In Memory of




Obituary for Judith Zacek (Cohen)

Judith Zacek (Cohen) of Newton, passed away on January 22, 2021 at the age of 84.
She was born and raised in Washington, D.C. to parents David and Sophye Cohen, and was the youngest of three siblings. She studied International Relations at Brown University before obtaining her Ph.D. in Russian History from Columbia University. She and her former husband, Joseph Zacek, taught in California for several years where they welcomed daughter, Natalie, before moving to Albany, NY.

Judy taught Russian History at SUNY Albany and Barnard College; then as a single mother, she embarked on a new career path as an entrepreneur, co-owning and operating a travel agency in Albany. For the next thirteen years she arranged trips for thousands of clients and traveled to over 70 countries herself. In 1986, Judy was invited to become president of a non-profit educational organization for the travel industry in Wellesley. She maintained a residence in Newton ever since. In 2004, her career pivoted once again when she joined The Arc of Massachusetts, serving as Community Relations Manager and Administrator for Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts until her retirement in March 2020.

Already active in the Unitarian Universalist church since college days, Judy threw herself wholeheartedly into the life of The First Unitarian Universalist Society in West Newton for 35 years. Judy served actively on the Social Action and Membership Committees, volunteered weekly sorting groceries in the Boston Food Bank, and participated in every church fair since her arrival. Judy generously shared her talents and abundant energy in all aspects of congregational life. She also lent her travel expertise in planning a decade of “Enchanted April” trips for members of the congregation.

Judy loved to watch British dramas on PBS, tuned in nightly to play along with Jeopardy, and prided herself on her participation, and eventual facilitation, of a long-running world religion and bible study group. She was an incredible baker, loved her coffee black and strong, and would correct everyone’s grammar, and always be right.

When Judy was asked what she would like to be remembered for, her immediate response was, “that I had a social conscience”. A true pillar of her faith community, a loyal and honest friend, and an ardent advocate for the rights of all people, especially those whose voices have been least heard, Judy Zacek will certainly be remembered for her extraordinary social conscience, as well as her myriad good works that will continue to ripple outward.

In addition to her daughter, Natalie of Manchester, England, Judy’s survivors include her three nephews, Jonathan First of Baltimore, MD; Mark Cohen of Bakersfield, CA; and Michael Cohen of El Dorado Hills, CA and their families. She was predeceased by her brother Marvin Cohen of Los Angeles, CA and her sister Faye Cohen First of Bethesda, MD.

The First Unitarian Universalist Society in Newton will hold a Zoom Memorial Service for Judy Zacek on Saturday, May 1 at 2:00 PM. All are cordially invited: