Yeshiva University Mourns the Passing of Rabbi Dr. Aaron Levine

The University is saddened by the loss of Rabbi Dr. Aaron Levine, Samson and Halina Bitensky Professor of Economics at Yeshiva College, who passed away on April 20. A noted authority on Jewish commercial law, Rabbi Levine’s research specialty was the interface between economics and halakha [Jewish law], especially as it relates to public policy and modern business practices.

Aaron LevinElected to Phi Beta Kappa at Brooklyn College, Rabbi Levine received his MA and PhD from New York University. He was ordained in Jewish ritual and civil law at the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School. Rabbi Levine was widely published on the topic of Judaism and economics.

“Rabbi Dr. Aaron Levine, devoted much of his intellectual career in creating an academic discipline which brings the long tradition of Jewish law and thought  to bear on the field of economics—its theory, business practice and ethical problems,” said Barry Eichler, dean of Yeshiva College and professor of Bible and Cuneiform studies. “Students of Jewish law and ethics have always delighted in the knowledge and wisdom gained from reading his many monographs on this subject. More recently Rabbi Levine’s work has gained the attention of a wider audience of economists and ethicists. Such recognition is reflected in Oxford  University Press’ publication of  Dr. Levine’s The Oxford Handbook of Judaism and Economics (2010), which has been acclaimed by such eminent  professors as Robert Aumann (Hebrew University), co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic for 2005, Benjamin Freidman (Harvard University), and Dennis Carlton (University of Chicago).

“When we spoke this fall, he quietly mentioned in his characteristically modest and unassuming way, that the Oxford Press had encouraged him to create an entire series devoted to studies in Economics and Jewish law.  His untimely passing is a tragic loss to us at Yeshiva  College and to the entire academic community at large.”

Rabbi Levine’s books include Free Enterprise and Jewish Law (1980), Economics and Jewish Law (1987), Economic Public Policy and Jewish Law (1993), Case Studies in Jewish Business Ethics (2000) and Moral Issues of the Marketplace in Jewish Law (2005). He served as associate editor of Tradition, was a member of the advisory council for the International Center for Jewish Business Ethics and a fellow at the World Jewish Academy of Science.

“Dr. Levine was a dedicated scholar and teacher, and a fine human being,” said James Kahn, the Henry and Bertha Kressel Professor of Economics at YU. “Right up to the end he continued to teach and to write despite his illness. He was extremely gracious and helpful to me when I came in 2009 and took over the department that he had so capably run for decades. We will miss his presence and strong voice in the economics department.”

Rabbi Levine, longtime rabbi of Young Israel of Avenue J in Brooklyn, NY, was also active in the area of conflict resolution and served as an ad hoc rabbinical judge and arbitrator in the bet din of the Rabbinical Council of America.

“Rabbi Levine was a prodigious Torah scholar, a gentle and humble person, and a quintessential Torah Umadda personality,” said Rabbi Yona Reiss, the Max and Marion Grill Dean of YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). “As an economics professor and a dayan [judge], he masterfully demonstrated how Torah principles relate to contemporary economic issues and provided a framework for ethical behavior in business situations. Rabbi Levine was also an embodiment of the Torah values that he taught and was a deeply beloved figure at Yeshiva.”

We ask students and colleagues to share their condolences in the comments section below.