Rabbi Daniel Cohen

Rabbi Cohen offers insights on leading a life of legacy

What does it mean to leave a legacy? Often people think of their legacy as the tangible gifts they leave to their loved ones, but it can be so much more. A legacy can also be about sharing your story and giving back to the community you value.

Recently, Rabbi Daniel Cohen provided his insights for a group of Rose Community Foundation partners and donors to local Jewish institutions on how to lead a life of impact and craft a meaningful legacy. A former rabbi at Denver’s BMH-BJ Congregation, Rabbi Cohen currently serves as senior rabbi at Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, Connecticut and is the author of What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone? Creating a Life of Legacy.

Rabbi Cohen shared the story of Alfred Nobel who, after seeing his own obituary accidentally printed in a newspaper, was forced to consider how he wanted to be remembered. He chose to use his personal wealth to improve the world and endowed the Nobel Prize, benefiting many generations to follow. It is a valuable reminder to take the time to reflect on our personal values and lead the life now for which we want to be remembered.

Rabbi Cohen acknowledged that there is not a single person whose life has not been upended in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cohen offers, “it is not a matter of how we survive this moment, but how we can use it as a time of reflection and growth, to turn this obstacle we are facing into an opportunity.”

To think about the type of life we want to lead, Rabbi Cohen offered three guiding questions:

  1. If you had five words that you want to be remembered by, what would they be?
  2. If you had 24 hours to live, what would you do and why?
  3. What is worth fighting for?

These questions help to crystalize the values that are most dear to us. Rabbi Cohen suggests that by aligning our life and our values, we can identify the unique contributions we can each make to improve our community.

To begin leading a life of legacy, Rabbi Cohen challenges everyone to live inspired: “Nobody can stop time, but each person can potentially slow down time if we are fully present in the moments that we are experiencing. Too often we live in the past or the future, but we are missing the present moment. If we can stay inspired, our lives will have a sense of gratitude that lifts up others.”

Rabbi Cohen shared a quote from Mark Twain that the most important days of our life are the day we are born and the day we discover why. Said Cohen, “none of us know where a kind deed is going to go, but by sharing it with the world we can foster true human connection.”

Rabbi Cohen’s words offer a way to use the converging crises facing our world as an occasion to increase our impact. “Everybody has a purpose,” says Cohen. “If we identify who we are and who we want to be, and appreciate the gift of every day, we can transcend the challenges we face to create legacy within ourselves and our families.”

Guided Legacy Journal

Rose Community Foundation’s guided legacy journal, My Story, My Legacy includes questions to help you reflect on the events that have shaped your life. Each page offers prompts to explore the path you have taken and the legacy you hope to leave for the future. We encourage you to take the time to answer these questions and share your responses with your family.

Legacy giving, also referred to as planned giving or gift planning, is a donor’s intention to contribute a major gift to an organization beyond their lifetime. These gifts, often included in financial or estate plans, can benefit a cherished institution for generations to come. If you are interested in learning more about legacy giving to or through Rose Community Foundation, please contact Judy Altenberg, director of gift planning and advisor relations.


Rose Community Foundation is committed to helping Jewish nonprofits secure their future through endowment building and legacy giving. Since March 2018, organizations participating in the Foundation’s Live On | LIFE & LEGACY program have secured over 800 legacy commitments. These gifts will provide an estimated $40 million to the community, helping to strengthen valued Jewish organizations for years to come.

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