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Rabbi Morton J. Cohn Collection

Identifier: MS-0561

Scope and Contents

The Rabbi Morton J. Cohn Collection consists of materials collected since Cohn's school days until his death, including correspondence, more than 2000 sermons, plays, personal documents, photographs and materials regarding the various congregations he served.  There are scrapbooks and newspaper clippings regarding both Cohn and his wife Sally and current events, in addition to index cards, pamphlets, research notes and plaques.


  • Creation: 1925 - 1990


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some or all of these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creator(s) of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of archival collections is such that multiple creators are often applicable and copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. In any case, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, obtaining publication rights and copyright infringement. When requesting images from Special Collections & University Archives for publication, we require a signed agreement waiving San Diego State University of any liability in the event of a copyright violation.

Biographical Note

Rabbi Morton Jacob Cohn was born January 12, 1910 in Detroit, Michigan and was ordained as a reform rabbi in 1934. After serving pulpits in various cities, he enlisted as a Navy Chaplain during World War II with the Southern Pacific Fleet and continued in the Naval Reserve for many years. In 1946 he settled in San Diego where he became rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel and remained there until 1964 when he left to found Temple Emanu-El, whose religious school bears his name.

Rabbi Cohn was meticulous in preserving anything relating to his career, the San Diego Jewish community, Judaism and currents events involving Jews, making his collection a comprehensive picture of San Diego Jewish life during his almost 50 years here. As rabbi of the largest Jewish congregation in San Diego, he was a formidable leader in the Jewish and secular communities. He was one of three rabbis, (Cohn, Levens, Stern) who lead the San Diego Jewish community from the years after WWII until the 1970s. He was very involved in interfaith activities, gave a weekly radio sermon, created and participated in musical parodies for holidays, rabbinical conventions and special occasions. He maintained a card catalog of life cycle events at which he officiated and a bibliographical file of research materials. Part of this collection is material regarding his wife, Sally Cohn, who was very involved in women’s groups and the sisterhoods of the congregations Cohn served. She started the San Diego Women's Association for the Salk Institute. They had two children Jane and Morton Cohn Jr. Rabbi Cohn died in 1991; Sally Cohn died in 1994.


19.13 Linear Feet (17 records cartons, one Hollinger box, one 20.5" newspaper box, and items stored in vertical files)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

This collection was donated to the Jewish Historial Society of San Diego by Rabbi Cohn’s son, Morton Cohn Jr. in 1996 (JHSSD #1996.01). The initial donation consisted of 25 boxes containing manuscripts, documents, photographs, newspaper clippings, books, plaques, scrapbooks and notecards covering the entire life of Rabbi Morton Cohn and his wife Sally Cohn. The collection was stored at Congregation Beth Israel at 3rd & Laurel Streets until the establishment of the JHSSD Archives at SDSU in 1999. Morton Cohn Jr. has added several items to the collection since his original donation.

Source of Acquisition

The Jewish Historical Society of San Diego transferred this collection to Special Collections & University Archives in 2017.

Accruals and Additions

2017-043; 2023

Related Materials

Cantor Joseph Cysner Collection, MS-0589

Rabbi Aaron Gold Collection, MS-0579

Cantor Henri Goldberg Collection, MS-0508

Cantor Sheldon Merel and Marcie Merel Collection, MS-0585

Rabbi Morton J. Cohn Collection
Bonnie M. Harris, Laurel Schwartz, and Helene Idels
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US