Close to fifty people sat mesmerized as Professor Malka Schaps told her life story- the story of Mary Elizabeth Kramer of Ohio who converted to Orthodox Judaism, who holds a PhD in Mathematics from Harvard University, who lives in the Ultra-Orthodox community of Bnai Brak in Israel, who is a novelist and who has been appointed as Dean of Exact Sciences (mathematics, physics, chemistry and computer sciences) at Bar-Ilan University.
With humility, wit, and sheer brilliance, Professor Schaps gave an overview of her personal journey. The audience was spellbound listening to the professor sharing her discovery of Judaism as the true faith and the twists and turns she had to endure to get to the goal of her conversion.
She and her husband, Professor David Schaps, moved to Israel to join the academic community after they received their PhD degrees from Harvard (she in mathematics and he in the classics). While working in academia, Malka Schaps raised two children and fostered four more. She also began a side career writing novels and non-fiction for the Orthodox Jewish audience under the pen name “Rachel Pomeranz”. This past November, she was appointed to the prestigious post of Dean of Exact Sciences at Bar-Ilan University, the first Orthodox woman to do so.
One of the professor’s proudest accomplishments is the development of a program/curriculum in Financial Mathematics which is being used throughout the State of Israel. Malka Schaps said “this is probably my biggest contribution to the State of Israel”.
Her inspiring presentation left people wanting more.
“I’d love to spend more time with her.”
“I’d love to have her at my Shabbat table.”
“For someone so brilliant, she is very modest, very unassuming.”
“I could have listened and asked questions for another hour”.
When I mentioned to Professor Schaps that people found her humble, she replied, “Strange as it seems, being a mathematician can be a job encouraging humility. I am constantly dealing with people who are conspicuously smarter than I am.”
Many thanks to the Jewish Federation of Northeastern Pennsylvania for sponsoring this event. Co-sponsors were Dr. Shaya and Phyllis Barax, Shlomo and Deborah Fink and Dr. Nancy Willis.