Jewish world mourns passing of former Yeshiva University head Norman Lamm

In a statement on its website, Yeshiva University mourned the loss of “an elegant and articulate spokesman for Jewish life in modern times.”

By The Algemeiner

Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm — the former head of Yeshiva University in New York City and one of the leading Jewish scholars in the United States — passed away on Sunday at the age of 92.

In a statement on its website, Yeshiva University mourned the loss of “an elegant and articulate spokesman for Jewish life in modern times.”

Lamm’s “oratory, wisdom and leadership inspired our institution for more than three decades,” the statement said.

In its obituary of Lamm published on Sunday, The New York Times credited him with having molded Yeshiva University into “a centrist Orthodox Jewish institution that encouraged engagement with the secular world and in doing so rescued the school from the brink of bankruptcy.”

Lamm spent 37 years at the helm of Yeshiva University. By the time he stood down as its president in 2001, the university’s endowment was valued at $875 million.

Born in Brooklyn into a family of Jewish immigrants from Poland, Lamm gained wide recognition for his writings and discourses on the interpretation of Jewish philosophy and law, especially in relation to problems involving science, law, technology and philosophy in the modern world.

He authored 10 books, including his major work, Torah Lishmah (1972), about the Mitnaggedim (Eastern European Jews opposed to Hasidism), and The Religious Thought of Hasidism: Text and Commentary, which won the coveted 1999 National Jewish Book Award in Jewish Thought.

He also published many articles on Jewish law in several journals, one of which was cited in two separate landmark Supreme Court decisions on self-incrimination.

Lamm edited or co-edited more than 20 volumes, including The Library of Jewish Law and Ethics. He was the founder and first editor of the Orthodox journal Tradition and associate editor of Hadarom, a journal of Jewish law; founder of the Torah U-Madda Journal; and founder of the Orthodox Forum.

Lamm’s passing came only a few weeks after he lost his 88-year-old wife, Mindella, to the coronavirus.

In a statement, Dr. Ari Berman, the current president of Yeshiva University, reflected that the Jewish community had “lost a legend, and we mourn the passing of our teacher and guide.”

Said Berman: “Rabbi Lamm was the premier expositor of our community’s worldview. His teachings and writings anchored modern life in Torah values and taught us how we can grow from the interchange of history’s great ideas.”

Lamm’s “enormous impact is simply incalculable in considering both the influence of his ideas as well as the number of alumni who graduated during his tenure from across our institution’s graduate, undergraduate and rabbinic programs,” Berman added.