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He was the third President of Yeshiva University (YU), and the first to be born in the USA. He also holds a Ph.D. in Jewish philosophy. He is a disciple of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik (Modern Orthodoxy's most influential scholar), who ordained him as a Rabbi at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS, the YU rabbinical school) in 1951.
In his youth, Lamm attended the Haredi yeshiva Torah Vodaath in Brooklyn. At Yeshiva College (YC, the forerunner of YU) he obtained a degree in Science in 1949, at which he excelled. He also attended a secular postgraduate college, the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. He considered a career in science, but was persuaded by Rabbi Dr. Samuel Belkin , the second President of Yeshiva University (successor of Rabbi Dr. Bernard Revell ), to join the faculty at YU.
Obtaining his Ph.D. in 1966, his rise was rapid, and from an early stage he was groomed for a leadership role, given his intellectual, oratorical, and organizational skills, as well as his unswerving loyalty to his alma mater at YU. When he took over the institution he saved it from looming bankruptcy and raised its endowments to record levels.
Dr. Lamm is a well known voice of "Centrist Orthodoxy" (which is used interchangeably with Modern Orthodoxy) regarding itself as the "center" between the "left wing" branches of Judaism, such as Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism, and the movements of the "right wing" such as Haredi Judaism. His bother, Rabbi Maurice Lamm is also a well known rabbi, writer and organizer.
Torah Umadda and Zionism
Dr. Lamm is a major proponent of the idea of "Torah Umadda" - "Torah and science" - a philosophical paradigm which aims at "synthesizing" Torah learning and secular knowledge. The underlying philosophy can be traced back to the Talmud and is inspired by the work of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in the mid 19th century in response to the enlightenment. Torah Umadda and Hirsch's Torah im Derech Eretz are to a large extent complementary - both value the acquisition of secular knowledge and both demand adherence to halakha. Lamm's admirers in the Modern Orthodox camp strongly favor his views, whereas those on the "right" see it as a dilution of the "pure sanctity" (taharat hakodesh) of Torah. One of the contentious issues is the "encroachment" of scientific viewpoints on concepts of Jewish theology.
Dr. Lamm recently stepped down as President in 2003, and was succeeded by Richard Joel as the fourth YU President, also a graduate of Yeshiva University and the first layman to hold the office. He is a former attorney who also led the Bnai Brith's international Hillel student organization. Richard Joel had previously been associate dean and professor at YU's Cardozo Law School and was an assistant district attorney in New York City.
Dr. Lamm was given the active position of Chancellor of YU  after 27 years as President. He still maintains his title as Rosh HaYeshiva ("head of the yeshiva") of YU's rabbinical school - RIETS . He was installed in the new position created for him as Chancellor of Yeshiva University in June of 2003. He continues to play a role in the affairs of the institution over which he presided for a quarter century.
Dr. Lamm has always been a lightning-rod for praise but also criticism, the criticism mainly stemming from his handling of controversial issues facing the Jewish community, such as co-operating with the non-Orthodox branches regarding conversions (giur) of gentile spouses to Judaism. He was also a controversial figure within the university, with a group a senior rabbis and rabbinical students breaking away from the Yeshiva in 1999, in a dispute with Lamm. He has writen a number of books including perhaps his most controversial, Torah U'Maddah, which was subject to extensive critique when published.
- Yeshiva University official website
- Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary official website
- Rabbi Lamm and controversy over gays at YU schools (1995)
- Rabbi Lamm's Eulogy for Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin (1995)
- Response of a supporter to a public criticism by the Haredi leader Rabbi Elya Svei
- Interview with President Norman Lamm (1999)
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