Yaakov Weinberg: Wikis


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Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, known as Yaakov Weinberg (also Jacob S. Weinberg) (1923 - July 1, 1999) was an Orthodox rabbi, Talmudist and the rosh yeshiva ("dean/head") of Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, Maryland[1] one of the major American non-Hasidic yeshivas. Rabbi Weinberg also served as a leading rabbinical advisor and board member of a number of important Haredi and Orthodox institutions such as Torah Umesorah, Agudath Israel of America and the Association for Jewish Outreach Programs.


Early life and family

Weinberg is related to the Slonimer rebbes: "The Weinberg family is from the Slonimer chassidic dynasty, a Lithuanian chassidus."[2]

As a child, Weinberg spent three years in Israel during the British Mandate of Palestine. Upon returning to America, he attended Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, and later Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin,[3] where he studied under the tutelage of Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner.:

...Altogether, they spent three years in Eretz Yisroel. For a time R' Yaakov learned in the famous Yerushalayim cheder Eitz Chaim...Back in America, he went to Torah Vodaas, and then to the Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva started by HaRav Dovid Leibowitz, now in Forest Hills. R' Mattis liked the fact that they hardly had any bein hazmanim ["breaks"], learning through Tisha B'Av, just like in Eretz Yisroel. When he got older he went to Yeshivas Rabbenu Chaim Berlin under HaRav Yitzchok Hutner...Rav Hutner said of him that he has a tefisa ["comprehension"] and a schnellkeit ["speed"] in kishron ["logic"] that are unparalleled. HaRav Aharon Schechter quoted HaRav Hutner as saying that he had a shtarker kop ["strong mind"]...".[2]

His younger brother, the late Rabbi Noach Weinberg, was the founder and rosh yeshiva of Aish HaTorah, one of the first Orthodox Jewish outreach programs. His uncle, Rabbi Avraham Weinberg, was leader of the Slonimer Hasidic dynasty. His son, rabbi Matis Weinberg, is also well known.

Marriage and family position at Ner Israel

In 1945, Weinberg married Chana Ruderman, the only child of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman, founder of the Ner Israel yeshiva. They had two boys and four girls and he has a total of 39 grandchildren. Weinberg excelled in Talmudic scholarship, as a rabbinical advisor and in teaching ability. Weinberg eventually succeeded his father in law as the main rosh yeshiva of Ner Israel yeshiva, but not before undertaking a number of other rosh yeshiva positions.

In 1964, Weinberg went to the Yeshivas Ner Yisroel of Toronto originally the Toronto branch of Ner Israel, where he served as dean until 1971. He then returned to Baltimore but went on to serve for a short time as rosh yeshiva at the now defunct Kerem Yeshiva founded by his son Rabbi Matis Weinberg in Santa Clara, California. However, following the death of his father in law, Rabbi Ruderman, he became the permanent rosh yeshiva of Ner Israel in Baltimore in 1987 until his passing in 1999.

Advisor and teacher of other rabbis

Weinberg was regarded as a master logician, with broad knowledge and depth in all aspects of Jewish law and philosophy.[2] He was also a sought-after counselor, involved in hundreds of private and public issues and concerns within the Jewish community.

He often took the lead in "question and answer" sessions at Torah Umesorah conventions where hundreds of rabbis would seek his counsel and many of these teachings have been published, such as in Rav Yaakov Weinberg Talks about Chinuch published by both Feldheim Publishers[4] and Targum Press[5]

Some authors have based their works on Weinberg's teachings and methods, such as Forever His Students: Powerful Essays and Lessons on Contemporary Jewish Life: Inspired by the Teachings of Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg.[6]

Weinberg had a close relationship with his brother Rabbi Noach Weinberg and was held in high esteem by the Aish HaTorah baal teshuva yeshiva that Noach Weinberg founded and headed as its rosh yeshiva. The two Weinberg brothers remained close and Yaakov Weinberg was a frequent guest lecturer at Aish HaTorah where most of his lectures have been preserved and even transcribed. An example is his lecture about "The Palestinians: Facts & Fables" and his views on the subject.[7]

Influence in the broader Orthodox world

He was involved with a variety of communities. One Jewish Iranian community has noted:

...What most people don't know about Rabbi Weinberg is his dedication to Iranian Jews worldwide... started before the Iranian Revolution when Ner Israel began a Rabbinic Training Program for the Iranian Community... for Rabbi's to be ordained and return to Iran and serve the different communities...Under the guidance of the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Weinberg, many of these students became the amazing Rabbis they are today. His direct style and his conviction for the truth was passed on to his students all around the globe. Many of the Persian Jewish Organizations in Los Angeles and all over the Country are where they are today because of our Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Shemuel Yaakov Weinberg. He took an interest to all aspects of our community... From his discussions with community leaders about various issues that were facing Los Angeles Persian Jews, to the problems of the individuals who came to seek his council. He really cared..."[8]

