Lawrence Schiffman, chair of New York University’s Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, is currently teaching “The Dead Sea Scrolls and Rabbinic Judaism” at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, the 455-year-old institution founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola-originally to train Jesuit priests. Its former students include 14 popes, notably Pope Pius XII, Pope Paul VI, and Pope John Paul I, as well as 20 saints and 39 beatified, including Saint Robert Bellarmine, Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, and Roger Boscovich.
Schiffman, who served on the International Liaison Committee for global Catholic-Jewish dialogue, constructed a course, which runs through mid-December, to investigate the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls for reconstructing the history of Judaism in Second Temple times.
Schiffman’s students, primarily priests and nuns from around the globe, are learning about what the scrolls tell us about groups other than the Dead Sea sectarians (Essenes), who collected the texts at Qumran, and on issues related to the development of Rabbinic Judaism. Attendees to Schiffman’s lectures have included the German ambassador to the Vatican.