Carole Karp Cohen, soup kitchen volunteer and homeless advocate, dies at 84

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Carole Karp Cohen operated with a moral compass focused on helping others in need. She volunteered at a soup kitchen in Glen Cove, first serving meals to guests and then cooking for them. She searched the woods in the Glen Cove area to meet the needs of the homeless. She helped create a homeless shelter.

When asked why she did these things regularly, her daughters said, she simply replied, “‘Because it was the right thing to do.'”

“She’s always stood up for people,” said her daughter Laura Cohen, of Brooklyn, who works in social services herself. “She devoted herself to it with all her heart.”

Carole Karp Cohen died of cancer at her Great Neck home on October 6. She was 84 years old.

Laura Cohen said her mother started at the North Shore Soup Kitchen in Glen Cove serving meals as a volunteer in 1989. “Then she started cooking once a week and then teaching English. Then she started to become what she was a lawyer.When someone was arrested, they called him.

Laura Cohen said sometimes her mother “gets a call to go out into the woods” to meet someone. “She was so dedicated.”

Another daughter, Deborah Cohen, of Northampton, Massachussets, noted how concerned the family was about these trips into the woods. “Oh my God, that drove us all crazy. My dad and I used to beg her not to do that and we gave her pepper spray,” which her mom gave, she said .

“Everything she did was about peace and justice and bringing people together and trying to heal the world,” Deborah Cohen said, noting that her mother was also an advocate for the downtrodden internationally. “I really think it was his experience growing up in a family that escaped the programs [in Russia] and informed his understanding of racism. She believed, deep down, that silence was complicity. … We all had an obligation to end the injustice.”

The family said Cohen was a first-generation American born in New York and raised in the Bronx and Queens. His parents, Beatrice and Edward Karp, fled Russia to escape anti-Jewish programs that killed tens of thousands of Jews across the Russian Empire between 1918 and 1920, according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia.

Cohen attended Queens College and received her master’s degree in education from Bank Street College of Education in Manhattan. She taught kindergarten at the Little Red School House in Manhattan until she married Dr. Richard Cohen in 1962, who predeceased her in 2015. They had been married for 52 years. She was also predeceased by her son, Jonathan Cohen, in 2003, as was an unofficially adopted son, Michael Lofton, in 2020.

Other North Shore Soup Kitchen volunteers recalled Cohen’s fierce advocacy.

“She was a remarkable woman,” said Vivienne Lipsitz. “She was adored by the customers who came to the kitchen. I have never known anyone like her. She took them under her wing. She fed them. She dressed them. She went to court with them,” added Lipsitz, of Parc Floral. “She was an inspiration.”

Estelle Moore of Glen Cove, president emeritus of the soup kitchen, said Cohen “was a very kind and loving person. She was whole-hearted. She cared deeply about the guests. We call them guests. She did everything she could to help them solve their problems.”

Deborah Cohen said she and her siblings internalized their mother’s advocacy message. “Mom instilled in all of us that our life’s work should be to heal the world.” Cohen owns a diversity consulting and training company and noted her sister’s work in social services. Additionally, she said her late brother had counseled men who had been violent towards women.

Cohen’s survivors include his daughters, their partners and a grandchild.

A commemorative celebration is planned for the spring of 2023.

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