A Hebrew University Alumna Comes Home: Dr. Orly Shenker


A rock drummer and campaigner for workers’ rights, Dr. Orly Shenker began her academic career studying law at Tel Aviv University. Although she successfully published academic papers and a well-received book in the field, law was never Dr. Shenker’s true calling. During her three years as a practicing lawyer, Dr. Shenker took some courses in philosophy at Tel Aviv University. This fateful decision reawakened her teenage interest in physics and philosophy, leading Dr. Shenker to abandon her law career and return to academic pursuits.

Arriving at the Hebrew University, Dr. Shenker earned a B.Sc. in physics together with studies in the Amirim program. Amirim is an interdisciplinary program based in the Faculty of Humanities. Its core consists of a series of classes devoted to "great books" in a wide range of cultures. Amirim studies are always combined with a major undergraduate course in any of the university's disciplines or departments. After completing her B.Sc., she sought a change of focus, and undertook doctoral studies in the philosophy of physics through the Hebrew University's Program in the History and Philosophy of Science, and was a recipient of the prestigious Wolfson award and the Rothenstreich award. Her thesis was supervised by the late Eleanor Roosevelt Professor of the Philosophy of Science Itamar Pitowsky. It investigated a foundational problem in physics using tools taken from philosophy.

Although it was difficult to begin her B.Sc. and doctoral studies at a later age than her peers, Dr. Shenker relates that Hebrew University’s “lovely atmosphere” immediately won her over, and recalls that as a student she was given the freedom needed to express and explore her interests. In 2010, she returned to the Hebrew University as a senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and the Sidney M. Edelstein Center for the History and Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Medicine.

By Paule Sarah Fraiman