Former YU President Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm Passes Away At 92

By: Shayna Herszage  |  June 1, 2020

By Shayna Herszage

On Sunday, May 31, Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, former president of Yeshiva University, passed away at the age of 92. The funeral was held at 4 pm.

Lamm, born in 1927, grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. After attending Mesivta Torah Vodaath in his youth, he graduated as secular studies valedictorian, class of 1949, from Yeshiva College with a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Upon graduation, he studied at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn with the intent of pursuing a career in science. However, Rabbi Dr. Samuel Belkin, the president of Yeshiva University at the time, persuaded him to obtain rabbinical ordination and eventually to join the Yeshiva University faculty.

Lamm obtained rabbinical ordination in 1951 and thereafter spent close to 25 years as a pulpit rabbi. He served as assistant rabbi in Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan, New York and continued on to become the rabbi of Congregation Kodimoh in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1958, Lamm became the assistant rabbi at the Jewish Center located in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, subsequently spending 1956-1959 as rabbi. In 1959, Lamm became a professor of Jewish philosophy at Yeshiva University, and earned a PhD in Jewish philosophy in 1966 from Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies.

Lamm was elected as the third president of Yeshiva University in 1976, succeeding Rabbi Dr. Samuel Belkin, and held this position until 2003. During his time as president, Lamm helped save Yeshiva University from bankruptcy in addition to improving its academic rating, raising the university to a top 100 ranked school. Following his retirement, Lamm was elected as chancellor, and held the position of Rosh Yeshiva of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) for the following decade.

In addition to his contributions to the university, Lamm also contributed greatly to Jewish academia. Lamm was the author of 10 books, edited/co-edited over 20 volumes, and gave countless speeches and sermons. He won the National Jewish Book Award in Jewish Thought with his 1999 book “The Religious Thought of Hasidism.” Lamm helped found an academic journal of Orthodox Jewish thought, entitled Tradition, and he also founded the Torah U-Madda Journal. Additionally, when Artscroll publisher Mesorah Publications was struggling financially, Lamm introduced them to philanthropist Jerome Schottenstein, a meeting which became a catalyst for the publication of the Schottenstein English Translated Talmud.

Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm was a strong supporter of the Torah U’Madda philosophy, a central component of Yeshiva University’s ideology and the Modern Orthodox value system. He conveyed these ideals through his many writings and speeches, as well as through his vision of the university. These ideals were implemented through the creation of programs such as the Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies (GPATS), a women’s graduate program dedicated to advanced Torah studies.

Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm is survived by children Dr. Chaye Warburg, Dr. Joshua Lamm, and Shalom Lamm, siblings Tzivia Sittner and Miriam Auslander, 17 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren. His fourth and youngest daughter, Sara Dratch, passed in 2013, his brother, Rabbi Dr. Maurice Lamm, passed in 2016, and his wife, Mindy Lamm, passed on April 16.

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) will be holding a virtual memorial tribute on Tuesday, June 2, including remarks from Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, Rabbi Dr. Yossi Levine, Rabbi Herschel Schachter, Dr. David Shatz, and various family members.