YU Launches Redesigned Lamm Heritage Archives
With the new cycle of Torah Reading following Simchat Torah, Yeshiva University launched a redesigned platform on its website for an archive of over 800 speeches given by President Emeritus and former Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, who passed away this past May at the age of 92.
While there already had been a previously archived set of sermons and speeches given by Rabbi Lamm titled “Derashot SheDarashti,” digitally published several years ago by Pearl Berger, a former dean of YU Libraries, the redesigned website “now features all the sermons in the collection neatly organized by subject matter and date,” according to Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky, director of the Lamm Heritage Archives.
Additionally, Rabbi Dr. Stu Halpern, senior advisor to the provost at YU and editor of many of Rabbi Lamm's books, including the Derashot Ledorot series, was instrumental in helping to launch and shepherd the project. Both Rabbis Sinensky and Halpern are married to granddaughters of Rabbi Lamm.
According to Rabbi Sinensky, the site saw 1,300 subscribers in the first 48 hours, and over 10,000 views on social media, exhibiting the “clear impact” of Rabbi Lamm. Additionally, he remarked, “many educators and rabbis are sharing this resource with their communities, revitalizating Rabbi Lamm’s works and creating a new generation of readers.”
“It was in the back of people’s minds for a while that putting it up on that website was overwhelming and over 10 years ago with OCR [optical character recognition], and at the time there were no aesthetics to match the effort made by the library,” explained Rabbi Sinensky. “After Rabbi Lamm’s passing, both the library and the family had in the back of their minds to give this project new life.”
The sermons are categorized on the homepage by “Parsha,” “Holidays” and “Eulogies, Tributes and Special Addresses,” which contain a list of speeches categorized by each occasion in chronological order. Each homily is a PDF of either a typed-up or handwritten speech of Rabbi Lamm, and ranges from 1951 to 2004, between his time as rabbi at Congregation Kadima in Springfield, Mass. to his tenure as chancellor at YU, and including his time as rabbi of the Jewish Center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan as well as his presidency at YU.
The first two categories are mainly from Rabbi Lamm’s time in the pulpit, and the third category is from his tenure at YU, encapsulating the roles he played in each position.
In the old archives, some of the sermons were untitled, so to provide greater ease for the reader and give a sense of the topic of the speech, any derasha lacking a title was given a title with Rabbi Lamm’s own language from the talk so it could be historically accurate, and it says “Editor’s Title,” giving people context of what the title is.
Additionally, each week, an email is sent out featuring several of Rabbi Lamm’s homilies on the weekly parsha and holidays, as well as addresses that “speak across the decades to the challenges confronting us today.” The weekly email series is called “Timeless Torah,” according to Rabbi Sinensky, because “not only is the content of extraordinary value, but it remains timeless despite the change of era. The resonance of the sermons to this day is uncanny, and this enables people to experience or relive the eternal relevance of Rabbi Lamm’s words.”
Rabbi Sinensky noted “three categories of additional materials that may be added to the archives in the future,” namely, “audio files, both newly uncovered ones as well as formerly private library archives,” videos that have been digitized and are waiting to be publicized and unpublished manuscripts. “To see the exact words being said has no comparison,” said Rabbi Sinensky, referring to the digitized videos, “like Rav Soloveitchik, seeing Rabbi Lamm’s speaking the words off the paper is a completely different experience.”
The manuscripts include unpublished correspondences involving Rabbi Lamm that may ultimately be made available to the public. “Rabbi Lamm was not a person who needed much sleep, and in the time in the pulpit and presidency, he was able to maintain correspondences, many of which are in the YU library and are very important material,” Rabbi Sinensky told The Commentator. “It is a treasure trove of material, not only for the YU community, but for someone who wants to learn more about Rabbi Lamm, YU, the Upper West Side, or even Modern Orthodoxy in America.”“This entire project is a tremendous tribute to Rabbi Lamm, who not only delivered outstanding and pristine derashot.” Rabbi Sinensky added. “When Rabbi Lamm was in the pulpit, he would type up his derashot every Motzaei Shabbos, and he would say that a rabbi gives three derashot every week: the derasha they plan to give, the one they gave, and the one they should have given. Rabbi Lamm was assiduous in creating an extensive filing system, making sure these materials were available for future generations.”
Photo Caption: YU has launched a redesigned website for over 800 speeches given by former President Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm.
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University