Spokesman and leader of Orthodox organizations

Weinberg was a member of the rabbinical board of Torah Umesorah - National Society for Hebrew Day Schools and was a frequent scholar in residence at Torah Umesorah annual conventions and retreats. He teachings were deemed to be significant enough to have been printed in Torah Umesorah publications, such as in a book published in 1975 titled Building Jewish Ethical Character where a chapter is devoted to Weinberg's lectures on "Mitzvos as 'Springboards' for Ethical behavior":

"A large number of books and articles have been published during the last few months discussing the deterioration of morals and ethics that is taking place in our nation. Clearly related to this deterioration is the problem of juvenile delinquincy that is assuming crucial proportions. More and more of our trained social scientists are turning their minds and energies to these problems... the observance of the mitzvos engenders in us a strength of self-discipline and control... our constant submission to the will of HaShem Yisborach [God] generates humility and a sense of proportion with which we may face the moral trial we meet daily...The Ribono Shel Olam [God] tells us that these precepts and these rituals will make us moral and ethical... This truth is the foundation of the Jewish Day School program..."[9]

In a 1982 notable work researched and published by Professor William Helmreich at CUNY Graduate Center The World of the Yeshiva: An Intimate Portraiet of Orthodox Jewry Rabbi Weinberg's activities and views are cited on a number of issues:

One of the most successful Orthodox reach-out programs at the high school and college levels is that of the National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), sponsored by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations...some 20,000 to 25,000 people, mostly teenagers, participate in its programs each year...Rosh yeshivas such as Rabbi Leibowitz of the Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva and Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg of Yeshiva Ner Yisroel have addressed meetings of NCSY...[10]


The Association for Jewish Outreach Programs, originally known as the Association for Jewish Outreach Professionals, (AJOP), devoted to the cause of Orthodox Jewish outreach (kiruv) was launched in 1988 and Weinberg was chosen as its lead rabbinic advisor, a post he retained until his passing in 1999. AJOP was launched with the backing of the AVI CHAI Foundation that provided several million dollars as seed money for AJOP to establish itself and run its first number of annual conventions. At the same time the AVI CHAI Foundation also endowed a new institute at the Ner Israel yeshiva in Baltimore known as the MAOR Institute that would train its yeshiva graduates to become proficient "outreach rabbis" that would dovetail with AJOP's mission of enhancing the already extant field of outreach workers. Thus Weinberg headed both MAOR and AJOP that were both aimed and enhancing the field of reaching out to non-Orthodox Jews. Weinberg guarded his position in AJOP and ensured that his allies, such as Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald (AJOP first president) and himself the founder of another multi million dollar AVI Chai Foundation project the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP), remained in its leadership positions.

When AJOP published a seminal work in 1990 by Rabbi Moshe Weinberger titled Jewish Outreach: Halakhic Perspectives it was Weinberg who gave his written approbation and blessings to the work and its author.[11]


Many of Weinberg's teachings have been published in essay and book form form in Orthodox publications. Targum Press published Weinberg's Fundamentals and Faith: Insights into the Rambam's Thirteen Principles.[12] In turn, Weinberg's ideas from this work is quoted in abother work about Jewish ethics titled Bridging the Gap. [13]

Orthodox magazines, such as The Jewish Observer have published many of Weinberg's speeches that later were also reprinted in ArtScroll books. For example, in A Path Through the Ashes there is an essay by Weinberg about The Destruction of European Jewry: A Churban of Singular Dimensions.[14]

After his death, his students compiled and published his work on Maimonides, entitled Meoros HaRambam.


Weinberg's career in the yeshiva world was not without controversy. He held relatively open and even relatively liberal views on many subjects that did not fit with the image and policies of the Haredi Agudath Israel of America of which he was a senior rabbi. For example, he generally identified himself with the Maimonidean-rationalist Jewish approach over the Ramchal-Maharal approach advocated by most of Orthodox Jewry. He was never elevated to its prestigious Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah ("Council of Torah Sages") that was based on his rivalry with Rabbi Elya Svei, rosh yeshiva of the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, who he openly scolded in public for holding silly beliefs.

