R.I.’s Israeli emissary to share her inspiring story on June 9


Many Rhode Islanders vaguely know that Or Cohen was an Israeli naval officer before she became the community’s shlichah, or Israeli emissary.

During the pandemic, over a dozen Jewish organizations around the nation featured Cohen’s story on Zoom. Now Rhode Islanders will finally have a chance to hear from her directly about her life prior to coming to Rhode Island, and the pioneering role she took for Israeli women, at a Zoom program on June 9 part of the Israel Culture Series.

Cohen’s story is one of bravery, choices, equality and success.  By pushing limits, she has become a role model of strength and ability. Her story describes how she was raised to try, fail and try again, to ask questions and to dream.

Cohen, 30, enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces and studied at the elite Israeli Naval Academy. As a tactical officer on a missile ship, she fought in Operation Protective Edge, also called the 2014 Gaza War, and participated in the mission that intercepted the Klos C, a cargo ship that was smuggling advanced weaponry from Iran to Gaza.

After these missions, Cohen was offered command of her own ship. Following an eight-month training course, she became the first female commander of an Israeli naval combat vessel, the Dvora 817. Cohen and her crew of 15 sailors were responsible for patrolling the Israel-Lebanon border.

Cohen, who is currently a reserve officer in the Israeli navy, with the rank of lieutenant commander, will share stories of her challenges and achievements during the virtual program, to help motivate women everywhere to be pioneers and push their limits.  She will also address such questions as: What are the keys to success? How can we promote equality? How does it feel to be “the first”?

Women in the Israeli Defense Forces, the last program of this season’s Israel Culture Series, will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 9. At 6:30 p.m., there will be a short farewell ceremony for Cohen, who returns to Israel at the end of the summer after two years in Rhode Island. She will also be available to chat after the program.

Please register for the free program at https://www.jewishallianceri.org/idf/ For more information, contact Larry Katz at lkatz@jewishallianceri.org or 401-421-4111.

LARRY KATZ is the director of Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.