Memory of Rabbi Israel Miller, Who Helped Establish YU Presence in Israel, Lives on as Beit Midrash is Named in His Honor

President Richard M. Joel (far left) with the children of the late Rabbi Israel Miller (L-R): Judy Kalish, Deborah Kram, Rabbi Michael Miller, and Rabbi Dovid Miller.

Mar 14, 2008 — In an interview with Time magazine, Rabbi Israel Miller, senior vice president of Yeshiva University who devoted his life to the Jewish people and the State of Israel, was asked about the dual loyalty of the Jewish community in America. “Is Judaism a noun or an adjective? Are you American Jews or Jewish Americans?” came the question. Rabbi Miller responded: “Judaism is neither a noun nor an adjective. Judaism is a verb. A Jew acts, a Jew behaves, a Jew thinks, a Jew speaks, all in consonance with the will of God, in consonance with his mitzvot [commandments].”

“That was my father,” said Rabbi Dovid Miller, eldest son of Rabbi Miller, in whose name the beit midrash [study hall] at the YU in Israel Campus was dedicated on Friday, March 14. “He was a verb—full of energy, passionate, eloquent, a deep thinker, and a very persuasive leader.”

Rabbi Miller, who guided and nurtured the founding of YU’s campus in Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem, devoted 60 years of his life to YU first as a student and then as an administrator. The beit midrash, to be known as the Rabbi Israel Miller Beit Midrash/Beit Midrash Heichel Azriel, is at the heart of the Israel campus. Rabbi Miller visited and studied there during each of his many trips to Israel.

“I wanted, as a personal privilege, to be partners with the family in making sure that Rabbi Dr. Israel Miller would not only be remembered but would be part of the vitality of Yeshiva University forever,” said President Richard M. Joel, who spoke at the dedication, which was attended by family, friends, and admirers of the late Rabbi Miller. “This makom [place] bears his name because it bears the fruits of his life’s work.”

The beit midrash is used by hundreds of people every day—students in the YU in Israel Kollel, rabbis, scholars, and laymen from throughout Israel and abroad—under the direction of Rabbi Dovid Miller, associate director of the Gruss Institute at the YU in Israel Campus.

Rabbi Miller, together with his siblings Rabbi Michael Miller, Deborah Kram, and Judy Kalish, spoke at the dedication ceremony about their father and about how beloved and respected he was by his students, his congregants, and the world leaders he met through his work in Jewish communal and organizational life. He and his siblings also dedicated the Office of the Rosh Kollel at the Gruss Institute in memory of their mother, Ruth.

In addition to President Joel and the Miller children, speakers at the dedication included Rabbi Zevulun Charlop, the Max and Marion Grill Dean at RIETS, and Rabbi Yona Reiss, RIETS dean-elect. Other family members at the dedication included Rabbi Israel Miller’s brother, Rabbi David Miller. The event began with shacharit [morning prayer service] and a shiur [lecture] by Rabbi Dovid Miller.

The dedication ceremony is one of four events comprising the Second Yeshiva University Colloquium in Israel. An academic convocation, held Wednesday, March 12, kicked off the series of events, followed on Thursday, March 13, by a conversation between President Joel and Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein, the Rabbi Henoch and Sarah D. Berman Professor of Talmud and rosh kollel and director of the RIETS Israel Kollel in Jerusalem. Titled “Contemplating Torah Umadda: Bedieved or Lechatchila,” it was held at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue.

The colloquium concluded with an alumni Shabbaton hosted by President Joel and Morry J. Weiss, chairman of the YU Board of Trustees.

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