Joseph Lookstein

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Joseph Hyman Lookstein (December 25, 1902 – July 13, 1979) was a Russian-born, American rabbi who served as spiritual leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and was a leader in Orthodox Judaism, including his service as president of the Rabbinical Council of America and of the cross-denominational Synagogue Council of America and New York Board of Rabbis.

Lookstein was born in 1902 in Mogilev, Belarus, then in the Russian Empire, and after emigrating to the United States, attended City College of New York and did graduate work at Columbia University. He received his Jewish education at Rabbi Jacob Joseph School and received his rabbinic ordination in 1926 from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University. He had already served as an assistant for three years at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, assisting his grandfather-in-law Rabbi Moses S. Margolies, and continued in that role after receiving his ordination, assuming the title of senior rabbi after Margolies's death in 1936.[1]

In 1930, he established the Hebrew Teachers Training School for Girls, now part of Yeshiva University, and served as its principal for ten years. Shortly after the establishment of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, Rabbi Lookstein became the institution's acting president for nine years, before being named as the school's chancellor in 1966. During his tenure, the school grew from a single building with 40 students into a school with an enrollment of thousands.[1]

He was elected as head of the Synagogue Council of America in 1979, was a past president of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Board of Rabbis.[1]

He founded the Ramaz School in 1937, which was named in honor of his grandfather-in-law. Lookstein's son, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, was a member of the school's inaugural first grade class.[2] By the time of his death, the school had an enrollment of 800 students.[1]

He died at age 76 on July 13, 1979 at Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami Beach, Florida.[1] His son, Haskel Lookstein, had served as the Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Kehillath Jeshurun starting in 1958, and assumed the title of Senior Rabbi upon his father's death.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e Saxon, Wolfgang. 'Joseph H. Lookstein Dead at 76; A Rabbi and Orthodox Educator; Responsibilities Increased", The New York Times, July 15, 1979. Accessed January 21, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Mark, Jonathan. "Rabbi Lookstein Remembers It Well", The Jewish Week, June 11, 2008. Accessed October 15, 2015.