I just received the terrible news that Professor Yaakov Elman has passed away. The following funeral details have been sent by Professor Shalom Carmy: Monday, July 30th, 12:30pm at Kehilla Chapels, 60 Brighton 11th Street Brooklyn (click here for directions).
My heart is breaking, my mind is racing, and I find it impossible to collect my thoughts about everything Yaakov meant to me, and his countless colleagues and students. He was a true iluy in a world that no longer realized it needed them, and he was one of the few and true voraciously hungry intellectuals left in a professionalized academia. He combined a chassidishe heart with a litvishe kop, a critical academic sense with the creativity of an original Tosafist. At his utter core was the work-ethic of an old-school masmid who never, ever, stopped learning, writing, mentoring, and doing, whether he lay in a hospital bed after a near fatal car-crash, or sweating during physical therapy in a rehab facility, learning to walk again (and again) after health problems.
One of his many jobs, in a career that spanned meteorology, bookselling, Assyriology, Jewish studies, and more, was publishing and editing. Like J. Z. Smith, he never tolerated the word “unique’ in his students’ prose. And yet, he was himself sui generis. There was, nor will there ever be, anyone like Yaakov at all. He was the one unique exception.
Yehi zichro baruch