Rabbi Rachel Cowan was an extraordinary teacher and visionary leader, who was instrumental in building BJ’s community organizing and advocacy initiative, Panim, as well as BJ’s thriving mindfulness practice. As we come together to dedicate the BJ Chapel in Rachel’s honor, creating a holy gathering space dedicated to her continued legacy and commitment to BJ, members of the community have submitted tributes in Rachel’s memory.
וַיִּזְכֹּ֥ר אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־רָחֵ֑ל
And God remembered Rachel
Rachel’s memory is a blessing to all who knew and loved her. We count ourselves among the many who were blessed by her presence.
— Judith C Stern
Rachel Cowan z’l was a righteous and extraordinary human being who blessed each one of us with the present of her presence, heart, soul and spirit.
— Jack David Marcus
We communed in Nature together. That is how we shall always remember her.
— Eric & Amala Levine
With wonderful memories and huge respect.
— Ruth Messinger
With gratitude and love for a life changing relationship.
— Elenor Radzivilover
Rachel was a unique, compassionate and spiritual person who my husband and I delighted in knowing for years. We joined her and Marcelo’s meditation prayer group early on, when it met at SPSA in its sanctuary with just a few people, and were struck by Rachel’s wisdom and spirit when leading the group. We were with her on her last visit to the BJ Costa Rica retreat in 2017, when I marveled at her ability to jump over waterfalls and fjord streams I found intimidating. She had so much energy, love and kavanah, still can’t believe she’s gone. She was a mensch, though not born Jewish, she embodied the best Jewish values and also showed women how to age well, through her example.
— Ellyn Rabinowitz
An amazing life and incredible role model.
— Pene Raphaely
Thank you, Rachel, for your wisdom, kindness, and humor, blessings to us all. You enriched our lives. I miss you dearly but am grateful to have known you.
— Nancy Kopans
She remains an inspiration and presence.
— Debby Hirshman
Your 50+ year friendship helped make me the woman I am and continue to try to be.
— Margot Jones
In loving memory of a beloved friend, teacher, and colleague.
— Barbara Schecter and Jonathan Slater
With deep love, respect, and so many wonderful memories shared.
— Kathy Goodman
Fresh from rabbinical school, Rachel’s first conversion was my former wife, who, like Rachel, came to NY from New England and threw in her lot with the Jewish people. We were thrilled having read Rachel and Paul’s books and thus began a warm relationship of love and respect. If Judaism is about continuity, then my kids’ Jewishness is thanks, in no small part, to Rachel. May her memory always be a blessing.
— Neil Jacobs
In gratitude for your teaching me how to stay awake and to be a voyager on an ancient pathway that I can continually make new.
— Rabbi Laura Geller
Every time I hear a bird sing, especially in Riverside Park, I wish Rachel was with me to name the bird!
— Ace Leveen
Dearest Rachel, you were one of the most loving and generous souls it’s ever been my privilege to know. You were a beloved teacher and friend. My last words to you were, “I love you,” and I will forever love and miss you. With so much gratitude…
— Marie Sevy
I am greatly indebted to Rachel for being such a beautiful human and for sharing so many of her gifts with me. You helped me to open myself to being more fully present as a Jew and to finding a deeper sense of spirituality in my Jewishness. I will always remember the serenity of Montana Azul and all it encompassed. I see us clearly in the early morning meditation with the beauty of nature and the sound of birds surrounding us. Your invitation to join your Wise Aging group opened up another dimension of life, one that I live with every day. In memory of you, I am now facilitating a group for BJ. I miss you deeply and I feel you presence every day.
— Mandy Braun
My heart is more open thanks to Rachel, my soul becomes more nourished when thinking about times we shared together. I felt elevated when spending time with her whether walking in Manhattan or in Moscow, learning in Jericho or in Jerusalem, sipping tea in her apartment, in a Bedouin tent or in Berdichev. Rachel leaves indelible openings to deeper, higher, and more meaningful ways of interacting. She opened a door for me, bringing me to the open-tent Judaism of Sarah and Abraham, accessible, expansive, loving, meaningful, infused with compassion and social justice. Bearing witness to Rachel’s personal growth from a heart-shattered, young widow into a powerful, sensitive, humble loving global tsunami of rabbinic possibility, many have participated, many more will continue to bear fruits from her wisdom. She is already deeply missed, fortunately her legacy continues to expand exponentially. She has brought each of us to a deeper understanding of love, compassion, and service.
