The Rabbinical Alliance of America — Igud HaRabbonim, representing over 950 American Orthodox Rabbis — joins Klal Yisrael in mourning the passing of HaRav Dr. Nachum (Norman) Lamm, Chancellor of Yeshiva University and Rosh HaYeshiva of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, Yeshiva University’s affiliated rabbinical school.
Rabbi Dr. Lamm was a master orator whose sermons and lectures enchanted audiences, challenging them to rise to greater heights in religious commitment. He was a fierce advocate for Orthodox Judaism in a time when it was under siege by secularizing and liberalizing forces. Through his efforts, thousands of people learn Torah and observe Shabbat in America, Israel, and around the world. As the author of over a dozen books and commentaries, his scholarship and insights continue to educate and inspire students of Torah.
In his youth, Rabbi Dr. Lamm attended Mesivta Torah Vodaath in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. At Yeshiva College, the men’s undergraduate school of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Dr. Lamm obtained a chemistry degree in 1949, at which he excelled. Rabbi Dr. Lamm was the secular studies valedictorian of his Yeshiva College class. Rabbi Dr. Lamm also attended a secular postgraduate college, the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. Upon his graduation, Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm was considering a career in science, but was persuaded by HaRav Dr. Shmuel (Samuel) Belkin, ZT’L the second President of Yeshiva University, to join the faculty at Yeshiva University. Rabbi Dr. Lamm was a devoted student and confidante of HaGaon HaRav Yosef Dov (Joseph Ber) Soloveitchik, ZT’L who conferred rabbinic ordination on him at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in 1951.
Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm’s maternal grandfather was HaGaon HaRav Yehoshua Baumol ZT’L (1880–1948) who authored the Responsa Emek Halakha. In that work, HaRav Baumol cited several insights from his young grandson, and even included responsa addressed to him.
Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm spent almost a quarter of a century as a pulpit rabbi. Rabbi Dr. Lamm was appointed rabbi of the West Side Jewish Center (Congregation Beth Israel) in 1952, became assistant rabbi at the Jewish Center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 1958, then rabbi of the Jewish Center from 1959 to 1976. During his career as a pulpit rabbi, Rabbi Dr. Lamm inspired thousands with his passionate sermons, using his ample talents as a brilliant scholar and a charismatic speaker to generate excitement for an often embattled Orthodox Judaism.
Rabbi Dr. Lamm was elected President of Yeshiva University in 1976, after which he saved it from looming bankruptcy and raised its endowments as well as its academic rating. Throughout his tenure, Rabbi Dr. Lamm strengthened the financial and academic stature of the school. As Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Dr. Lamm was responsible for the education and training of thousands of rabbis and lay Torah scholars. Even after his retirement in 2003, Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm remained intimately involved with the educational institution in his positions of Chancellor and Rosh HaYeshiva.
Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America stated, “The Jewish world lost a pillar and a leader. As President of Yeshiva University and Rosh HaYeshiva of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm helped elevate spirituality in America and save American Judaism. Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm was part of the devoted group of post-war educators who worked tirelessly to ensure that Orthodox Judaism thrived in a world that in many ways was hostile to religion in general and Judaism in particular. The Jewish world has lost a dedicated advocate. As a community, we owe Rabbi Dr. Lamm a debt of gratitude that we will always appreciate and be thankful for.”
Rabbi Moish Schmerler, director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, a graduate of Yeshiva University and of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary stated, “My years learning in Yeshiva were enhanced by the presence of Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, ZT’L. I was privileged as a yeshiva student to benefit from the great yeshiva and university that Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm saved from bankruptcy nearly a half a century ago. This relationship is personal to me. Rabbi Dr. Lamm saved the yeshiva where my wife’s father, HaRav Shmuel Borenstein, ZT’L, served as a Rosh Mesivta at MTA-YUHB, and my wife’s grandfather, HaRav Noach Borenstein, ZT’L, served as a Rosh Yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Interacting with Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm helped me develop personally, and has had a profound impact on me for the better.”
Rabbi Yaakov Klass, presidium chairman of the Rabbinical Alliance of America stated, “Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm’s accomplishments for Torah and Judaism were remarkable. Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm was from the post-World War Two generation of American rabbis that fought to preserve and make Orthodox Jewry attractive after the destruction of the Holocaust. Rabbi Dr. Lamm contributed a lot to the development of a proud American Orthodoxy. However, for me personally, Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm will always be remembered as a Talmid Chacham of the highest caliber who cared deeply about learning. It was that passion for Torah that drove his ability to accomplish and achieve much for the American Orthodox Jewish community.”
May Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, ZT’L serve as a heavenly advocate, a Meilitz Yosher, for his family, the Jewish community and the entire world. May his memory be a blessing.