Julaine Semanta Roy 85, the wife of Rama Behera later known as Rama Samanta Roy and then Avraham Cohen, died May 5th of this year. But her death was not reported until this month by The Shawano Leader.
Julaine Semanta Roy’s husband Rama Behera has historically been reported about by investigative journalists for many years. Behera has often been called a “cult” leader. He and his followers have been the subject of numerous media reports in Wisconsin and nationally. It seems that Rama Behera sought to escape his bad reputation by changing his name to Avraham Cohen and identifying himself as “Jewish.” Rama Behera moved to Maryland, where he became a member of Beth El Congregation in Baltimore.
The curious religious transformation of Rama Behera, who is of Indian descent, was the focus of a previous CultNews report some time ago. At that time Behera/Cohen was affiliated with Yeshivat Rambam, a Jewish day school in Baltimore, which has since closed.
The Shawano Leader reported that Behera/Cohen’s wife, like her husband, apparently went through a similar metamorphosis concerning her own identity. Born Julaine Smith, she became Julaine Semanta Roy and later was reportedly known as Sarah Steinberg and/or Sarah Cohen.
CultNews contacted Beth El Memorial Park cemetery in Randallstown, Maryland. Staff responding to the call confirmed that Behera/Cohen is a member of the Beth El Congregation and explained that though there is an Inter-faith section at the Beth El cemetery where non-Jews are buried, Julaine Semanta Roy was laid to rest in the Jewish portion of the graveyard.
Behera/Cohen’s claim that he is somehow a Jew seems quite bizarre. The group Behera/Cohen led for decades was once called “The Disciples of the Lord Jesus,” which appears to make him a Christian. Past members of Behera/Cohen’s group say that he has a penchant for inconsistency. One former devotee told the press, “It doesn’t have to be logical, it doesn’t have to make sense; Rama [now known as Avraham Cohen] says so and that’s it.”
The choice of the names Avraham and Sarah Cohen by Rama Behera (photo left) the long-time “cult” leader is interesting. Apparently, continuing to see himself in grandiose terms, Behera chose the name Avraham (Abraham) the founder of Judaism and the corresponding name of Sarah the patriarch’s biblical spouse as the name for his own wife. The choice of the last name Cohen also has special significance. Cohen indicates a claim that a family are supposedly descendents of Aaron, the high priest and brother of Moses.
But is being a Jew just a claim anyone can make? Is it based upon name changes? Is this somehow enough to become officially recognized as Jewish? Maybe it’s enough for an old “cult” leader, but is it enough for Beth El Congregation and its cemetery?
CultNews contacted Senior Rabbi Steven Schwartz at Beth El to ask him how it is that Julaine Semanta Roy (aka Sarah Cohen) was allowed to be buried in the Jewish portion of the Beth El cemetery. CultNews asked Rabbi Schwartz very specifically that if to the best of his knowledge, Julaine Semanta Roy had undergone a ritual conversion per Jewish traditional law before being buried in the Beth El cemetery.
CultNews has received no response from Rabbi Schwartz.