Norman Lamm Leaves Outsized Legacy in Modern Orthodoxy — And a Cloud

Retiring Giant of Faith Mishandled Yeshiva Sex Abuse Scandal

yeshiva university

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published July 03, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The mood at the national convention of Modern Orthodox rabbis was somber on the day that Yeshiva University Chancellor Norman Lamm announced his retirement.

Lamm, 85, attended the convention, walking with a cane and looking frail. On July 1, the day his retirement letter was made public, the revered elder statesman of Y.U. sat in the audience as rabbi after rabbi acknowledged his leadership.

“It’s a dramatic and tough moment for him and for us,” said Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, which hosted the conference. “Everyone who has gotten up to speak today has spoken about the impact he had on their lives.”

Click to see the rest of the section, Click for more stories about abuse at Y.U.

The day was bittersweet for Lamm’s former students and colleagues, coming amid rising furor over Y.U.’s handling of allegations of sexual abuse against students at the Yeshiva University High School for Boys in the 1970s, ’80s and early ‘90s. In his letter announcing his retirement, Lamm apologized for failing to alert police of sex abuse allegations brought before him when he was president of the university.

While news of Lamm’s apology dominated the media coverage of his retirement, Lamm’s admirers preferred to focus on his decades as Y.U.’s guide and protector. Goldin said of the alleged sex abuse cover-up that he “would hate to see this as the defining feature of his legacy. Here is a man who has contributed tremendously to the Modern Orthodox community and the Jewish world at large…. That should be the overwhelming aspect of what we think about as he departs.”

Lamm was a pulpit rabbi in New York City when he was selected to replace Rabbi Samuel Belkin as president of Yeshiva University in 1976. Like most Modern Orthodox rabbis of his generation, Lamm had received his ordination at Y.U.’s rabbinical school under the tutelage of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, known as the Rav, the key intellectual figure of Modern Orthodox Judaism.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.