Obituary: Dr Michael Cohen

A man of wide intellectual and liturgical interests


Members of Leeds Beth Hamidrash Synagogue were shocked to hear of the death of the ever popular general practitioner, affectionately known as MB. Dr Michael Cohen, who was 86, bravely endured severe illness since last September, and was in and out of hospital. During these times he also experienced the anguish of the death of his beloved wife Valerie, who passed away just six months earlier.

Michael was the only child of Anne and David Cohen and the grandson of the respected and learned shammus of the Psalms of David Synagogue, described as the Langer Shammus.

A pupil at Roundhay School Leeds, he had many educational successes. He qualified in medicine at Leeds University and went into general practice. He followed his two uncles, both medical practitioners, who had a tremendous knowledge of Judaism.

Michael married Valerie Rich in 1959. The young couple had a tragic loss in 1961 when, during the birth of their twins, one of them, Stephanie, died and the other, Philippa, was born severely disabled. They had two more children, Andrew in 1964 and Jeremy in 1968.

Michael went into general practice where he served the people of Stanningley in Pudsey diligently for nearly 40 years. He was a true intellectual and had a wide level of interests and expertise in many disciplines; his knowledge of music was immense and his nickname, the ‘musical doctor’ was well deserved.

Originally his interest was in classical music, including opera, then expanded to chazanut and later jazz. Michael revived the unique Bnai Brith Music Society and invited distinguished virtuosos and musicologists to speak, producing exciting programmes. He was also an exceptional public speaker. If asked about a rare composer Michael had the relevant CD.

He chaired the Bnai Brith cultural committee and his other interests were wide, Jewish and non-Jewish, including architecture, ecology, philosophy, archaeology, nature studies, poetry and the visual arts. He had thousands of books to satisfy his intellectual appetite.

He was a perfectionist and his investigation into future purchases out-did Which Magazine. I remember when he was about to buy a new SLR camera, he investigated the specifications of every camera on the market. He was often seen with two Canon cameras around his neck, ignoring the ‘No Photography Allowed’ sign. Above all Torah and Jewish liturgy made him look for extra meanings with his open mind.

Michael was a near genius and he performed all his intellectual activities with a smile, never making others feel inferior. It has been our honour to have known him. He is survived by his children, Philippa, Andrew and Jeremy, daughters in law Naomi and Debbie and grandchildren Natasha, Joshua, Leanna and Tamara.

Dr Michael Cohen: born May 8, 1935. Died April 30, 2022

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