Mary Elizabeth Kramer was born in Ohio and grew up attending church and Christian Sunday school. By high school, she was drawn to atheism and secularism, but ultimately found no solace in those philosophies either. While in university majoring in mathematics, she found herself exploring various religions. Studying in Germany one semester, she had an inexplicable yearning to attend a Passover seder, and there met an Australian rabbi with whom she continued learning, eventually undergoing a proper Orthodox Jewish conversion (and taking the name Malka). Back in college, she met her future husband – David Schaps – and both went on to earn PhDs at Harvard. The new couple then moved to Israel to teach, had two kids and two foster children. Malka Schaps joined Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Exact Sciences, researching advanced quantum spin representations, in addition to founding and running a financial math program. Meanwhile, Schaps has written a handful of popular, best-selling novels under the pen name “Rachel Pomerantz”. Despite being deeply involved in the scientific community, her faith has only strengthened, and she has said, “I always point out that the study of mathematics shares something in common with Judaism. They both seek to discern a greater order of things and the objective truth.” Recently, she was elected to be Dean of the Department of Exact Sciences at Bar-Ilan, making her the first Orthodox woman in the world to hold such a post. Schaps lives with her family in Bnei Brak.
Words of the Week
Why was the Torah given in the desert? For if it were given in the Land of Israel, the residents of the Land of Israel would say, “It is ours”; and if it were given in some other place, the residents of that place would say, “It is ours.” Therefore it was given in the wilderness, so that anyone who wishes to acquire it may acquire it. – Mechilta D’Rashbi
Judith Arlene Resnik (1949-1986) was born in Akron, Ohio to Jewish-Russian immigrants from Ukraine. As a child she went to Hebrew school, then attended a public high school where she was the only female student to achieve a perfect SAT score. She went on to become an electrical engineer, eventually earning a Ph.D in the subject. Resnik first worked as a circuitry designer for tech giant RCA, as well as serving as a biomedical engineer for the National Institutes of Health (at the Laboratory of Neurophysiology) and a systems engineer for Xerox. In 1978 she joined NASA, going on her first space flight in 1984 on the maiden voyage of the space shuttle Discovery. That made her the first American Jew in space and the first Jewish woman in space. She quickly became beloved by the public for her on-board humour and space acrobatics. Resnik went on her second tour in space with the Challenger in January of 1986. Sadly, the mission ended quickly when the space shuttle tragically exploded in Earth’s atmosphere, killing all 7 crew members. It took nearly 6 weeks to find the crew compartment at the bottom of the ocean floor. Resnik’s body was among those that were identifiable. She was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. That same year, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) established the Judith A. Resnik Award for outstanding contributions to space engineering. The moon’s Resnik Lunar Crater is named in her honour.
Words of the Week
A man without a woman is not a man. – Rabbi Elazar (Talmud, Yevamot 63a)
Muriel Faye Siebert (1928-2013) was born to a Jewish family in Ohio. At 22, having dropped out of university, and with just $500 in hand, she moved to New York City. Siebert got a job on Wall Street making $65 a week, and quickly moved up the ranks. Frustrated that she earned only a fraction of what her male colleagues did, she decided to buy her own seat in the New York Stock Exchange (with a price tag of $445,000). After two years of hard effort, during which time she faced severe sexism and anti-Semitism, Siebert became the first woman to do so, and the first woman to own a stock brokerage. She would remain the only such woman for 10 years (among over 1300 males!), and continued throughout to fight for equal rights – not only in salaries and opportunities, but even basic necessities like a ladies bathroom. In 1977, Siebert was appointed New York’s Superintendent of Banks (another first), overseeing over $500 billion in finance. Under her watch, not a single New York bank failed, at a time when a great many others did. From there, Siebert ran for the Senate, but was unsuccessful. She returned to her brokerage and continued working into her old age. Both a feminist and a great philanthropist, Siebert gave millions of dollars to the cause, helping countless women open their own businesses and find success in the world of finance. She served as president of New York Women’s Agenda, developing a popular program called ‘Financial Literacy for Women’ (which was later adopted to New York’s high school curriculum). Siebert was awarded 19 honorary doctorates, and was elected to the National Woman’s Hall of Fame. Sadly, the ‘First Woman of Finance’ passed away last Saturday after a battle with cancer. Click here to see a recent interview with Muriel Siebert.
Words of the Week
In youth, one learns to talk; in maturity, one learns to be silent. This is man’s problem: that he learns to talk before he learns to be silent. – Rabbi Nachman of Breslav