Debra Kaplan, Jewish History Scholar, Appointed to Dr. Pinkhos Churgin Memorial Chair in Jewish History

Debra Kaplan (center) with Bathia Churgin (left) and Naomi Churgin Miller (right), sisters of Dr. Pinkhos Churgin, in whose memory Dr. Kaplan's chair is named.

Nov 28, 2007 — Debra Kaplan, PhD, assistant professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University, has recently been named the Dr. Pinkhos Churgin Memorial Professor of Jewish History. The prestigious appointment marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Dr. Churgin, a renowned scholar of Jewish history and an influential leader in YU’s early history.

One of the first professors at YU to focus on the early modern period of Jewish history (approximately 1450-1750), Dr. Kaplan has made significant contributions to its academic community since joining in 2005. She teaches seminar and survey courses at Yeshiva College and Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and recently organized a series of lectures for the Jewish Studies Faculty Colloquium in the 2005-2006 academic year.

Dr. Kaplan has been invited by institutions worldwide to speak on topics in early modern Jewish history. David Srolovitz, PhD, dean of Yeshiva College, described her as “a great teacher, a nationally known scholar in her field, and a wonderful colleague.” She was voted the Lillian F. and William L. Silber Professor of the Year last semester by YC students.

“Dr. Kaplan’s classes are so popular, they are always amongst the first to fill up as soon as registration opens,” Dean Srolovitz said. “This is no small feat given that her sections of required courses are widely known to be especially rigorous.”

Dean Srolovitz said that it is especially fitting that an acclaimed scholar in Jewish history who is also committed to the university’s mission has been appointed to the chair established in memory of Dr. Churgin, “who devoted more than three decades of unparalleled service to the field of Jewish history and to Yeshiva University.”

Highlights of Dr. Churgin’s involvement with YU include his tenure as dean of the Teacher’s Institute for Men and as an advisor and mentor to Dr. Samuel Belkin, who developed the institution’s guiding principle of Torah Umadda (the synthesis of Torah studies with secular learning) during his tenure as president and later chancellor. Dr. Churgin left Yeshiva University to become one of the founders and the first president of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. Of her recent appointment as Dr. Pinkhos Churgin Memorial Professor of Jewish History, Dr. Kaplan says, “It’s a tremendous honor to hold a chair named after someone who contributed so much to YU and Jewish education.”

Dr. Kaplan is a summa cum laude graduate of Barnard College and earned both a masters of arts and doctorate in history from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to her time at YC and Revel, Dr. Kaplan’s academic appointments included postdoctoral fellow and adjunct professor at Queens College, lecturer at University of Pennsylvania, and adjunct professor at YU’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

For Dr. Kaplan, seeing her students engage in the course material is extremely rewarding: “The students here are fabulous. With encouragement, they really get invested—and with Jewish history, there’s a lot to be invested in.”

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