Great Leaders of our People
Dr. Samuel Belkin was
born in Swislocz, Poland, and studied in the world-famous Yeshivos of
Slonim and Mir. He studied for the rabbinate and was ordained at the age
Rabbi Belkin immigrated to the United States as a young man. He enrolled
at Brown University, where he studied classics, specializing in the works
of Philo. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and received his doctorate in
1935. An elaboration of his Ph.D. thesis was published in 1940, under the
title of “Philo and the Oral Law; the Philonic Interpretation of Biblical
Law in Relation to the Palestinian Halakah.”
Shortly thereafter, he joined the staff of Yeshiva College, as an
instructor in Greek. He became a full professor in 1940, and that same
year was appointed dean of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.
In 1943, he was elected President of Yeshiva University, succeeding the
first president, Dr. Bernard Revel.
The election of Dr. Belkin as president in 1943 inaugurated a new era of
expansion. University status was granted in 1945 by the NY State Board of
Regents. The institution initiated programs of general and professional
studies, research and special projects, such as a college of liberal arts
and sciences for women, graduate schools of medicine, law, social work and
Dr. Belkin continued a tradition whereby presidents of Yeshiva University
delivered an annual “shiur,” a lecture in Talmud. This helped define the
focus of the institution, its reason for being, as the Torah.
In one of his works, “In His Image,” Dr. Belkin explains that Judaism is
fundamentally a Democratic Theocracy. A Theocracy – because Jewish thought
has always accepted as its first principle the Kingship of G-d. And a
Democracy – because the Written and the Oral Law place great emphasis on
the infinite worth of each human being.
Dr. Belkin served as President of Yeshiva University until his death in
The above graphic includes photographs that were provided by VERAfilm archives.