In Memoriam: Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm zt”l

  • Yeshiva Staff
by Aryeh Halivni (Eric Weisberg) '93
Executive Director
Toldot Yisrael
Shortly after I founded Toldot Yisrael, I heard that Rabbi Lamm had helped make bullets for the nascent State of Israel while he was a Yeshiva College student in the 1940’s. In September 2008, I approached him about the story, which he confirmed, and graciously agreed to be interviewed for Toldot Yisrael, calling the project “an important way to memorialize a significant event or series of events in Jewish History.” At that point, Toldot Yisrael had interviewed all of 20 people; having a recognizable figure like the President of Yeshiva University participate in the project went a long way toward building our credibility. 

The full interview was short—only 24 minutes—but touched on many topics. Rabbi Lamm recalled his first exposure to modern Israel (a movie he saw in elementary school with the renowned Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt singing on a boat); his father’s sober concerns about Hitler coming to America; and the dramatic account about how he designed bullets for Israel in a clandestine laboratory in upstate NY.

Rabbi Lamm was an exemplary and articulate exponent of Modern Orthodoxy, the only person to receive both rabbinic ordination and his Ph.D from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. A masterful orator and gifted author, his sermons and books left a lasting impression on me. While his efforts on behalf of Israel in 1948 are seemingly a footnote to his remarkable persona, Rabbi Lamm called this contribution, "one of the highlights of my life”.

The full interview with Rabbi Lamm is available here.
A three minute short film about the bullet factory can be seen here.

I am grateful I had the privilege to record and share his story. May his memory be for a blessing.