René Cohen, brother of Pierre and co-founder of our Synagogue, sadly passed away in hospital on 11th June 2018, aged 78, leaving a grieving family and many friends.
The known history of the Cohen family goes back to 1492 when they were expelled from Murcia at the time of the inquisition. They settled in Debdou, Morocco, where René and Pierre were born and grew up. Their parents lived in Debdou their entire lives, but the boys spread their wings and went to France, where René worked for a telephone company in Paris.
René was a strikingly handsome man, known as the ‘Moroccan Alain Delon’, much admired by the ladies wherever he went. He chose a French wife, Catherine, but when they divorced Catherine returned to France with their daughter Yael.
René and Pierre took many holidays in the Murcia region of their family origins and in 1973 decided to move permanently to Benidorm. They opened a number of boutiques as well as the first pub in Benidorm –‘El Sapo Verde’ (the green toad).
At that time The C.I.D.A. (our shul) was based in Alicante, (hence the name the Synagogue still bears), the minyan being made up of men from both Alicante and Benidorm.
In 1986 during one of his regular visits to his sons in Spain their father, Don Alberto unfortunately had a heart attack and died. Alberto’s was the last burial in the Alicante Jewish cemetery. The boys wanted to observe the traditional seven day Shivah at their home in Benidorm but were short of numbers: so one of their friends spent the days on the beach, looking out for men wearing magen davids; he offered each one he found a great mitzvah, and so managed to gather a minyan every evening to enable the kaddish to be recited.
This brought home to Pierre and René that Benidorm suffered from not having a local Shul and communidad to bring the Jewish residents and visitors together, so they decided to create a new Synagogue. With financial help from friends they created an underbuild in the block of flats in the Rincon de Loix to house the new Synagogue. It took the brothers a whole year to physically clear away the rocks, level the floor, build the walls, install plumbing and electricity and create the Synagogue we have today.
The fledgling Synagogue had about 50 members, including David and Dominique Soussan, Joe and Tatti Doromi, Dr Irving Rosenberg, Charles Borenstein and Jeffrey Rosenberg, most of whom are still members today. They held services both on Erev Shabbat and Saturday mornings, as well as celebrating all Jewish festivals. Even then Kosher food was not available locally and had to be brought in from Malaga and Madrid, as is still the case today.
As you can see, the stories of the Cohen brothers and the Benidorm Shul are inextricably entwined. The Community has suffered a great loss with the passing of René Cohen and extends sincere condolences to his heartbroken brother Pierre, his daughter Yael, family and many friends. Helena Greene