. She instilled in so many of her pupils a life-long love of learning and of literature.  She had an indelible influence on our lives, and all those who were taught by her were extremely fortunate to have been the recipients of her erudition and her genuine love and care.  Condolences to her family.’

  6. jeremy coplan

    May 1, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    ‘Rose Cohen was one of a very few teachers over the years that could permanently touch a student’s life. She had the capacity to connect with each student at a very personal level. Most importantly was her gift at teaching literature, a dying educational institution. I distinctly recall how we would dissect every single line (and word) of Macbeth, Julius Caesar, the Crucible and I believe her specialty, \”The Great Gatsby\”. Years later I see the plays (or movies) and appreciate the multiple layers of meaning Rose expected us to have mastered. What a teacher!! She will be sorely missed and her memory lives on forever.U4’

  7. Paul Zwi

    May 2, 2015 at 5:04 am

    ‘Rose Cohen tought me English during the last 3 years of high school in the late 1970s. Not only was she an exceptional teacher, but she managed to inspire many of our class with a lifelong love for literature. I recall asking Rose for her shortlist of the twenty five novels I should prioritise reading over the next year. She smiled and the following day gave me a carefully thought out and balanced list of twentieth century novels, which I subsequently read and cherished. A great teacher and a very lovely lady. Condolences to family and her many friends and former students. ‘

  8. Morris Zwi

    May 2, 2015 at 10:31 am

    ‘Rose Cohen was the most wonderful teacher. Her warmth, thoughtfulness and ability to get us to think critically (and politically) influenced my thinking enormously. She told us about Nelson Mandela and the awfulness of a state holding political prisoners at a time when almost nobody else would mention such things in SA classrooms. She also introduced us to the ideas of Tony Buzan on \”Creative Patterns\”, now called Mind Maps, which I still use today in my writing, note taking and problem solving. I was so lucky to have had her as a teacher. ‘

  9. Daniel Cohen

    Jun 12, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    ‘Rose Cohen was a dynamic educator without the bravado of showing us how erudite she was. She brought out the best in us, even though we sometimes showed tremendous ennui towards the syllabus at hand. She was mild mannnered, yet firm and set a wonderful example for how an educator should interact with a group of young students. The mark she left was indelible. I think of her classes often and we are all poorer for her passing

    Daniel Cohen Class of 1967′

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Lifestyle/Community

Shabbat Around The World beams out from Jozi

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More than 75 devices around the globe logged in to Beit Luria’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Shabbat Around the World programme on Friday, 15 January.

Whether it was breakfast time in California, tea time in Europe, or time to break challah in Johannesburg, participants logged in to take part in Beit Luria’s Kabbalat Shabbat service.

Among those participating were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the president of the WUPJ; chairperson Carole Sterling; and Rabbi Nathan Alfred, the head of international relations. Singers Tulla Eckhart and Brian Joffe performed songs from a global array of artists, along with Toto’s Africa to add a little local flair to the service. After kiddish was said and bread was broken, Rabbi Bergman thanked Beit Luria for hosting the WUPJ. The shul looks forward to more collaborations with its global friends in the future.

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UJW Sewing School graduates model creations

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The outfits modelled by graduates of the Union of Jewish Women’s (UJW’s) Sewing School were all the more spectacular for the fact that some of their creators had never seen a sewing machine prior to the four-month course.

They were modelled at the school’s graduation ceremony at Oxford Shul on 15 December to much excitement and applause.

UJW executive member and Sewing School Manager Ariane Heneck expressed her gratitude to Chido Tsodzo, the school’s superb teacher, and the event ended with a much appreciated lunch for graduates and their invited guests.

The self-empowerment Sewing School for unemployed men and women was started by the UJW 10 years ago. It now has a small production team of ex-students, and some of its graduates have been employed in factories, while others are selling their own creations.

