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JTA and JN Staff
Sociologist faces sexual harassment accusations.
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the leading Reform seminary, has opened a Title IX investigation against well-known Jewish sociologist Steven M. Cohen, Ph.D., after several women accused him of sexual misconduct.
The allegations, published July 19 in an extensive investigative article by the New York Jewish Week, reaches back decades and includes comments from women who have worked with Cohen or associated professionally with him. They include inappropriate touching and grabbing, sexual propositions and advances, and inappropriate sexual remarks.
Five women in the article said Cohen sexually harassed them, while three others accused him of other kinds of sexual misconduct.
Cohen is research professor of Jewish social policy at HUC-JIR and director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive (BJPA), an electronic database, at Stanford University established by the Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Foundation and the Charles H. Revson Foundation.
Cohen did not deny the allegations and apologized for them in a statement to the Jewish Week.
“I recognize that there is a pattern here,” the statement said, in part. “It’s one that speaks to my inappropriate behavior for which I take full responsibility. I am deeply apologetic to the women whom I have hurt by my words or my actions.”
Cohen, 68, said he has undergone a process of “education, recognition, remorse and repair” in consultation with clergy, therapists and professional experts. He is married to Rabbi Marion Lev-Cohen and they have two children. The couple live both in Jerusalem and New York City.
One woman named in the article is Keren McGinity, a professor at Brandeis University. She wrote a column last month in the Jewish Week detailing assault by an American Jewish academic she didn’t name, but whom she reveals to be Cohen in this week’s article.
“I firmly said ‘good night,’ told him that he did not have to walk me back to my room and turned to walk away when he suddenly wrapped his arms around me, pressed his body against mine, and forcefully kissed my neck in a way that only lovers should,” McGinity wrote.
Accusers described incidents going back to the 1980s and as recently, in McGinity’s case, to 2011. Seven of the eight women interviewed noted that Cohen was “in a position of professional power and superiority when the respective incidents took place,” the Jewish Week reported.
Cohen is perhaps the most prominent American Jewish sociologist and has conducted studies for a broad spectrum of Jewish organizations, including the Detroit Area Jewish Population Study in 1989, with Jack Ukeles that was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. Cohen did studies for other Jewish federations, Hillel International and the JCC Association of North America. He was a consultant on the Pew Research Center’s 2013 study of American Jews. His analyses and columns have been published widely across Jewish publications.
One of his most recent studies, commissioned by UJA-Federation of New York, examines Israeli Jews’ views on their relationship to American Jews and religious pluralism.
According to the Jewish Week, Cohen was removed from a June 25 appearance at the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies summer program at Brandeis and an upcoming appearance at the Association for Jewish Studies annual conference.
To view the New York Jewish Week’s story, go to bit.ly/2LIEdcP.