Lookstein, Joseph Hyman
LOOKSTEIN, JOSEPH HYMAN
LOOKSTEIN, JOSEPH HYMAN (1902–1979), U.S. rabbi and educator. Lookstein was born in Russia and immigrated to the United States as a child. In 1923 he became assistant rabbi to Rabbi Moses S. *Margolies (known as the "Ramaz") at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City. In 1926 he married the Ramaz's granddaughter, and in 1936 he became the congregation's rabbi upon the passing of Rabbi Margolies. Lookstein would transform the pulpit into one of the most exciting and powerful voices in the entire American rabbinate.
Lookstein was ordained at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in 1926. In 1929 he helped found the Hebrew Teachers Training School for girls and served as its principal for ten years; in 1937 Lookstein founded the Ramaz School on the Upper East Side of New York and in the heart of the state's German-American community in Yorkville. The school became part of a two-pronged force to challenge and to change Modern Orthodoxy. It was dedicated to educating young American children to be committed and knowledgeable Jews, while at the same time sustaining the finest in Western democratic values. Integrating a deep and abiding sense of Zionist spirit and identification with Palestine and then the State of Israel, Rabbi Lookstein presided as principal of Ramaz for over 30 years. The school has continued to be the premiere "modern" Orthodox Jewish day school in the world.
In 1958, Lookstein became acting president and chancellor of Israel's Bar-Ilan University. Lookstein had previously taught at Yeshiva University, where he had been a professor of sociology, homiletics, and practical rabbinics since 1931. While maintaining his fierce allegiance to Orthodoxy, Lookstein also maintained deep and sincere relationships with all the religious denominations and their leaders. Throughout his career, he translated this commitment into service and leadership on interdenominational committees and organizations. He kept the Ramaz School firmly in the Orthodox camp, but equally fiercely as a modern Orthodox institution where boys and girls studied together and had well-rounded activities, including mixed dancing.
He was chairman of the Jewish Welfare Board's Chaplaincy Commission (1954–57), president of the Rabbinical Council of America (1941–43), the New York Board of Rabbis, the Synagogue Council of America (1976), and the uja Rabbinical Advisory Council (1978). Despite growing up as an Agudist, Lookstein was guided by Rabbi Margolies into actively supporting the Mizrachi movement. He served as Chairman of the Palestine Commission of the American Jewish Conference and as a consultant to the U.S. delegation to the 1945 San Francisco Conference. His philosophy of the integration of Judaism with the best of Western culture was expressed in the schools he founded and in his articles and books, which include Judaism in Theory and Practice (1931), Sources of Courage (1943), and Faith and Destiny of Man (1967). Lookstein served as rabbi with his son and successor, Rabbi Haskel *Lookstein, thus keeping the leadership of his flagship congregation within one family for more than a century.
[Louis Bernstein /
Gilbert N. Kahn (2nd ed.)]