The list of American rabbinic leaders whose faces have graced U.S. Postage stamps is rather small, to say the least. One such stamp, created in 1986 and given a $1 value, featured Rabbi Bernard Revel as part of the Great Americans Series.
Rabbi Revel (1885 – 1940) did not come to the United States until he was 21. He was born in Lithuania and received both an advanced Torah education (he was ordained at age 16) and independently completed the necessary requirements for a Russian high school diploma.
Once in the United States, Rabbi Revel enrolled at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Torah Seminary (the rabbinic seminary of what later became Yeshiva University) and, at the same time, availed himself of the open enrollment policies of American Universities to earn a Masters from NYU. He went on to earn a doctorate of philosophy from Dropsie College (their first PhD graduate).
After he finished his doctorate, Rabbi Dr. Revel and his wife, Sarah Travis, spent several years in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he worked for his father-in-law’s oil company. In 1915, when his alma mater RIETS merged with Yeshivat Etz Chaim, Rabbi Revel returned to New York as its head. He introduced new subjects that allowed the school’s graduates to better understand the needs of American Jews.
In 1928, RIETS relocated from the Lower East Side to Washington Heights and, more significantly, was transformed into Yeshiva College when Rabbi Revel established a corresponding secular curriculum. Yeshiva College was a unique institution, to which Rabbi Revel brought both renowned rabbinic scholars and introduced intercollegiate sports. He remained its head, leading a path for American Orthodoxy, until his passing in 1940.
Rabbi Revel’s stamp also bears an interesting history. Invisible to the naked eye, the Postal Service engraver, a man named Kenneth Kipperman, added an unauthorized Star of David in his beard.
*Yeshiva College is now part of Yeshiva University.
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