Saturday, December 13, 2008

A note on the passing of Rabbi Dr. Emanuel Rackman

With sadness the Lookstein Center notes the passing of the noted Jewish leader and educator, Rabbi Dr. Emanuel Rackman, whose vision shaped educational institutions in the United States and in Israel, whose shiva has ended last week. Aside from his role as a pulpit rabbi in Congregation Shaaray Tefila of Far Rockaway and at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue in New York, Rabbi Rackman served as Provost of Yeshiva University, where he also taught, and as President and Chancellor of Bar-Ilan University, which he played a role in founding.

In explaining his vision of Bar-Ilan University, he argued that the basic Jewish heritage studies that were required of all students played an important role in bridging the gap between religious and secular in Israel. "We have never attempted to create baali teshuva. Rather, Bar-Ilan has sought to develop educated alumni who will not be foreign to their heritage. At the very least, Bar-Ilan alumni are able to appreciate the wisdom of Jewish civilization".

Rabbi Rackman was one of the first rabbinic voices calling for a reevaluation of the Jewish community's attitude towards Jonathan Pollard's incarceration, and in recent years he was at the forefront of seeking ways to alleviate the pain and suffering of agunot - women "anchored" to their husbands who would not offer them a Jewish divorce - plumbing the depths of Jewish law in an attempt to find means to dissolve their marriages.

His work in the interests of furthering the position of women in the contemporary Jewish community led to the establishment of The Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women's Status - http://www.law.biu.ac.il/English/rackmanE.shtml

Among those who shared their memories of Rabbi Dr. Rackman online are:
Professor Deborah Lipstadt, Emory University

Rabbi Michael J. Broyde, Emory University

David Weinberg, who was spokesman of Bar-Ilan University and a student of Rabbi Rackman


Newspaper obituaries include:

The Jewish Week

The Jewish Star (a local paper in Long Island's Five Towns where Rabbi Rackman served as a pulpit Rabbi)

The New York Times


Yehi zikhro barukh

The Rabbi Dr. Joseph H. Lookstein Center for Jewish Education
The School of Education
Bar-Ilan University

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