Even though she knew she would not enter the profession, Rabbi Valerie Cohen majored in PR while attending the University of Florida. Has it helped her deal with her congregants and the demands of her position on a day-to-day basis? Read on.
Even though she knew she would not enter the profession, Rabbi
Valerie Cohen majored in PR while attending the University of Florida.
Has it helped her deal with her congregants and the demands of her
position on a day-to-day basis? Read on.
Describe your job. I am the assistant Rabbi at Temple Israel in
We serve about 1,800 families (close to 5,000 people). Our staff is made
up of about 40 people, plus religious school and pre-school
Why did you decide to study PR? My parents had a friend who did PR for
the local school system. She described what she did, and I found it
I also knew the skills I learned would be helpful in the rabbinate.
How did you get where you are today? I’ve wanted to be a rabbi for half
my life, since I was 14.
What would you like to change about the PR industry? I really haven’t
been part of the industry in a formal manner, but I do know that my
education at the University of Florida was innovative at the time. We
learned practical skills of PR along with theory. We had lots of writing
classes and desktop publishing, and even took the same basic reporting
class that reporting majors took. It was painful (I had my first
migraine ever during that class), but the rewards were invaluable. I
hope more PR programs stress the practical aspects as well as
How do you make a difference? Hopefully, I provide opportunities and
experiences for inspiration, education, community, etc. I also have the
privilege of meeting with people one-on-one and sharing the traditions
of Judaism with them at their lowest and highest moments in life.
Name one thing about your past that people would be surprised to
As a kid, I hated Hebrew school.
What will you do when you retire? That’s so far away ... I just got
Maybe serve as the rabbi on a cruise ship.
Give an example of how you have used PR in your work as a rabbi. My
reporting/writing training during college has helped. I learned how to
write clearly, and understand the big difference between informative
writing and ’scholarly’ writing. Also, the reality of religious
institutions is that we have to ’sell’ what we offer, whether it’s
special programming or adult education or even worship services. Mostly,
I have learned to speak to my ’audience,’ and understand their
demographics and hopefully their needs.