— Sonia & James Cummings
I met Rachel in a study group at the JCC that she led with Linda Thal and Susie Kessler many years ago. The discussions were deep and nuanced and Rachel became a treasured friend. I attended her meditation services at BJ from the beginning and always learned something from her humble, heartfelt, and rich insights. In recent years, I took the training to facilitate Wise Aging groups, a project based on Rachel’s spiritual work and her group facilitation with colleagues and participants that has added a new framework for living with optimism, grace, and hope as we age. Rachel brought warmth and love wherever she went. Her knowledge of Jewish life and lived interfaith experiences was inspiring. I am forever grateful for Rachel’s presence and her luminous soul. May her memory be for a blessing.
— Renee Cherow-O’Leary
For my teacher and friend, and follow bird watcher.
— Meryl Zegarek
With deepest gratitude for Rachel’s life & generous wisdom.
— Katherine Kurs
So glad I could be in town to mark Rachel’s memory on this day.
— Isa Aron
Your memory truly is a blessing, dear Rachel…
— Anita Altman
An honor to be present to honor Rachel.
— Susan Hyman
Rachel inspired me with her calm manner and thoughtfulness. Kind and welcoming, she was a role model for me in countless ways. I will miss her particularly on Sukkot when we had a meal each year on Paul’s yahrtzeit. May her memory be for a blessing.
— Anne Mintz
May the memory of Rachel’s wisdom, compassion, strength, courage, and generosity permeate the chapel and continue to inspire all of us as she did throughout her life.
— Susan and Stephen Kippur
With love and gratitude for Rachel’s friendship, teachings, and support for over 20 years.
— Lenny Picker
To my beloved teacher, mentor, and friend. I think of you each and every day and often think to myself “what would Rachel do?” So I channel you and that is what I do: meditate, watch the birds, smell the coffee, practice mindfulness, be kind and compassionate, reach out to people in need, be a good friend and a kind and giving person. In your memory, Rachel, I will be attending the IJS reunion retreat this summer. You introduced me to IJS my first summer in NYC when you suggested I come to Trinity conference center in Connecticut for a weekend retreat. I learned I could enjoy “silence” and appreciate being unplugged, mindful and enjoying nature and good food and good company. Rachel, you gave so many of us so much and now we all will be able to feel your spirit in the beautiful new chapel dedicated today in your name!
— Nancy K Kaufman
When praying or meditating with Rachel, she created a space to enter into a deep contemplation – a quiet, intimate, and beautiful space to connect with yourself and the divine. The chapel is a perfect tribute to our beloved Rabbi Rachel Cowan; her gentle power, her kindness, vulnerability and fierce advocacy made the world better. She was my teacher for 25 years and changed my life profoundly, as she did for so many.
— Sherry Kohn
Dearest Rachel, we look for you in every pensive egret. We carry your commitment to justice from the heart and soul. We strive to love expansively and judge gracefully. Blessed are we who knew you. Blessed are we who remember you. xoxo
— Lisa and Zahara Gelber
Rachel was a beautiful, inspiring, vibrant presence on our trip to Costa Rica in 2016. I looked forward to learning from her and continuing to be in her company. I am so sorry that that will not happen. To Rachel’s family, I know you know how beloved she was to the community and yet your loss is such a personal one. Wishing you strength and sustenance as you adapt to life without Rachel. Her memory is surely a blessing.
— Susan Sanders
You will always remain in my memory.
— Mim Warden
You continue to be a blessing in our lives. With gratitude for your presence and teachings.
— Jane Fuchsberg
Such an honor to have been part of Rachel’s life.
— Paula Rackoff
For my rabbi, who was the first one to teach me “we can’t give what we don’t have.” Your words will always be with me.
— Anne Ebersman
Rachel will always remain in our hearts as a fearless, gracious presence.
— Lovingly, Eva Sax-Bolder and Larry Bolder
Thank you for the Blessing of knowing you beloved Rachel.
— Bernice Todres
Rachel’s impact on so many will never be forgotten. I feel so blessed to have had her as a friend and teacher. She was the most generous with her love. From upstate NY and Connecticut, to Alaska and Costa Rica, it was a joyous experience to meditate and daven with Rachel.
— Ellen Landsberger
Rachel Cowan lived wisely with creativity, imagination, passion, and menschlikhkeit!
— Peninnah Schram
Find out more about the Chapel Dedication, submitting your own memorial tribute, and making a gift in memory of Rachel.