Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Chelst, YUHS ‘65, YC ‘70, R’72, was enjoying the fruits of his labor after publishing his most recent book, “Exodus and Emancipation”, when he began thinking of just how much the publication of a book increases a professor’s profile and, ultimately, the professor’s school’s reputation.
“Journal articles are one thing, and something professors write and publish all the time,” explains Dr. Chelst, who received his MS in operations research from New York University and his PhD in operations research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after attending YU. “A book, however, is what really increases a professor’s visibility and something that makes more of an impression on the broader community.”
Dr. Chelst, a professor of operations research in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering of Wayne State University in Detroit, is no stranger to publishing books. Besides for journal articles, he has written the books Kaddish The Unanswered Cry, in 1987; Does This Line Ever Move?: Real-World Applications of Operations Research in 2004; and Exodus and Emancipation in 2009. His forthcoming work, Value Added Decision Making for Managers, will be published this summer.
“Exodus and Emancipation” gives a new perspective on the parallels between the Jewish people’s enslavement in biblical times and African-American slave experience and subsequent emancipation and fight for equality. The book required a $30,000 grant from a private donor, one PhD research assistant and one meticulous editor, and six years to complete.
Mindful of the difficulties that professors face when attempting to publish a comprehensive work of scholarship, he decided that he would do his part to make it easier for them, while at the same time, giving back to his alma mater.
The result is one of the more innovative gifts to Yeshiva University – a book grant specifically designed to foster academic research and publication among professors at Yeshiva College. Dr. Chelst had discussed the idea at length with Dr. David Srolovitz, formerly the dean of Yeshiva College, who enthusiastically set the wheels in motion.
Last year, YC Dean Barry Eichler formally introduced the Dr. Kenneth Chelst Book Grant, and began awarding the funds to various professors who applied for the grant.
“We at Yeshiva University are deeply appreciative to Dr. Kenneth Chelst for his generous and innovative gift,” declared Dean Eichler. “One of the significant benefits of the Dr. Kenneth Chelst Book Grant is that it will help Yeshiva College’s most talented junior faculty to achieve tenure through the publication of their scholarly works.”
The first recipients of the Dr. Chelst Book Grant are Rabbi Dr. Aaron Levine, the Samson and Halina Bitensky Professor of Economics; Dr. Jeffrey Freedman, Associate Professor of History; Dr. Shawn Zelig Aster, Assistant Professor of Bible; Dr. Aaron Koller, Assistant Professor of Bible; Dr. Rachel Mesch, Assistant Professor of French Literature and Culture; and Dr. Debra Kaplan, Assistant Professor of Jewish History. Dr. Aster, Dr. Koller, Dr. Kaplan, and Dr. Mesch are all junior tenure-track faculty who are in the process of publishing books.
Dr. Kaplan’s first book, Beyond Expulsion: Jewish, Christians, and Reformation Strasbourg, was accepted for publication by Stanford University Press and is in stores now. Dr. Kaplan declared, “The Dr. Kenneth Chelst Book Award is a terrific grant that facilitates faculty research at all different stages. It helped me fund the publication of my book, including covering the cost of procuring and reproducing the early modern images that appear in its pages.”
For Dr. Mesch, the grant allowed her to travel to Paris for a week to engage in the final leg of intense archival research for her second book, Having It All in the Belle Epoque: Women’s Magazines and the Reinvention of the French Woman Writer. She was also able to hire Daniel Winchester ‘11YC, who minored in French, to assist her in organizing the material gathered upon her return.
For Dr. Chelst, having undergraduate students as research assistant is an added bonus. “Supporting their faculty with the arduous process of researching, writing, and editing a book allows the students to get a taste of academia and book publishing early on and possibly inspire them to pursue academic careers of their own.”