Steven M. Cohen

Steven M. Cohen (born April 3, 1950) is an American sociologist whose work focuses on the American Jewish Community. He served as a Research Professor of Jewish Social Policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and the Director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at Stanford University until his resignation in July 2018 after he was accused of sexual harassment.[1][2]

Steven M. Cohen
Steven M. Cohen head shot.JPG
Born (1950-04-03) April 3, 1950 (age 70)
OccupationSociologist, research professor
Spouse(s)Rabbi Marion Lev-Cohen
ChildrenAdam Wall, Edeet Cohen


Cohen was born April 3, 1950, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Toby (Fassman) Cohen and Max Cohen, and the grandchild of four East European-born grandparents. Raised in a home marked by strong Jewish ethnicity and nominally Orthodox affiliation, his family kept kosher in the home only.[3] He attended Erasmus Hall High School and then Columbia College. He made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) in 1992. He is married to Rabbi Marion Lev-Cohen. They live in both Jerusalem and New York City. He has two children.[4][5]

Cohen's early intellectual influences include Leonard (Liebel) Fein, Calvin Goldscheider and Charles S. Liebman.[6]

Academic backgroundEdit

Cohen received his BA from Columbia College in 1970 and his Ph.D. from Columbia University's Department of Sociology in 1974. His doctoral dissertation was on "Interethnic Marriage and Friendship".

Past professorial and research positions include Queens College CUNY, Brandeis University, Hebrew University, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and the Melton Centre for Jewish Education. He has also served as Director of the Synagogue Studies Institute of Synagogue 3000 and Director of the Florence G. Heller-JCCA Research Center.

Cohen's research centers on the North American Jewish Community, with focus on the issues of Jewish continuity, intermarriage, and generational change. He has produced work under the auspices of various academic institutions and Jewish organizations and foundations such as the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, the Florence G. Heller-JCC Association Research Center, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Jewish Agency for Israel Jewish Education Committee, and the Jewish Federations of North America.[7]

He has been producing studies, articles, and books since he received his Ph.D. in 1974.[5][7]

Sexual harassment allegationsEdit

Allegations of a years-long pattern of sexual improprieties toward and harassment of female colleagues and subordinates have been made against Cohen, based on interviews with a number of sources.[8]

Following the allegations of sexual harassment against Cohen, three scholars of American Jewish history co-authored an article in The Forward, in which they proposed a link between Cohen's alleged sexual pattern of misogynistic behavior and the conclusions of some of his sociological studies focused on the "continuity crisis." Namely, the authors Kate Rosenblatt, Ronit Stahl, and Lila Corwin Berman wrote, "Most troubling about the data-driven mode of Jewish continuity conversations are its patriarchal, misogynistic, and anachronistic assumptions about what is good for the Jews. We learn that single women, queer people, unwed parents, and childless individuals or couples are all problems. And we learn that the Jewish community, should it want to survive, must step into the role of calling out and regulating those problems. Jewish communal leaders, in turn, learn [from the studies conducted by Cohen] that the continuity crisis — and its prescriptions about how to regulate primarily women, their bodies, and their sexuality — has its own productive energy that can be harnessed to convince donors to open their pocketbooks and support the very research and programs that prove that the crisis exists."[9]

The cultural critic Rokhl Kafrissen has further concluded that "Cohen saw himself as an authority figure and thus entitled to the private lives and bodies of his female colleagues and subordinates, just as he saw himself entitled to dictate policy and control the fertility of American Jewish women. It becomes very hard to disentangle the sexism of an abuser from the patriarchal agenda he spent decades pushing."[10]

Young leadership and generational changeEdit

In recent years, Cohen has worked on understanding how Jewish leaders in their 20s and 30s are changing Jewish life, practices, and values. His earlier work on the Baby Boomers,[11] served a point of contrast for his analysis in his later work on the younger generation and their approach to religious, institutional, political, and cultural norms.[12] He has also done work on how Israel attachment is changing across generational lines, generally finding that while younger Jews still care, they feel less political connection to Israel than their older peers.[13][14]

Selected research on young leadership and generational changeEdit

Selected research on connections to IsraelEdit

Intermarriage and Jewish continuityEdit

Cohen has been a strong proponent of in-marriage (i.e. Jews marrying Jews) among Jews: "Intermarriage does indeed constitute the greatest single threat to Jewish continuity today."[15] His criticisms of intermarriage and its consequences for American Jews have inspired discussion and controversy.

In his 2007 article, "A Tale of Two Jewries: The `Inconvenient Truth' for American Jews," Cohen argued that inmarried and intermarried Jews form two distinct halves of the Jewish community and that the Jewish future, he argues, rests with the inmarried. Based on a 2010 study he produced for the Foundation for Jewish Camp, he challenged the idea that a lack of welcome is what is deterring interfaith households from participating in Jewish life: "There is no longer a stigma attached to walking into a synagogue with a non-Jewish spouse, but what remains a problem is that that husband or wife then does not have access to what is going on once he or she is there.".[16] Consequently, he has challenged the value of investing in outreach to the intermarried and prefers a strategy of encouraging Jewish in-marriage and the conversion of non-Jewish spouses and partners to Judaism.[17]

Some of Cohen's major critics on this issue include Kerry Olitzky of the Jewish Outreach Institute, Ed Case of, Len Saxe of Brandeis University's Cohen Center, and Bethamie Horowitz of the Mandel Foundation.[17]

Selected research on intermarriage and Jewish continuityEdit

Selected critiques of Cohen's positionEdit

Other workEdit

Cohen's research spans many areas, including the composition of the Jewish professional workforce, issues of gender and sexuality equity in the Jewish workplace, religious communities, and educational institutions, and the impact of various educational programs. His 2010 study, "Profiling the Professionals: Who's Serving Our Communities?", revealed that a twenty thousand dollar wage gap disparity persists between the salaries of men and women working for Jewish organizations.[18][19]

Selected other researchEdit



  1. ^ "Steven Cohen Resigns from Berman Jewish Policy Archive Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations". 2018-07-24.
  2. ^ "Harassment Allegations Mount Against Leading Jewish Sociologist". Retrieved 2018-07-22.
  3. ^ Ford, Luke. "Emancipation and Enlightenment"., July 30, 2008.
  4. ^ Limmud NY 2010 Presenter Biographies
  5. ^ a b c Steven M. Cohen Faculty Page and Curriculum Vitae Archived 2010-05-27 at the Wayback Machine, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
  6. ^ Cohen, Steven M. Keynote Address on the Reception of the Marshall Sklare Award, December 19, 2010
  7. ^ a b Steven M. Cohen Author Page
  8. ^ Hannah Dreyfus, "Harassment Allegations Mount Against Leading Jewish Sociologist." The New York Jewish Week, July 19, 2018
  9. ^ Kate Rosenblatt, Ronit Stahl, and Lila Corwin Berman, "How Jewish Academia Created A #MeToo Disaster." The Forward, July 19, 2018
  10. ^ Rokhl Kafrissen, "How A #MeToo Scandal Proved What We Already Know: 'Jewish Continuity' Is Sexist." The Forward, July 20, 2018
  11. ^ Cohen, Steven M., Eisen, Arnold M.,The Jew Within: Self, Community, and Commitment Among the Variety of Moderately Affiliated, Indiana University Press, 2000.
  12. ^ "Interview with Steven M. Cohen - Highly Engaged Young American Jews: Contrasts in Generational Ethos", Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, September 15, 2010
  13. ^ Cohen, Steven M. "Beyond Distancing: Young Adult American Jews and Their Alienation from Israel" Jewish Identity Project of Reboot, 2007.
  14. ^ Cohen, Steven M., Abrams, Sam. Israel "Off Their Minds: The Diminished Place of Israel in the Political Thinking of Young Jews". Berman Jewish Policy Archive, September 28, 2008
  15. ^ Warikoo, Niraj. "Do interfaith marriages threaten Jewish identity?" USA Today. October 14, 2010
  16. ^ Beckerman, Gal. "New Study Finds That It's Not a Lack of Welcome That's Keeping the Intermarrieds Away." The Jewish Daily Forward, July 16, 2010
  17. ^ a b Fishkoff, Sue. "Latest Salvo in Intermarriage Debate Suggests a Split in Jewish Community.", February 7, 2007
  18. ^ Snyder, Tamar. "The Jewish Community’s $20,000 Gender Gap". The New York Jewish Week. November 20, 2010
  19. ^ Brown, Dan. "The Gender Disconnect." EJewish Philanthropy. November 21, 2010.
  20. ^ Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry Awards
  21. ^ Video of 2010 Marshall Sklare Award Presentation by Dr. Arnold Eisen, Keynote by Prof. Steven M. Cohen, and Responses by Profs. Kelman and Benor
  22. ^ Pollak, Steve. "National Jewish Book Awards announced Archived March 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine," Jewish Literary Review. January 12, 2011.