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Samuel Belkin Dead at 64

April 20, 1976
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A funeral service will be held tomorrow for Dr. Samuel Belkin, chancellor of Yeshiva University, distinguished authority on Jewish law and Hellenistic literature, who died yesterday at the age of 64. He had been ill for several months.

Elected president of the institution in 1943 when he was not yet 32 years old, he transformed a small college into one of the nation’s major universities, the first in America under Jewish auspices. During his pioneering administration, university status was attained, the only liberal arts college for women under Jewish sponsorship was established, and graduate schools in medicine social work, law, science and the humanities and social sciences came into being.

Under Dr. Belkin’s leadership, enrollment grew from 950 to 7000; the full-time faculty from 94 to 1500; the number of schools and affiliates from four to 15; the annual operating budget from $444,000 to more than $100,000,000; research grants totaling some $25,000,000; degree recipients from a few hundred to more than 16,000; and physical facilities from one building in Manhattan’s Washington Heights to four major campuses in Manhattan and the Bronx valued at more than $100,000,000.


Born in Swisliez, Poland, Dr. Belkin studied at the yeshivas of Mir and Radun and was ordained a rabbi at Radun when he was 17 years old. Arriving in the U.S. in 1929 when he was 18, he could speak Polish, Yiddish and Hebrew–but no English. Determined, however, to continue his studies, he mastered English, and in 1934 enrolled at Harvard. A year later he was awarded an honorary fellowship to Brown where in 1935 he earned the Ph.D. degree and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

In the fall of that year he was appointed an instructor in Greek at Yeshiva College (the men’s undergraduate college of liberal arts and sciences of Yeshiva University). The next year he also became an instructor in Talmud at the Rabbi Isaac Eichanan Theological Seminary, an affiliate of the university. Rising swiftly through the academic ranks, he was named secretary of the faculty at the newly organized Graduate School (now Bernard Revel Graduate School) in 1937.

In 1939, Dr. Belkin was appointed a member of the Executive Committee of Yeshiva College. He was named a full professor in 1940. With the death that year of Dr. Bernard Revel, founder and first president of Yeshiva College and head of the Rabbi Isaac Eichanan Theological Seminary. Dr. Belkin was named dean of the Seminary.

On May 25, 1943, Dr. Belkin was elected president. He immediately began a broad academic and physical expansion program whose first result was the granting of university status to Yeshiva by the New York State Board of Regents in November. 1945. Last year Dr. Belkin was named Chancellor of Yeshiva University, retiring after 32 years as president of the institution, believed to be the longest continuous term of office among major university presidents in the nation.


A prolific writer, his works included, “Philo and Oral Law,” “Essays in Traditional Jewish Thought,” “The Alexandrian Halacha in Apologetic Literature,” “The Midrash Tadshe and its Hellenistic Sources,” and “Questions and Answers in Genesis and Exodus.”

Dr. Belkin was a member of numerous civic, educational, scholarly and communal organizations, including the World Academy in Jerusalem. American Friends of Hebrew University, American Academy for Jewish Research, National Jewish Welfare Board, American Association for Jewish Education. American Jewish Historical Society. Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, Rabbinical Council of America and the Religious Zionists of America. He was also accorded many honors and tributes and was singled out on many occasions by groups representing all denominations for his outstanding contributions to American life.

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