Dr. Norman Lamm, a distinguished rabbi, philosopher, teacher, and author, was elected president of Yeshiva University in August of 1976, succeeding Dr. Samuel Belkin and Dr. Bernard Revel. He is the University ' s third president and the first native-born American to head the nation ' s oldest and most comprehensive institution of higher learning under Jewish auspices.*
Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1927, Dr. Lamm received his elementary and high school education at Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah Vodaath. In 1945, he entered Yeshiva College 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.
Upon graduation, Dr. Lamm pursued advanced scientific studies at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn while continuing his Judaic studies and rabbinic scholarship at Yeshiva. He was ordained as a rabbi by YU ' s affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in 1951, and earned a Ph.D. in Jewish philosophy from the University ' s Bernard Revel Graduate School in 1966.
During the 17 years preceding his election as president, Dr. Lamm served on the Yeshiva University faculty, culminating in his appointment as the Erna and Jakob Michael Professor of Jewish Philosophy in 1966. He has also been spiritual leader of The Jewish Center in Manhattan, rabbi of Congregation Kodimoh in Springfield, MA, and assistant rabbi at New York City's Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun.
Dr. Lamm, author of ten books, has gained wide recognition for his writings and discourses on interpretation of Jewish philosophy and law, especially in relation to problems involving science, technology, and philosophy in the modern world. His major work, Torah Lishmah , published in Hebrew in 1972 and updated and translated into English in 1989, deals with the religious philosophy of Hasidism and their opponents, the Mitnaggedim, in eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe. Torah Umadda , published in 1990, explores the University's cornerstone: the integration of Torah learning and secular knowledge. The same year, his book in Hebrew Halakhot ve'Halikhot (Jewish Law and the Legacy of Judaism: Essays and Inquiries in Jewish Law) was published.
In 1998 he published his ninth book, The Shema , in which he explores the relationship between spirituality and law in Judaism drawing on a wide range of traditional sources as well as his own reflections on the Torah's ringing declaration of monotheism.
His latest book, The Religious Thought of Hasidism: Text and Commentary , presents a selection of the writings of the masters of the early Hasidic movement, and charts their central ideas in their ideational context. This volume won the coveted 1999 National Jewish Book Award in Jewish Thought.
Other works by Dr. Lamm include: The Royal Reach: Discourses on the Jewish Tradition and the World Today (1970), Faith and Doubt (1971), A Hedge of Roses: Jewish Insights into Marriage and Married Life (1966), and The Good Society: Jewish Ethics in Action (1974). He has also edited or co-edited over twenty volumes, including The Library of Jewish Law and Ethics , and written a great number of articles that have appeared in magazines, journals, and the Encyclopedia Judaica Yearbook . He was the founder and the first editor of Tradition and associate editor of Hadarom , a journal of Jewish Law, and founder of The Torah Umadda Journal .
Dr. Lamm ' s writings and teaching on Jewish Law have been cited in two landmark decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court -- the 1966 " Miranda decision" regarding police interrogation of suspects held in custody and a 1967 case involving guarantees against self-incrimination. Also in 1967, Dr, Lamm testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee on the right of privacy from the perspective of Jewish law.
Over the years, Dr. Lamm has lectured extensively in the United States and in nearly a dozen other countries on five continents. In 1986, on the occasion of the University's Centennial, he delivered an historic address to 1,000 YU alumni in Israel in which he condemned religious extremism and called for moderation. Sadly, he was forced to revisit these and related themes a decade later in remarks both preceding and following the tragic assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a religious Jew.
In December 2000, Dr. Lamm was awarded the 12th Jerusalem Prize for Communal and Spiritual Leadership. He was cited for his advancement of Torah Umadda and groundbreaking guidance of generations of Orthodox Jewry in America.
Within University circles and beyond, Dr. Lamm is credited with saving the institution from bankruptcy in 1980 by adopting a sweeping debt-restructuring plan. He then launched a successful campaign to repay some $35 million in loans in 1982. He has since presided over a development effort that has increased YU's endowment from $25 million in 1986 to $930 million in 2002. Under Dr. Lamm ' s leadership, enrollment has increased and academic programs have been upgraded, reinvigorated, and expanded. He also founded two Honors programs, one at Yeshiva College and one at Stern College for Women.
Dr. Lamm is married to the former Mindella Mehler. They have four children and seventeen grandchildren. Dr. and Mrs. Lamm reside on Manhattan's West Side.
Yeshiva University traces its origins to Yeshiva Eitz Chaim, which was founded in 1886 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), which was founded nearby in 1896. The two institutions merged in 1915 and created a liberal arts college in 1928. Yeshiva attained university status in 1945, and RIETS became an affiliate of the University in 1970. Together, they enroll approximately 6,400 men and women.