Jewish Press.com regrets to inform our readers of the passing on Sunday (May 31) of Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm z”l, president emeritus of Yeshiva University, at the age of 92.
The rabbi passed away just a month after the passing of his wife due to COVID-19.
Yeshiva University said in an email to its alumni that Rabbi Lamm was “one of the most extraordinary, elegant, and articulate spokesman for Jewish life in modern times. His oratory, wisdom and leadership inspired our institution for over three decades.”
The current president of the university, Ari Berman, wrote in a tweet that his family and “the entire Yeshiva University community should find comfort and strength in the extraordinary life he lived.”
On behalf of the entire Yeshiva University community, we mourn the loss of our teacher, Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, third President of YU.
His family and the entire Yeshiva University community should find comfort and strength in the extraordinary life he lived.
Baruch Dayan Haemet. pic.twitter.com/D3utg7WUjA
— Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman (@AriBermanYU) May 31, 2020
Former British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks wrote in a post on Twitter: “Elegant in mind, cultivated in speech, sensitive in manner, fastidious in scholarship, warm and generous in his dealings with people, he was for me and many others a role model of rabbinic dignity and humanity.”
In Israel, the Tzohar Rabbinic Organization released a statement as well: Rabbi Norman Lamm z”l was a giant of Torah study and academia who proved that these two worlds live side by side. His leadership over many decades allowed Yeshiva University to positively influence the very face of modern Torah Judaism both throughout North America and the Diaspora as well as in Israel, where he was a close friend of Tzohar and supported our work and our vision. His countless students will continue to serve as a lasting testament to his legacy.”
Former Israeli ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon called Rabbi Lamm “a hero of Diaspora Jewry in the US,” saying the rabbi “built up its relations with Israel. He was a gifted orator, a visionary leader, a skilled academic, a talmid chacham, and a kind man. Blessed be his memory.”
Rabbi Lamm was Yeshiva University’s third president and the first native-born American to head the institution. He served as chancellor of the University and rosh ha’Yeshiva of its affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary from 2003 until his retirement on June 30, 2013.
Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1927, Rabbi Lamm received his elementary and high school education at Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah Vodaath, entering Yeshiva College in 1945, where he continued his Jewish learning and undertook a liberal arts program with a major in chemistry. He graduated summa cum laude in 1949 and was class valedictorian.
Rabbi Lamm pursued advanced scientific studies at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn while continuing his Judaic studies and rabbinic scholarship. He was ordained as a rabbi by YU’s affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in 1951 and earned a PhD in Jewish philosophy from the University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School in 1966.
Rabbi Lamm served on the Yeshiva University faculty for 17 years, culminating in his appointment as the Erna and Jakob Michael Professor of Jewish Philosophy in 1966. A pulpit rabbi for 25 years, he served as spiritual leader of the Jewish Center in Manhattan. Prior to that, he served as assistant rabbi of New York City’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and then as rabbi of Congregation Kodimoh in Springfield, MA.
Rabbi Lamm was a prolific author who wrote more than a dozen tomes, among them his most famous, Torah U’madda: The Encounter of Religious Learning and Worldly Knowledge in the Jewish Tradition, which explores the challenges and importance of melding a deeply religious life without throwing away one’s secular wisdom and engagement with the world.
Rabbi Lamm edited and/or co-edited more than 20 volumes, including The Library of Jewish Law and Ethics. He was the founder and first editor of Tradition and associate editor of Hadarom, a journal of Jewish law; founder of the Torah U-Madda Journal; and founder of the Orthodox Forum.
This writer recalls having interviewed Rabbi Lamm once for a publication long ago as well; above all, Rabbi Lamm was kind.
Baruch Dayan HaEmet.