Weinberg often expressed himself in a controversial and provocative manner. In Professor Helmreich's work "The World of the Yeshiva" he is typically introduced and cited as stating:

...The significance of historical longevity is clear from the following remarks by Rabbi Weinberg, of Ner Yisroel Yeshiva:
Look at the Jesus freaks, the Moonies, and all the other groups. They don't have any reality because they can't create an ongoing movement. They won't; it peters out. These are all fads that promise instant happiness which can't be. Our institutions have withstood the test of time. They've been proven to be of eternal value. This is despite the fact that it isn't easy to be in a yeshiva if one isn't serious. There's constant stress and conflict.[15]

Final years, succession, and the next generation

Weinberg succumbed to cancer that spread very quickly that happened rather suddenly surprising many people who knew him. His funeral was held at the Ner Israel yeshiva and was attended by several important rosh yeshivas, such as Rabbi Aaron Schechter the rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin and Rabbi Yaakov Perlow the Novominsker Rebbe and rosh yeshiva, both senior members of Agudath Israel of America's Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah ["Council of Torah Sages"]. They, like Weinberg, were all originally proteges and disciples of Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner (1906–1980) the famous rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn. They helped ensure that Weinberg was succeeded as the senior rosh yeshiva of Ner Israel yeshiva by Rabbi Aharon Feldman, after Rabbi Kulefsky was Rosh Yeshiva for a short time, who was a disciple of both Rabbi Hutner and Rabbi Ruderman and whose nephew is married to one of Weinberg's younger daughters. Unlike Weinberg, Feldman was excepted and serves as a full member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of the American Agudath Israel.

Following Weinberg's death, it has been mostly the family of Rabbi Herman N. Neuberger that has dominated the yeshiva and none of Weinberg's sons have succeeded him in any official role in the Ner Israel yeshiva. Weinberg's son in law Rabbi Beryl Weisbord however was appointed as Ner Israel yeshiva's mashgiach ruchani ["spiritual mentor/guide"] and he is married to Weinberg's daughter Dr. Aviva Weisbord who has a doctorate in psychology.

Weinberg's son, Rabbi Matis Weinberg has also served as Rosh Yeshiva of a number of institutions in America and Israel. He is presently an international lecturer on Judaism and an author of a number of Torah works. Another son Rabbi Simcha Weinberg is also a lecturer about Judaism. He was married to the daughter of Rabbi Maurice Lamm, brother of Yeshiva University's Rabbi Norman Lamm, and had served in a number of rabbinical posts, including that of rabbi of the prestigious Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan.

See also


  1. ^ Jewish World Review Valuing Life, October 8, 1999
  2. ^ a b c A Rebbi for America: HaRav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, zt'l by Mordecai Plaut. Deiah veDibur. August 4, 1999
  3. ^ Memorium for Rabbi Weinberg
  4. ^ http://www.feldheim.com/cgi-bin/category.cgi?item=1-56871-393-2
  5. ^ Rav Yaakov Weinberg Talks about Chinuch. Edited by Rabbi Doniel Frank
  6. ^ Forever His Students: Powerful Essays and Lessons on Contemporary Jewish Life: Inspired by the Teachings of Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg zt"l by Boruch Leff
  7. ^ The Palestinians: Facts & Fables By Rav Yaakov Weinberg zt"l
  8. ^ "Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg Z"L: An Advocate for Judaism in the Persian Community
  9. ^ Building Jewish Ethical Character: Section II: "Ethics in the Classroom" by Rabbi Jacob S. Weinberg. (Joseph Kaminetsky and Murray Friedman, editors) pp. 73-76. The Fryer Foundation and Torah Umesorah publishers. New York, 1975
  10. ^ The World of the Yeshiva: An Intimate Portrait of Orthodox Jewry: Chapter 10: Is the Yeshiva Successful in Reaching Its Goals?: Reaching Uncommitted Jews, pp. 286-7, by William B. Helmreich. (The Free Press/Collier Macmillan, New York, 1982)
  11. ^ Jewish Outreach: Halkhic Perspectives, p. viii, by Rabbi Moshe Weinberger. (K'tav Publishing and AJOP) New York, 1990
  12. ^ "Fundamentals and Faith: Insights into the Rambam's Thirteen Principles," by Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, edited by Rabbi Mordechai Blumenfeld. Targum Press, 1992
  13. ^ Bridging the Gap: Clarifying the Eternal Foundations of Mussar and Emunah for Today: Chapter 35, p. 445 by Avi Fertig. (Feldheim Publishers) New York/Jerusalem
  14. ^ A Path Through the Ashes: Penetrating analyses and inspiring stories of the Holocaust from a Torah perspective: II: The Surviving Generation Looks Back: The Destruction of European Jewry: A Churban of Singular Dimensions by Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg. (Rabbi Nisson Wolpin editor.) (Mesorah Publications and Agudath Israel), Brooklyn, NY, 1986
  15. ^ The World of the Yeshiva: An Intimate Portrait of Orthodox Jewry: Chapter 11: Why Has the Yeshiva Survived?: A Link in an Ancient Tradition, pp. 324, by William B. Helmreich. (The Free Press/Collier Macmillan, New York, 1982)

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