Dr. Debra Kaplan – From Yeshiva University to BIU

Dr. Debra Kaplan, of the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, joined Bar-Ilan after nine years at Yeshiva University in New York, where she held the Dr. Pinkhos Churgin Memorial Chair in Jewish History. She recently directed the undergraduate program in Jewish history at Yeshiva College.  


Dr. Kaplan made Aliyah in August 2014 with her husband Donny Ebenstein, who works in conflict resolution, mediation, and negotiation, and their three sons. A native New Yorker, Debra received her BA in History from Barnard College, and her MA and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.


A social historian, Kaplan’s research focuses on the daily life in premodern Ashkenaz. Her first book, titled “Beyond Expulsion: Jews, Christians, and Reformation Strasbourg”, is an interesting study of Jewish-Christian relations in Strasbourg, a city in which Jews were banned from residence for approximately four hundred years. Kaplan explains: “Through archival research, I discovered that notwithstanding this official policy, the Jews who lived in the Alsatian countryside entered Strasbourg on a daily basis, where they interacted with Christians in a variety of ways.” The book is currently being translated into Hebrew, as it was very important to Kaplan to reach a Hebrew-speaking audience, and to expose new readers to the daily experiences of Jews who lived in this understudied environment.


Kaplan has also written several articles about Jewish women and economics, about Jewish autobiographical texts, and about Jews and the Reformation. “I am working on a book about Jewish charity in three German cities,” shares Kaplan. “The new book explores the various socio-economic and gendered hierarchies within Jewish communities.” Kaplan’s new research has been awarded grants from the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


But Dr. Kaplan is not all about research. She’s also active in various organizations that bring history to the larger public, and has served on the Academic Advisory Council of the Center for Jewish History in New York for five years, on the Advisory Board of the Early Modern Workshop for 9 years. She is also involved in an international research group that seeks to digitize Pinkassim (Jewish minute books). “I find it exciting to share my research with my students and with the general public,” Says Kaplan. “For me, this is an essential part of what scholars do, and I look forward to doing this in Israel, where Jewish history and all its complexity forms an important part of intellectual and cultural life.”


Kaplan is especially excited to be teaching at BIU. “I am proud to contributing to the department’s offerings in medieval, early modern and social history studies.”


For more on Dr. Kaplan click here.