In a continuing effort to improve educational standards at Yeshiva University, a new Vice Provost of undergraduate education, Lawrence H. Schiffman, has been appointed by President Richard M. Joel. In a press release issued by the university, President Joel stated that “Professor Schiffman will lead the effort to ‘re-imagine’ undergraduate education at Yeshiva University.”
This “re-imagination” presents a lofty goal, and requires a lofty applicant. With an incredibly impressive resume, Lawrence H. Schiffman seems to be just such a candidate. Dr. Schiffman is the holder of three degrees (M.A., B.A. and PhD) in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, all from Brandeis University. He bears a long list of academic and professional credentials centered in his field of Jewish history, with a specific interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls. He is the author of extensive publications on the subject. Schiffman is also a member of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation, as well as holding the position of Vice President for Publications in the American Academy for Jewish Research Association for Jewish Studies. He has taught in universities across the globe, including those of America, Israel and Russia. His most recent position was as the Ethel and Irvin A. Edelman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and Chairman of the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University (NYU).
However, despite his excessive qualifications, Dr. Schiffman’s move from NYU to YU was not without controversy. In the culmination of a continuing academic debate, charges were recently filed against Raphael Haim Golb, the son of one of Dr. Schiffman’s scholarly counterparts, Dr. Norman Golb, for allegedly impersonating Dr. Schiffman. A lawyer in Manhattan, Raphael Golb was charged with, among other counts, using email to submit a false admission of plagiarism on Dr. Schiffman’s behalf. His main contention was that Schiffman had plagiarized the work of his father, Dr. Norman Golb. Raphael Golb was convicted in September and sentenced a mere two months before Schiffman’s move to YU. His accusations against Schiffman have yet to be addressed by either NYU or YU.
Despite this omission, it is clear from statements issued by President Joel that Yeshiva University has the utmost faith in Dr. Schiffman’s integrity. President Joel stated in a press release issued by the university that “Professor Schiffman’s reputation as a scholar, his academic vision and his commitment to Torah u’Maddah exemplify our mission.” He further stated, “His [Dr. Schiffman’s] boundless energy, his strong leadership skills and his collegial sensibilities make him the ideal person to further that mission in our undergraduate schools.” These statements unequivocally support Schiffman as a prime candidate for vice provost.
The position of vice provost is generally of a supervisory nature, particularly over curricular matters, and Dr. Schiffman’s unification of academic excellence with Jewish scholarship would appear to make him uniquely qualified to oversee education at a Jewish institution such as Yeshiva University. As President Joel stated, “This undertaking will involve restructuring the undergraduate colleges, creating a unified undergraduate faculty to establish more commonalities and synergies among disciplines at both the Wilf and Beren campuses. The Vice Provost will work in close collaboration with the undergraduate deans and the provost to strengthen and foster a student experience of excellence and success and provide the optimum environment for faculty scholarship and teaching.”
With such weighty tasks in front of him, Dr. Schiffman will have many decisions to make in the upcoming months. It remains to be seen what changes he decides will be necessary to enhance the student experience.