hat was it like tobe a Jew 500 yearsago? Ask Dr. DebraKaplan,assistantprofessor of Jewish history atYeshiva College and BernardRevel Graduate School of Jew-ish Studies. She teaches herstudents about Jewish life inthe early modern period—from1450, just afterthe medievalperiod, to1750—throughthewords of the actual people wholived it. It was a time of majorchange for Jews as wellas therest of the world.One of the ﬁrst professorsat YU to focus on the period,Kaplan reconstructs Jewish lifeduring that time through theletters of the common menandwomen who lived then, poetry,intellectual writings, artwork,and architecture of the period.These primary sources,shesays, give her students anopportunity to “see for them-selves what’s going on” andhow scholars used thesekindsof materials to write history.“The early modern periodis when the printing presswas invented, new countrieswere being discovered, andnew ways of warfare werebeing developed. Jews thenwere establishing new com-munities in different places.Primary sources give studentsinsight into what it was liketo be Jewish during thattime,” said Kaplan.It’s an approach that hasresonated with her students,who voted her the Lillian F.and William L. Silber Professorof the Year at Yeshiva Collegelast spring.Her students have “a lot of reasons to be interested in Jew-ish history,” she said. Theycome with deep analyticalskills in reading Hebrew textsthat students at other univer-sities may not be able to read.“They’re extremely engaged,so I encourage discussion thatfocuses a great deal on how tothink about a text criticallyand from the historical per-spective,” the professor said.Kaplan came on boardYeshiva in 2005 andwasnamed occupant of the Dr.Pinkhos Churgin MemorialChair in Jewish History lastSeptember. Her appointmentmarks the 50th anniversary of the death of Churgin, arenowned scholar of Jewishhistory and an influentialleader during YU’s early years.Dr. Morton Lowengrub,provost and senior vice presi-dent for academic affairs, saidKaplan was “the perfect choice”for the chair in Jewish history.“Her strong commitmentto teaching and mentoringexempliﬁes the life of the lateDr. Churgin, who devotedmore than 30 years to theﬁeldof Jewish history and to theuniversity,”Lowengrubsaid.“As a Jewish historian, I’minterested in the ways religionand history impact eachother—how Jews interactedwith their neighbors, whatboundaries they drew betweenthemselves and the peoplethey lived with,” said Kaplan,a summa cum laude graduateof Barnard College at ColumbiaUniversity who earned her PhDat the University of Pennsyl-vania. Since then, she has beeninvited by institutions world-wide to speak on topics inearly modern Jewish history.One theme that interestsKaplan is Jewish-Christianrelations during the early mod-ern period, which is the sub-ject of her forthcoming book,whose working title is
Beyond Expulsion: Jews, Christians, and Early Modern Strasbourg
. Nowin France, Strasbourg was partof the Holy Roman Empireduring her period of interest.“Jews living there wereexpelled in 1391, scattered to thecountryside. Duringthe 400years they were forbidden toreturn, the Jews neverthelesscontinued doing businesswith their former Christianneighbors and also found waysto fulﬁll their religious obliga-tions while living in placesthat lacked communal institu-tions such as synagogues, mik-vahs, and schools,”said Kaplan.“Reconstructing the lives of these Jews reveals a social his-tory that would otherwise haveremained concealed.”This August, Kaplan isorganizing the Fifth AnnualEarly Modern Workshop co-sponsored by YU’s Center for Jewish Law and ContemporaryCivilization at Benjamin N.Cardozo School of Law. Thegathering will allow scholarsof early modern Jewish historyfrom Israel, Europe, andacross the United States toshare with one anotherthework they are doing withtexts from that period.Yeshiva College Dean DavidSrolovitz said of Kaplan, “Sherepresents the best the collegehas to offer—a truly compellinginstructor, an up-and-comingscholar, anda wonderful col-league. She makes Jewish his-tory come alive for studentsand,as a result, is alreadyoneof their’ favorite professors.”
Seeker of the Source
YESHIVAUNIVERSITYMorry J. Weiss,
ChairmanYU Board of Trustees
Richard M. Joel
Dr. Norman Lamm
Georgia B. Pollak
Vice President for University Communications and Public Affairs
Joshua L. Muss, Chairman, Board of Directors, Yeshiva College; Marjorie Diener Blenden,Chairman, Board of Directors, Stern College for Women; Bernard L. Madoff, Chairman, Board of Directors, Sy Syms School of Business; Ira M. Millstein,Chairperson, Board of Overseers, AlbertEinstein College of Medicine; Kathryn O. Greenberg, Chairman, Board of Directors, BenjaminN. Cardozo School of Law; Robert Schwalbe, Chair, Board of Governors, Wurzweiler School of Social Work; Mordecai D. Katz, Chairman, Board of Directors, Bernard Revel Graduate Schoolof Jewish Studies; Katherine Sachs, Chair, Board of Governors, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology; Moshael J. Straus, Chairman, Board of Directors, Azrieli Graduate School of JewishEducation and Administration; Julius Berman, Chairman,Board of Trustees, (afﬁliate) RabbiIsaac Elchanan Theological Seminary; Theodore N. Mirvis and Michael Jesselson, Vice Chairs,Board of Directors, (afﬁliate) Yeshiva University Museum.
Board listings as of April 1, 2008.
YESHIVAUNIVERSITYTODAY Valerie Peters
Gila Berkowitz, Enrique Cubillo, Steve Eichinger, June Glazer,Norman Goldberg,Lois Goldrich, Andrea Kahn, Ryan Khaldar,Celia Regan, Peter Robertson, Raphael Rosenzweig, Arlene Schulman,Hedy Shulman, Mike Spinner, V. Jane Windsor
is published every two months during the academic year by the Yeshiva University Department of Communications and Public Affairs, 401 Furst Hall, 500 West 185th St., New York, NY 10033-3201 (212-960-5285).It is distributed free to faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, and friends. © Yeshiva University 2008
VOLUME 12 • NUMBER 2
Faculty Proﬁle: Debra Kaplan
Debra Kaplan was voted 2007 Professor of the Year by her students.
“Reconstructing the lives of these Jews reveals a socialhistory that would otherwisehave remained concealed.”
Two Profs Appointed Journal Editors
wo Yeshiva College pro-fessors were recentlynamed editors of twodistinct journals. StevenFine, PhD, professor of Jewishhistory and director of the Cen-ter for Israel Studies, is one of four editors of
Images: A Journalof Jewish Art and Visual Culture,
while Lauren Fitzgerald, PhD,associate professor of Englishand director of the YeshivaCollege Writing Center, wasappointed co-editor of
TheWriting Center Journal
is a scholarly jour-nal on Jewish visual culture inall disciplines—including archi-tecture, painting, sculpture,graphics, textiles, and photog-raphy—from Greco-Romanantiquity to the present.Published by Brill AcademicPublishers, it also containsreviewsof books and exhibi-tions, and notices of scholarlyconferences or symposia on Jewish art.
The Writing Center Journal
isan ofﬁcial, peer-reviewed pub-lication of the InternationalWriting Centers Association. Itis a bi-annual journal publishingarticles, reviews, and announce-ments that explore issues ortheories relatedto writing cen-ter dynamics and administra-tion. Fitzgerald was chosen bya selection committee for herbroad understanding of writingcenter scholarship, her experi-ence with writing center admin-istration,andher publicationand editorial experience.A longtime writing profes-sional, Fitzgerald was recentlyelected to the executive com-mittee of the Conference onCollege Composition andCommunication, a professionalorganization for researchingand teaching composition.
Dr. Steven FineDr. Lauren Fitzgerald