November 12, 2019

Steven Cohen Resigns from Berman Jewish Policy Archive Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations

Steven M. Cohen resigned from his position as director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive (BJPA) after several women accused him of sexual harassment.

The Jewish Week first reported the news that Cohen had resigned, but as of publication time, the details of his resignation were not publicly available. BJPA has not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

The first allegation against Cohen came from Hebrew College Interfaith Families Jewish Engagement graduate program director Keren McGinty in a June 21 Jewish Week op-ed. Although McGinty did not directly identify Cohen, only referring to him as an “older, married man” who took her dinner for “professional guidance.” After interrogating her about her love life during the dinner and grabbing her hand, Cohen offered to walk her back to her hotel room.

“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,” McGinty said. “I broke free and ran to my room, reeling from what had just happened. I felt violated and betrayed. Adding to my wound, he texted me the next day as if he had not done anything wrong. I continue to feel uncomfortable when I see him at professional events.”

McGinty added that when she told colleagues about him, they told her that such behavior is well-known for Cohen and that “everyone knows you should never be alone in a room with him.”

McGinty eventually confirmed that Cohen was the man she was referring to in the op-ed in a July 19 Jewish week piece, four other women came forward with similar sexual harassment allegations as did three women who alleged that Cohen made lurid sexual remarks toward them.

One of the women, a 64-year-old organizational consultant who wished to remain anonymous, told the Jewish Week that when Cohen was her project adviser for a fellowship at Hebrew University in 1992, he “put his hands down my pants and grabbed me” while she was making a phone call from his office. The woman proceeded to yell at him, and Cohen simply “laughed it off.”

The woman then reported the incident to her since-deceased program supervisor, who yelled at her that she shouldn’t destroy Cohen’s life.

“He has kids and a wife – do you want that on your conscience?” the woman alleges her supervisor said to her.

Cohen responded to the allegations in a statement to the Jewish Week that read, “I recognize that there is a pattern here. 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 added that he is “engaged in a process of education, recognition, remorse and repair.”

“I am committed to making the changes that are necessary to avoid recurrences in the future and, when the time is right, seek to apologize directly to, and ask forgiveness from, those I have unintentionally hurt,” Cohen said.

Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, who currently employs Cohen as a research professor of Jewish Social Policy, told the Jewish Week that they would be opening a Title IX investigation against Cohen.

Cohen was a source for grants with his research; he has written numerous op-eds and books, such as The Jew Within, which he co-authored with Arnold Eisen. He also wrote some op-eds for the Journal, including the August 2015 “Jews Still Leaning Democratic” and the July 2015 “New Poll: U.S. Jews Support Iran Deal, Despite Misgivings.”

Cohen is married to Rabbi Marion Lev-Cohen, a board member of the Israel Policy Forum; they have two children and a granddaughter.