web analytics
August 31, 2015 / 16 Elul, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Professor Malka Schaps: Ultra-Orthodox Dean

LBJ-112913-Schaps

Bar Ilan University in Israel has named Professor Malka Schaps dean of the university’s Faculty of Exact Sciences, making her the first ultra-Orthodox woman ever appointed to such a high academic position, simultaneously granting her the distinction of being the only ultra-Orthodox female professor in Israel.

My readers may recall a column about this extraordinary woman some eight years ago, focusing on her rare accomplishments at that point in time. Now, however that she achieved a historic “first,” I wish to mark additional aspects of her remarkable life.

Prof. Malka Schaps was born Mary Kramer, a Protestant, in Cleveland, Ohio. When she was sixteen, she started questioning the rationale of moral conduct: Why be good? She did not find the answer in her religious education or in the writings of great philosophers.  At eighteen, as a counselor in a mathematics summer camp, Mary befriended an Orthodox Jewish girl “who taught me the aleph-bet from a Telma soup poster and showed me how to keep kosher,” Malka recalls.  “We fasted together on Shiva Assar b’Tammuz and she hand-lettered a Hebrew Scrabble set for my birthday.” This was followed by a semester doing research in mathematics in Germany where she found out about the Holocaust. Under its horrendous impact Mary Kramer took a momentous step: “That summer I converted to Judaism,” she declares simply.

Now a Jewish student at Harvard, she met David Schapps, who shared her keen interest in Orthodox Judaism. The two got married, and while they worked towards their Ph.Ds, they davened at the Harvard Hillel, and David learned part-time in a yeshiva for college students run by Rav Meir Horowitz, now Bostoner Rebbe in Har Nof. “By the time we left we were among the macherim and were pretty close to being ultra-Orthodox,” Malka recalled.

“When we got our degrees, we managed to get academic positions in Israel” and after making aliyah in 1972, established a family in Bnei Brak. The children of many of their neighbors preferred yeshiva life rather than enlisting in the army, but when her own boys came of age, Professor Schaps told them: “If you want to eventually work, then you have to go do your army service.” Their own father served in the army reserves as a rabbi until he was discharged at 58 with the rank of captain.

The story of her life is relayed in a number of best-selling novels. You see, this remarkable scientist is a fabulous novelist as well, under the nome de plume Rachel Pomeranz.  Although fiction, Malka Schaps’ novels are to some extent autobiographical. A Time to Rend and Mountains Around Jerusalem tell the story of her conversion process. The Inheritance of Our Fathers reveals the tale of their aliyah to Israel, and Wildflower is about the heart-wrenching experience of a couple whose foster child was taken from them. Similarly, parts of the long court case to protect two of their foster children are recorded in Cactus Blossoms. Out of her exposure to the history of the Holocaust Rings Above the Flames was born.

So, who is Professor Malka Schaps?

Bar Ilan University has been gifted a unique personality, one whose life is synonymous with an embrace of Judaism – its history, its philosophy, its values, its ethics, its eternal heritage.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

3 Responses to “Professor Malka Schaps: Ultra-Orthodox Dean”

  1. very nice but I wish that we can see many yes many more

  2. My mother Rebbetzen Feuerwerker born in 1912 was frum had degrees from Strasbourg University and la Sorbonne in Law and in politic science and did not find a job in Israel we ended up in Montreal …opening minds to orthodox people is certainly a progress.

  3. Eva Feld says:

    Ya-asher kochech!

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Dr. Joe Uziel, codirector of the excavation from the Israel Antiquities Authority, sitting atop the stepped structure from the Second Temple period.
Second Temple-Era Podium May Be Discovery in City of David
Latest Sections Stories
book-Lord-Get-Me-High

Even when our prayers are ignored and troubles confront us, Rabbi Shoff teaches that it is the same God who sent the difficulties as who answered our prayers before.

Schonfeld-logo1

I’ve put together some of the most frequently asked questions regarding bullies, friendship and learning disabilities.

book-Avi's-Choice

His parents make it clear that they feel the right thing is for Avi to visit his grandfather, but they leave it up to him.

There is a rich Jewish history in this part of the world. Now the hidden customs are being revealed, as many seek to reconnect with their roots.

There are times when a psychiatrist will over-medicate, which is why it’s important to find a psychiatrist whom you trust and feel comfortable with.

On November 22, 1963, Abraham Zapruder created one of the most famous, and valuable, pieces of film and became forever linked with one of the greatest American national tragedies when he stood with his camera on an elevated concrete abutment as President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Exhibited here is […]

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” – Corrie ten Boom I’ve been thinking a lot about worrying. Anxiety is an issue close to my heart – […]

Don’t be afraid to try something different.

Upon meeting the Zionist delegation, General Wu, a recent convert to Christianity, said, “You are my spiritual brothers.

With the assistance of Mr. Tress, Private Moskowitz tried tirelessly to become an army chaplain.

Dr. Yael Respler is taking a well-deserved vacation this week and asked Eilon Even-Esh to share some thoughts with her readers in her stead.

More Articles from Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson
Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson

All along, Ariella Barker dreamed of a legal system where justice was tempered with compassion.

Yehudit Huebner at an Emunah Women’s concert in her honor in October of 2013.

In 1939, with life getting harder for Jews, she and several friends decided it was time to make aliyah, and applied at the Palestina Amt for permits.

Who is this wonder woman? Tally Makovsky Eitan is a scion of a family that has lived in Jerusalem for eleven generations!

Her grandsons were eager to reveal their grandmother’s earlier frustration with the unfair, inaccurate narrative of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

The visionary champion of women’s rights in Judaism was first and foremost a devoted wife and mother.

This belief was coupled with the spirit of “Am Yisrael HaShalem” (One United People), in the Ben Yehuda household: to love and help all Jews without distinction.

It was Lia van Leer who changed the image of filmmaking in Israel so that it is now seen as an expression of culture and not mere entertainment.

In 1756, when the ominous threat of Islamic terror against Jews reached Tunis as well, Friha became one of its tragic victims.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/impact-women-history/professor-malka-schaps-ultra-orthodox-dean/2013/11/29/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: