Lookstein, Haskel

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LOOKSTEIN, HASKEL (1932– ), U.S. rabbi, educator, and activist. Lookstein served in rabbinical capacities at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City immediately following his ordination from Yeshiva University in 1958. He served initially as an assistant under his father Rabbi Joseph H. *Lookstein. He was the third member of his family to lead this congregation, following his maternal great-grandfather Rabbi Moses S. *Margolies (the Ramaz) and his father. Commonly referred to as kj, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun grew under his leadership to a membership of over one thousand families.

In 1966, Lookstein also succeeded his father as the principal of Ramaz School, an Orthodox Jewish day school. Following the tradition established by his father and fostered by his own rebbe, Rabbi Joseph B. Solevitchik, Lookstein maintained Ramaz School as a leader in Jewish education, with a co-educational curriculum in which class offerings for over 1,100 young girls and boys were totally equal. In addition, under his leadership the Ramaz School sustained a student body that achieved the highest level of general education, combined and infused with both the education and the enthusiasm of a vibrant religious Zionist commitment. All of this Lookstein fostered while insisting that the students synthesize their studies and academic achievements with an unflinching commitment to menschlichkeit.

Lookstein was one of the most vigorous supporters and leaders of religious Zionism in America. He worked to encourage travel to Israel, Jewish education in Israel, aliyah, investment, and support for the Government of Israel – regardless of what the political leadership might be at any particular time.

Lookstein was one of the leading, early voices fighting and speaking out on behalf of the plight of Soviet Jewry. He traveled frequently to meet with Soviet refuseniks and encouraged his congregants and students to do so as well. He marched, demonstrated, was arrested, and spoke out on behalf of Russian Jews. By example and through persuasion, in this initiative as well as on behalf of Operation Moses, uja, and Israel Bonds, Lookstein moved his community and the school to take a prominent role financially on behalf of the needs of the Jewish people.

Lookstein was a leading voice in the American Orthodox community to maintaining relations with all the other Jewish denominations. He was president of the Synagogue Council of America; served as vice president of the Beth Din of America and as a member of the board of directors of the jdc Board; and was a head of the national uja Rabbinic Cabinet.

Lookstein graduated from Ramaz School, received his B.A. from Columbia College in 1953, his rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University in 1958, and his Ph.D. in Modern Jewish History from Yeshiva in 1979. Lookstein was named the Joseph H. Lookstein Professor of Homiletics at Yeshiva University. His dissertation, "Were We Our Brothers' Keepers? The Public Response of American Jews to the Holocaust 1938–1944," appeared in 1985, and he published extensively in the U.S. and throughout the world.

[Gilbert N. Kahn (2nd ed.)]

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