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School of Social Work Pays Tribute to Faculty Member’s 47-Year Career

In 1958, newly-ordained Rabbi Norman Linzer decided to do something different with the semicha he had just received from Yeshiva University-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS).

Rather than lead a congregation, Linzer wanted to pursue a career in Jewish communal work. So he turned to YU’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, which had opened its doors the year before, to pursue a degree that would equip him with all the right tools to accomplish his dream.

Linzer has been there ever since.

On June 12, Wurzweiler held a tribute event to celebrate Linzer’s 47 years at the school before his retirement this summer from his current position as Samuel J. and Jean Sable Professor of Jewish Family Social Work. Attended by his students, colleagues and mentors, the event reflected on Linzer’s journey from student to professor, and the many lives he touched along the way.

“An international leader, scholar and colleague extraordinaire, Dr. Linzer’s passion is teaching and he loves to teach and be taught by inquisitive minds,” said Dr. Carmen Ortiz Hendricks, Wurzweiler’s Dorothy and David I. Schachne Dean. “We can’t thank Dr. Linzer enough for his contributions to Wurzweiler and all his efforts toward making us a nationally and internationally renowned school of social work.”

A 1955 graduate of Yeshiva College and 1958 graduate of RIETS, Linzer received his master of social work from Wurzweiler in 1960 before joining its faculty as assistant professor in 1966. He earned two additional degrees—a master’s from the New School for Social Research in 1972 and a PhD there in 1974—and published five books, one of which, The Nature of Man in Judaism and Social Work (Commission on Synagogue Relations, Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, 1978), remains a foundational text in Jewish Social Philanthropy, a required course for all Wurzweiler students designed by Linzer.

Linzer served as acting dean of Wurzweiler from 1989-90 and has held his current title since 1991.

“By his values, by his manner, by his interest in others, by his concern and his loveand by his self-effacing strength, Dr. Norman Linzer has been an absolute poster child for what Yeshiva University is, what it aspires to be and for what it says to the world,” said YU President Richard M. Joel in his remarks at the event. “The work he has done, both in teaching and in his profession, and in the realest and most tangible of ways, is the very manifestation and translation of Torah Umadda, the philosophical underpinning of this great institution.”

Dr. Morton Teicher, Wurzweiler’s founding dean, delivered the evening’s key tribute, recalling how Linzer had excelled as a student in the school’s inaugural class. “He was one of the best students, and when we appointed him to the faculty in 1966 he proved an excellent faculty member and a fine colleague,” Teicher said. “He was always considered a very valuable asset to the school, as evidenced by his steady promotions until he reached a full professorship and named chair.”

“Norman Linzer was the first professor I met when I began my master’s program at Wurzweiler and I knew on the very first day that he would have an enormous influence on my life,” said Dr. Lynn Levy, an assistant professor at Wurzweiler, in a tribute video titled, “Norman Linzer, Full Circle: Celebrating a Career of Accomplishment and Distinction,” which was screened at the event. “As a teacher, he has the ability to inspire, and as a friend, he has the capacity for enormous empathy, kindness and a generosity of spirit that is incomparable.”

Dr. Saul Andron, Hausman Chair in Communal Work and associate professor, has been Linzer’s colleague at Wurzweiler for seven years. “Norman has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to values-driven social work education and ethical professional practice,” he said. “He’s been a trusted mentor, adviser and supporter as I took on the role of director of the Certificate in Jewish Communal Service, a program Norman started over 20 years ago. He has left an indelible and lasting mark on Wurzweiler.”

Rabbi Noach Schwartz, a 2005 graduate, remembered how Linzer had helped him complete his studies at Wurzweiler and obtain his license. “Right now I have a practice in Brooklyn and I work with exactly the people you dreamed of,” he told Linzer in the video. “Your dream became a reality.”

To make sure the dream continues, Wurzweiler has established a scholarship in Linzer’s honor, the Diane and Norman Linzer Endowed Scholarship. Linzer himself pledged $25,000 to help establish the scholarship and an additional $27,000 has been raised by both current and former students, colleagues, friends and the Linzer family.

Looking back on his own career, Linzer shared the reason he never left the school. “I felt at home here,” he said. “Whether it was through faculty colleagues, the courses I taught, the supervision I received in the course of teaching, the opportunities that the school provided for me in terms of giving lectures at outside conferences, presenting papers or developing myself intellectually—all of those came true for me right here during the course of my career at Wurzweiler.”

To learn more about the Diane and Norman Linzer Endowed Scholarship, please contact Gail Burkett at 212.960.0872.