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Rachel Cowan

Rachel Cowan, a convert to Judaism who, with her late husband, Paul, author of “An Orphan in History,” helped many assimilated Jews to seek out their Jewish heritage, died on Friday in Manhattan at age 77 from brain cancer.

Rachel Cowan was an innovator in conducting ritual healing services for the sick and dying, and integrating meditation into religious Jewish life for followers of non-Orthodox Jewish denominations. She was also involved in supporting interfaith couples.


Cowan founded the Jewish Healing movement in 1990, together with a small group of like-minded women, to expand the definition of Jewish practice to include providing spiritual resources for Jews who experience serious illness and their loved ones.

Cowan and her husband Paul became interested in Judaism in their mid-30s, and were involved in Jewish revival on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which at the time had its home at the Ansche Chesed synagogue. Later, Rachel Cowan pursued deeper Jewish studies at both Conservative and Reform institutions.

In 2004, Cowan ran the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, which organizes retreats for non-Orthodox community leaders and members who seek to enhance their religious life with Eastern practices such as meditation and yoga.

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