Great Leaders of our People
Dr. Bernard Revel was
the first president of Yeshiva University. He was born in Kovno,
Lithuania, and was recognized at age six as an “ilui,” a Torah genius. He
immigrated to the United States at age twenty one, to an America where it
was extremely difficult for an Orthodox Jew to maintain his spiritual
identity and make a living. Shabbos first, then Kashrus observance and
Jewish Education went by the wayside. As a result, many Orthodox Jews left
He enrolled in the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, one of the
predecessors of Yeshiva University. He also attended Dropsie College in
Philadelphia, and received the first PhD that they awarded.
He felt that for Judaism to succeed in America, there needed to be an
institution that would combine classical Jewish Talmudical Studies with
modern studies in all secular disciplines.
Yeshiva University traces its origins to Yeshivas Eitz Chaim, founded in
1886 on New York’s Lower East Side. In 1896, the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan
Theological Seminary was also founded there. With the merger of those two
schools in 1915, Yeshiva University was born, and Dr. Bernard Revel was
elected as its first president.
Under the leadership of Dr. Revel, who was president from 1915 till his
death in 1940, the university embarked on a plan of educational
development and growth. In 1929, the institution moved to a magnificent
campus in upper Manhattan’s Washington Heights. Liberal arts programs
began with the establishment of Yeshiva College in 1928, and the first
graduate curriculum (in Jewish studies) was introduced in 1935.
Dr. Revel adopted the theme of “Torah U’Mada,” Torah and secular
knowledge, as the guiding philosophy of the institution that would to a
large extent define Modern Orthodoxy in the United States and in the
In honor of its first president, Yeshiva University named its graduate
school of Advanced Jewish Studies the Bernard Revel Graduate School.
The above graphic includes photographs that were provided by VERAfilm archives.