THEY HAVE A FAMILY RELATIONSHIP WITH THE UNIVERSITY

New York-born Dr. Ben-Zion Cohen, a senior lecturer in the School of Social Work, began his affiliation with the University of Haifa 30 years ago. As though to cement this relationship further, his son, Haifa-born Jonathan, also teaches here.

“The University is big enough to cause no problems by having a father in the same working place,” said the younger Cohen, a Lecturer in the Department of Communications. “In fact, very few of my colleagues know my father, as my department is relatively new.” He himself has had no difficulty in adapting to many different academic relationships. “When I was young,” Cohen explained, “University staff were friends of my father. Then when I was a student here in the B.A. Sociology Honors Program, they were my teachers. Now they are colleagues.”

Cohen pére freely admitted that he found it very pleasant to be in the same environment as his son. This is substantiated by their first joint research, on how types of communicators fare in social work, which was accepted for publication in the journal, International Social Work. Ben-Zion Cohen said that they had other joint ventures in the pipeline.

Ben-Zion Cohen made aliya in 1961, after completing his Master’s in Social Work at the University of California at Los Angeles. Having earned a B.Sc. in Religion from Columbia University and a B.R.E. from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, he had the proficiency in Hebrew language to enable him obtain work in his field.

“I wanted to work in the probation service,” he recalled. “I knocked on doors, and finally was offered a job in either Ashkelon or Haifa. Haifa won, and I immediately sent for my wife and daughter to join me. My first connection with the University came as a part-time adjunct instructor in the School of Social Work thirty years ago, [when the fledgling institution was a branch of the Hebrew University].

Eventually the call to an academic life took over completely, and fifteen years ago Cohen became a full-time Senior Lecturer here. “Since I first started,” he remarked, “the School [of Social Work] has grown 20 times larger.”

Many changes to the campus have, of course, occurred over this period. Not all of them are to Cohen’s taste. “I am not at all in favor of the commercial enterprise taking place,” Ben-Zion Cohen said, talking about the line of shops--a sort of mini-shopping-mall on Campus--constructed in the air space over the underground parking lot below the Main Building. His son’s reaction was the opposite. Jonathan Cohen felt it would be beneficial to both students and staff. The elder Cohen interjected that the shops already on Campus were sufficient (one multi-purpose shop covering books/computers and small items, a mini-market, and a travel agency). During the interview this was the only point of disagreement between father and son.

Ben-Zion Cohen’s main area of research concerns issues in criminology. “This country, fortunately, has not yet gone the way of the United States, where social work has little to say about criminal justice,” he commented. “Drug increase has played a major part on the Israeli criminal scene during the past ten years. In my opinion, the rehabilitation idea is still alive in Israel, and treatment programs are having some success.” At the present time, he is conducting a series of studies on people’s willingness to ask for help.

“Communication,” the younger Cohen pointed out, “is an academic department, not a school for learning a profession, and I make that fact very clear to my students. I research the social and psychological effects of mass communication, with special emphasis on television. The courses in the department teach students concepts that can be used in many fields, such as advertising, public relations, and media relations.”

Jonathan Cohen is now involved in three projects: research into the media of the religious community (see Focus, Spring 97), and ascertaining how youth relate to the different characters in an Israeli television “soap,” “Ramat Aviv Gimmel.” A third research is being conducted in cooperation with the Minerva Center for Youth Policy (see Focus, Winter 96/97). It is a study in progress about how patterns of television-viewing affect attitudes toward crime and criminals.

This University is not the only academic institution that has had the two Cohens, father and son, at the same time. Jonathan Cohen received his Ph.D. in Communication Theory and Research from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. In his final year there, his father was a visiting professor in that university’s School of Social Work.

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