Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen
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Naomi & Nehemiah Cohen Foundation
Giant Food Store #1 at Park Road and Georgia Avenue in 1936.


The Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation provides funding to charitable and educational organizations that:

  • Promote peaceful co-existence and human rights in Israel and Palestine;
  • Provide human services in the metropolitan Washington area;
  • Protect women's rights, including freedom of reproductive choice and access to family planning medical and educational services;
  • Protect the environment;
  • Promote responsible government and social justice.

The Foundation focuses its grants primarily on organizations that partner with other organizations, use Foundation funds to leverage other private or public support, and measure the outcomes and impact of their work.

N.M. Cohen with David Ben-Gurion, first prime minister of Israel.


Nehemiah Meyer Cohen and his wife, Naomi Halperin, were born in Jerusalem in 1890 when the city was part of the Ottoman Empire. Named for the biblical prophet, Nehemiah divided his time between religious studies and work in his family's butcher shop. He was ordained as a rabbi at the age of 17 and married Naomi a year later—a marriage that would ultimately last more than 75 years. Within four years, Naomi had given birth to two sons, Israel and Emanuel, and N.M. Cohen was teaching at an elementary school in the Mediterranean village of Rishon le Zion.

N.M. soon became fascinated by new scientific developments in agriculture and decided he would travel to England to study the latest farming techniques and bring them home to his village. World War I erupted while N.M. was in England. Unable to return to Palestine, he ventured on alone to the United States in 1915. Earning a living as a rabbi, teacher and from operating a small kosher meat market, by 1921 he had saved enough money to bring his wife and sons to the United States. A few years later, Naomi gave birth to the couple's third child, Lillian.

As his business expanded to three small butcher shops in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, N.M. became convinced that the self-service supermarket was the way of the future. In partnership with the Lehrman family, N.M. opened the first Giant supermarket in Washington, D.C. in 1936 in the midst of the Depression. With an emphasis on low prices, high quality and customer service, Giant flourished, growing into a multi-billion dollar public company. At the time of N.M.'s death, Giant was the largest supermarket chain in the Washington area and the 12th largest food retailer in the United States.

For both N.M. and Naomi, the best use of wealth was to help others. They lived simply all their lives and devoted most of their resources to a variety of charitable causes, both in the Washington area and in Israel. N.M. was one of the early supporters of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, where he is remembered with the title "Honorary President" to this day. In 1959, N.M. and Naomi created the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation to expand and perpetuate their charitable activities.

The Cohens' children continued their parents' philanthropic traditions. Lillian Cohen Solomon served as president of the Foundation from the mid-1980s until her death in 2001. She expanded her parents' legacy of giving both in the Washington community and in Israel.

Today, the Foundation makes over $4 million in grants annually and is led by Lillian's son and daughter-in-law, Daniel and Jane Solomon, and her daughter and son-in-law, Diane and Stuart Brown. The Foundation's grants are primarily directed to promote peaceful coexistence between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel; protect reproductive choice and health; provide human services and educational programs; protect the environment; and promote responsible government and social justice. The Foundation has been recognized for its generosity and commitments, both in Washington, Dc and in Israel, with honors including the Founders Award from N Street Village, Foundation Partner of the Year from the Capital Area Food Bank, and Oasis of Peace Award from Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam.

Manny, Lillian, Nehemiah, and Izzy Cohen in 1953.
HOME Copyright © 2007-2019 Naomi & Nehemiah Cohen Foundation. All rights reserved.
PO Box 30100 . Bethesda, Maryland 20824 . 301.652.2230 . fax 301.652.2260 .
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Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen with Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz and members of the board of Adas Israel Congregation.