I feel a profound sadness on learning of the passing of Professor Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi. He was one of the great teachers and Jewish historians of our era, having taught at Harvard and Columbia Universities, and having written so many important works.
One of the first book reviews I wrote as a young rabbi was of his remarkable book, "From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto." He was kind enough to write to me upon reading the review, and that began our association that has continued these many years. I had (and have) an abiding admiration of his scholarship, his wonderful writing style, his phenomenal grace as a lecturer. Over the years, I've quoted him many times, in my writings, sermons and lectures. Although we were not close friends, I felt an abiding connection with him.
Professor Yerushalmi could be aloof, even haughty; he could also be charming, warm and humble. He seemed to have all the confidence in the world, and yet would sometimes reveal his very human insecurities and uncertainties. He seemed to be a venerable, veteran scholar, and yet he never lost his innocent and enthusiastic boyishness.
He was a historian and a thinker. He was a scholar and a literary artist. He was a learned Jew, and he was deeply steeped in the wisdoms of the world. He was a lofty figure, a grand personality, a person of exquisite rarity.
The Jewish people has lost one of its most talented sons. Humanity has lost one of its great teachers and scholars. Professor Yerushalmi's family and friends, students and admirers have lost a beloved and revered man.
We may find consolation in the many good memories he has left behind, and in the many articles and books that he wrote--and that will continue to influence scholars for generations to come. Professor Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi--we will miss you. We are grateful to have known you. May your memory be a blessing.