The Shmooze

Too Many Steven Cohens

By Josh Tapper

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How many prominent Steven (or Stephen) Cohens must exist to warrant an article in the New York Times? Try eight, and that’s not including the additional Steven Cohens – the magician, the wrestler, the soccer player – found on Wikipedia.

There’s Steven Cohen, secretary to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Steve Cohen, a Memphis congressman. Stephen F. Cohen, professor of Russian studies and history at New York University. And Stephen A. Cohen, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

What’s the deal? Steven M. Cohen, professor of Jewish social policy at Hebrew Union College explains: Steven or Stephen, popular among baby boomer parents, sounded sufficiently American next to Cohen, an exceedingly common Jewish surname. Since a large number of Jews work in academia, it’s no surprise more than one Steven Cohen has cropped up.

The Times article fails to comment on the social significance of this multi-Steven Cohen phenomenon. As probability expert Charles M. Newman told the Times, “These kinds of coincidences are not as unusual as they might sound” – with many Steven Cohens comes a few famous ones.


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