Revel, Bernard

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REVEL, BERNARD (18851940), a rabbinic scholar, was the organizer of American Jewish Orthodoxy. Born in Pren, a suburb of Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania, where his father was the community rabbi, Revel later studied in the Telz yeshivah and was ordained in Kaunas at the age of sixteen. Immigrating to the United States in 1906, Revel received his master of arts degree from New York University in 1909; three years later he completed a Ph.D. at Dropsie College with a thesis entitled "The Karaite Halakhah and Its Relation to Sadducean, Samaritan, and Philonian Halakhah."

Revel first worked in the Oklahoma-based petroleum company of his wife's family, but in 1915 he accepted the presidency of New York's newly merged Yeshivat Etz Chaim and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Under its auspices, Revel then opened the Talmudical Academy, the first such yeshivah high school in the United States. He also reorganized the rabbinical school, and in 1928, he continued his expansion program with the opening of Yeshiva College, later Yeshiva University (1945).

Revel guided the schools in the spirit of modern Orthodoxy, attempting to perpetuate the traditional Torah way of life within the context of American society. Yeshiva College, in particular, marked the first effort to provide traditional Talmudic study and liberal arts training under the same auspices. Despite the vigorous opposition of some rabbinical leaders, who feared for the primacy of Torah study in such an institution, Revel forged ahead and in 1937 opened a graduate department in advanced Jewish and cognate studies. In 1941 this school was renamed the Bernard Revel Graduate School in his memory.

Revel was a presidium member of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada from 1924 (later honorary president) and vice-president of the Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences from 1927. He was an associate editor of the Otsar Yisraʾel encyclopedia (vol. 9, 1913), and his doctoral dissertation was published by Dropsie College (1913). Despite the demands made upon his time by his manifold Yeshiva responsibilities, Revel continued his doctoral research with monographs and studies about deviant halakhah systems. He also produced articles of rabbinic scholarship and wrote halakhic responsa. His writings were published mainly in the Jewish Quarterly Review, Yagdil Torah, Ha-Pardes, and various Yeshiva student publications.


Hoenig, Sidney B. Rabbinics and Research: The Scholarship of Dr. Bernard Revel. New York, 1968.

Poupko, Bernard A., ed. Eidenu: Memorial Publication in Honor of Rabbi Dr. Bernard Revel (in Hebrew). New York, 1942.

Rakeffet-Rothkoff, Aaron. Bernard Revel: Builder of American Jewish Orthodoxy. 2d ed. Jerusalem, 1981.

New Sources

Gurock, Jeffrey S. "An Orthodox Conspiracy Theory: The Travis Family, Bernard Revel, and the Jewish Theological Seminary." Modern Judaism 19 (1999): 241253.

Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff (1987)

Revised Bibliography