Sam Josephson Kokotek

Profile Updated: May 16, 2024
Residing In Fair Lawn, NJ USA
Spouse/Partner Blair Hensely Kokotek
Homepage View Website
Occupation Rabbi, Cantor, Actor, Singer
Children Aaron Benjamin Kokotek born 1988 grad. Oberlin College 2011
Nathaniel Ezri Kokotek born 1991
Ilan More…Jacob Kokotek born 1993

A son of Concentration Camp Survivors who were originally from Bendzin, Poland, Rabbi Cantor Sam was the only member of his immediate family born in the USA. Originally on a trajectory towards being an Actor/Singer, a chance encounter with a Synagogue Choir Member at a Pittsburgh Dinner Theater production of Guys and Dolls, had him studying Voice with a leading Cantor of the day, Moshe Taube, and a love of interpreting the Prayers of our People ensued, resulting in his pursuit of dual careers. A lifelong active Member of the Habonim/DROR Socialist Zionist Youth Movement, a return to Judaism did not take much awakening. Being a keen observer and participant in the life of Our People, motivates him to invite dialogue on where we go from here!

School Story

Having a working class background and unwillingness to throw the State of Israel under the bus, put Sam at odds with many of his co-religionists from Long Island and wealthier backgrounds. The efforts of School Classmate Evangelists to have him join (G-d forbid) the ranks of Christianity were thank G-d brought to naught. Oberlin, where Sam's identity was constantly being challenged, hardened his resolve to stand up for and stand by the Jewish People. A climactic moment came on Campus, when he publicly confronted Kathleen Cleaver for her venomous attack upon the State of Israel and the Jewish People. As stated in the Oberlin Review the next day, she named Sam "an undercover Zionist!"

Likelihood of attending the 50th Reunion

Yes, for sure

Did you spend a semester (or more) away from Oberlin before graduating?

Yes, I did an Apprenticeship at Actors Theatre of Louisville, briefly attended Brooklyn College, and was a Guest Artist at Kingsboro Community College as a part of their award winning Production of Arthur Miller's A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, portraying Rodolpho, the young Italian immigrant, fighting for his identitiy and right to love the woman he chose in the New World!

What do you remember about your Winter Term projects?

Teaching acting to young men and women at Northfield/Mount Hermon Preparatory High School, Volunteering at Maimonides Medical Center's ER and Lutheran Hospital's pre-mature Babies' Ward, the Barnum and Bailey Clown Workshop led by Bill Irwin.

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May 18, 2024 at 9:23 PM

Mary Brahney, I never knew her name was Maryclare, was our Treasurer at Tank.   She kept evening hours, seeming to never attend class but always up at all hours of the night---writing papers.    She gave me one of the most important pieces of advice I have ever received, 'There will always be those who dislike you for no apparent reason whatsoever---that is on them.  There is really nothing you can do about it, you can't change it, so let it be!   And Move On!"

As I remember, unfortunately to the detriment of her own health, she drank and smoked cigarettes, and had a clearer vision of life, coupled with kindness, than most everyone else I ever met at Oberlin.   I would have loved to have seen her once more and thank her.    May Her Memory Be for a Blessing---It  Already Is!  

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