Rabbi Elkan Cohn: Eminent & Accomplished Pioneer Rabbi of San Francisco for 29 Years – 1860-1889

Rabbi Elkan Cohn

Values Codes – I-H-E-L-P

Elkan Cohn was born in Kostin, a province of Posen, Poland, then controlled by Prussia.

Rabbi Elkan CohnWS-8-1111

Rabbi Elkan Cohn

He  arrived in Albany, New York in 1854 to serve as Rabbi.

In 1855 he took part in a convention in Cleveland called to establish Reform Judaism in America. He was choosen Vice-President of the Assembly.


Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco elected Cohn their Rabbi in 1860.

With the assistance of the lay committee, Rabbi Cohn led the membership in the direction of Reform.

Not all agreed and Orthodox leaning members broke away in 1863 to form Congregation Ohabai Shalom.


Rabbi Cohn was an excellent preacher.

He delivered his sermons in English, German and French.


Rabbi Cohn served Congregation Emanau-El for 29 years.

His level of scholarship was such that Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, leader of the Reform Movement, refered to Cohn as, “eminent and accomplished.”


Rabbi Elkan Cohn passed away in 1889, while still serving as Rabbi.


More information can be found in the following issue of Western States Jewish History:

  • Cohn, Rabbi Elkan, Pioneer Jews of San Francisco, Part One, A-L, Norton Stern, 41/1


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