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Lyon Cohen

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Lyon Cohen
Yehuda Leib Cohen

(1868-05-11)May 11, 1868
DiedAugust 17, 1937(1937-08-17) (aged 69)
Known forfirst president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, co-founder of the Canadian Jewish Times
SpouseRachel Friedman
ChildrenNathan Bernard Cohen
Horace Rives Cohen
Lawrence Zebulun Cohen
Sylvia Lillian Cohen

Lyon Cohen (born Yehuda Leib Cohen; May 11, 1868 – August 17, 1937) was a Polish-born Canadian businessman and a philanthropist. He was the grandfather of singer/poet Leonard Cohen.



Cohen was born in Congress Poland, part of the Russian Empire, to a Jewish family on May 11, 1868.[3] He immigrated to Canada with his parents in 1871.[3] He was educated at the McGill Model School and the Catholic Commercial Academy in Montreal.[3] In 1888, he entered the firm of Lee & Cohen in Montreal; later became partner with his father in the firm of L. Cohen & Son; in 1895, he established W. R. Cuthbert & Co; in 1900, he organized the Canadian Improvement Co., a dredging contractor; in 1906, he founded The Freedman Co. in Montreal; and in May 1919, he organized and became President of Canadian Export Clothiers, Ltd.[3] The Freedman Company went on to become one of Montreal’s largest clothing companies.[4]

In 1897, Cohen and Samuel William Jacobs founded the Canadian Jewish Times, the first English-language Jewish newspaper in Canada.[5] The newspaper promoted the Canadianization of recent East European Jewish immigrants and encouraged their acceptance of Canadian customs[4] as Cohen felt that the old world customs of immigrant Jews were one of the main causes of anti-Semitism.[4] In 1914, the paper was purchased by Hirsch Wolofsky, owner of the Yiddish-language Keneder Adler, who transformed it into the Canadian Jewish Chronicle.[4]

He died on August 17, 1937, at the age of 69.[2]



Cohen was elected the first president of the Canadian Jewish Congress in 1919 and organized the Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Canada.[5] Cohen was also a leader of the Young Men’s Hebrew Benevolent Society (later the Baron de Hirsch Institute) and the United Talmud Torahs, a Jewish day school in Montreal.[6] He also served as president of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim[4] and president of the Jewish Colonization Association in Canada.[5]

Personal life


Cohen married Rachel Friedman of Montreal on February 17, 1891. She was the founder and President of Jewish Endeavour Sewing School. They had three sons and one daughter:

  • Nathan Bernard Cohen, who served as a lieutenant in the World War; he married Lithuanian Jewish immigrant Masha Klonitsky and they had one daughter and one son:
  • Horace Rives Cohen, who was a captain and quartermaster of his battalion in World War I;[3]
  • Lawrence Zebulun Cohen, student at McGill University, and[3][10]
  • Sylvia Lillian Cohen.[3]


  1. ^ Stephen, Lapidus. "Biography - Cohen, Lyon". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  2. ^ a b Lyon Cohen, Canadian Jewish Leader Dies at 89 [sic] (PDF), New York City: Jewish Telegraphic Agency, August 17, 1937, p. 6, retrieved June 12, 2022
  3. ^ a b c d e f g The Quebec History Encyclopedia: Lyon Cohen retrieved April 22, 2012
  4. ^ a b c d e Kreitner, Richard. "Lyon Cohen - Freedman Company". Museum of Jewish Montreal. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Cohen, Lyon Archived March 23, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives
  6. ^ a b Newspapers of Jewish Montreal" (page 3), Jewish Public Library Archives.
  7. ^ The International Who's Who 2004 retrieved April 22, 2012
  8. ^ Cohen, Leonard (May 24, 1985). "The Midday Show With Ray Martin". ABC (Interview). Interviewed by Ray Martin. Sydney. Archived from the original on February 24, 2006. Retrieved October 1, 2008. My – my mother was from Lithuania which was a part of Poland and my great-grandfather came over from Poland to Canada.
  9. ^ Leonard Cohen Biography Archived September 11, 2014, at the Wayback Machine: Leonard Cohen was born to a Polish father and a Lithuanian-Jewish mother in Quebec in 1934.
  10. ^ Canadian Jewish News: "Earliest Canadian-made chanukiyah discovered" November 26, 2012
Preceded by
President of the Canadian Jewish Congress
Succeeded by