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Israel Rugby 7s to camp with the Blitzbokke

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The thrill-a-minute Rugby 7s have captured the hearts of fans around the world. The Blitzbokke, South Africa’s national Rugby 7s team, ranks second in the world, and is among the most exciting, formidable, and feared of 7s teams.

Exactly 9 191 km away are the Israelis, an emerging rugby nation that has talent, determination, and a world-class coach in South African Kevin Musikanth. Now, these two squads will meet. The Israeli 7s side will be travelling to the SAS Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch to train with the Blitzbokke.

The Blitzbokke will have the opportunity to prepare for the coming 7s rugby season by measuring their skills of play against the Israelis. And the Israelis, well, they will be rubbing shoulders with, and learning from the best in the world and honing their skills for their coming European Rugby season.

“It’s an opportunity for our boys to learn from the world’s best,” says Musikanth. The SAS Rugby Academy is run by the legendary Frankie Horn, a technical expert whose coaching guidelines and methods are second to none in World Rugby 7s.

Musikanth took over as Rugby 15s head coach in Israel in 2018, and in October 2019, he became director of rugby for the Israeli Rugby Union and head coach for the national programmes of both the 15s and the 7s.

Horn visited Israel last December at the behest of Rugby Israel and its supporting Olympic body and since then, the partnership has continued to grow. The upcoming training camp will begin in Israel, where Horn, together with Phil Snyman, the former Blitzbok captain and multiple world champion winner, will spend a week with the players and coaching staff at Wingate, Netanya, the home base of Rugby Israel. They will then all travel to Stellenbosch for a week’s camp with the Blitzbokke.

“We’ve already seen the difference through our partnership with Frankie. Two of our players were spotted by him on his previous trip to Israel, and have been training at SAS on the off-season,” says Musikanth. The two players are Omer Levinson (scrum half) and Yotam Shulman (lock).

Horn, technical advisor to Rugby Israel’s 7s, says “It is a great opportunity for both teams to derive positive benefit from the camp.”

Israel Rugby has been making considerable professional strides since Musikanth took over the reins. Israel 15s played their 100th test match against Cyprus and celebrated with a 34-22 victory.

“We’re in the top 25 in Europe in 15s and in the top 16 in 7s, the toughest, most competitive continent in world rugby,” says Musikanth, “and I can realistically see us setting our sights on the Top 15 and Top 12 respectively in the future.”

Currently, there are three eligible South Africans who are on the Israeli national squad: Jayson Ferera as flanker (Pirates Rugby Club), Daniel Stein as fly half (studying in Israel), and Jared Sichel as prop (Hamilton’s Rugby Club, Cape Town). Eligibility to play for a national team in rugby is stricter than in other sports. One does not qualify just because one has a passport. One has to have had a parent or grandparent that was born in that country or one has to have lived in the country for at least three years.

“With so much Jewish rugby talent around the world, we would be able to put a world-class Israeli national team together if not for the measures that restrict eligibility to national call ups,” says Musikanth.

The Israel Rugby development project was accelerated thanks to Musikanth initiating Bridges through Rugby. This project is the collective effort of a few South African Jewish businessmen who appreciate the long-term vision of Israel becoming a stronger rugby nation. They have come on board to assist with this most opportune tour. National financial support is fixed and, as such, is limited. While the strong players and national coaches will be attending the training camp in Stellenbosch, there will be some that will, unfortunately, have to stay behind.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players and coaches. To get to see the best upfront and feed off their knowledge is going to be incredible,” says Musikanth. “Everyone is eager to go, of course, but there is a cap to the support we have in place. We would like to take a development u20 squad as well as coaching staff who would carry the benefits of this into the future. A rugby visit to Stellenbosch can change rugby lives in many respects. Stellenbosch is rugby utopia!”

Rugby aside, with the Israelis and South Africans camping together, the question of what will be for dinner after a gruelling day’s training may be a matter of contention. A tussle for whether to serve boerewors or shwarma may result in a scrum in the SAS dining hall to determine the outcome.

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