Berel Wein is an American-born Orthodox rabbi, scholar, lecturer, and writer. He is regarded as an expert on Jewish history and has popularized the subject through more than 1,000 audio tapes, a four-volume book series, newspaper articles and international lectures. Throughout his career, he has retained personal and ideological ties to both Modern Orthodox and Haredi Judaism.
Wein received semicha (rabbinic ordination) from Hebrew Theological College, which was founded by his maternal grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Rubinstein. His main teacher was Rabbi Chaim Kreiswirth and his personal mentors there included Rabbis Mordechai Rogow and Yisrael Mendel Kaplan. He was a student of the late Rabbi Oscar Z. Fasman in Chicago, and spoke at the latter's funeral .
He received a Bachelor's degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago and earned a law degree from De Paul University. After passing the Illinois Bar he practiced as an attorney in Chicago for a number of years.
In 1955 he married Yocheved (Jackie) Levin, who had been born in Vaskai, Lithuania in 1934 and had emigrated to Detroit with her parents at the age of 4. Jackie's father, Rabbi Eliezer Levin, served as Rabbi of Congregation Beth Tefiloh Emanuel and led the triumvirate of the Council of Orthodox Rabbis (COR) of Greater Detroit, in that city, for over 60 years. The couple settled in Chicago, where their four children—Miriam, Dinah, Chaim Tzvi, and Sori—were born. Rabbi Wein has 29 grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren living in both Israel and America.
In 1964, Wein accepted the pulpit of Beth Israel Congregation in Miami Beach, Florida, where he remained until 1972. He moved to New York when he was appointed as executive vice-president of the Union of Orthodox Organizations of America (known as the Orthodox Union). Within that organization, he served as rabbinic administrator of the kashrut (kosher foods) supervision division until 1977.
At the same time, he founded Congregation Bais Torah in Suffern, New York, and served as its rabbi for the next 24 years. Wein also founded Yeshiva Shaarei Torah of Rockland with a large high school and a smaller post-high school division in 1977. The yeshiva subsequently moved onto the grounds of his synagogue and he served as Rosh yeshiva (dean) until his move to Israel in 1997. His son, Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Wein, succeeded him as Rosh yeshiva (along with Mordechai Wolmark, author of Mishnas Mordechai).
During these years, Wein produced many audio tapes on both Torah teachings and Jewish history. These helped to popularize the latter subject, which had often been perceived as boring. After detailed research, he went on to publish a four-volume series of coffee table books spanning 2,300 years of Jewish history, for which he is widely known in English-speaking Orthodox communities:
- Echoes of Glory: The story of the Jews in the Classical Era, 350 BCE-750 CE
- Herald of Destiny: The story of the Jews in the Medieval Era, 750-1650
- Triumph of Survival: The story of the Jews in the Modern Era, 1650-1995
- Faith and Fate: The story of the Jewish people in the twentieth century
Wein is known for his witty speaking and writing style: his sayings and observations have been collected together, by James Weiss, into a 283-page book entitled Vintage Wein: The collected wit and wisdom, the choicest anecdotes and vignettes of Rabbi Berel Wein (Shaar Press, 1992). Since his move to Israel, he has also penned three collections of essays, titled Second Thoughts: A collection of musings and observations (1997), Buy Green Bananas: Observations on self, family and life (1999), and Living Jewish: Values, Practices and Traditions. He has also authored commentaries on Ethics of Our Fathers, Pirkei Avos : Teachings for Our Times, and on the Passover Haggadah, The Pesach Haggadah: Through the Prism of Experience and History. Tending the Vineyard,is a personal, a detailed guide for aspiring pulpit rabbis, in which he shares his philosophy of the rabbinate, and relates first-hand experiences and dispenses advice to rabbinic students. His latest work, entitled "The Legacy: Teachings for Life from the Great Lithuanian Rabbis", was co-authored with Warren Goldstein, Chief Rabbi of South Africa. "The Legacy" was released in 2013 by Koren Publishers Jerusalem.
Rabbi Wein and his wife moved to Israel in 1997. They settled in the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem, where they became Rav and Rebbetzin at Bet Knesset Hanasi (at 24 Usshishkin). In Israel, Wein also established The Destiny Foundation, a marketing forum for his CDs, audio tapes and books as well as drama and documentary film projects.
He is presently a senior faculty member of Ohr Somayach Yeshiva in Jerusalem, where he lectures to the mostly English-speaking student body. He also lectures extensively in Israel and abroad, and writes a regular weekly column for the Jerusalem Post since 1999. Rabanit Yocheved 'Jackie' Wein z"l died on May 25, 2006, and was buried on the Mount of Olives.
Rabbi Wein has subsequently remarried and continues to live in Rehavia.
Books by Berel Wein
- Chikrei Halacha (1976), published by Mosad Harav Kook
- Eyunim B'Mesechtot HaTalmud (1989) 2 volumes
- Chukei Chaim (1991), edited by his very close disciple Rabbi Harel Kohen
- Four-volume series:
- Echoes of Glory: The Story of the Jews in the Classical Era, 350 BCE-750 CE (1995) ISBN 978-0-89906-340-9
- Herald of Destiny: The Story of the Jews in the Medieval Era, 750-1650 (1993) ISBN 978-0-89906-237-2
- Triumph of Survival: The Story of the Jews in the Modern Era, 1650-1995 (1990) ISBN 978-0-89906-498-7
- Faith and Fate: The Story of the Jews in the Twentieth Century (2001) ISBN 978-1-57819-593-0
- Living Jewish: Values, Practices and Traditions (2002) ISBN 978-1-57819-753-8
- Pirkei Avos: Teachings for Our Times (2003) ISBN 978-1-57819-739-2
- The Pesach Haggadah: Through the Prism of Experience and History (2004) ISBN 978-1-57819-319-6
- The Oral Law of Sinai: An Illustrated History of the Mishna (2008) ISBN 978-0-470-19755-4
- Vision & Valor: An Illustrated History of the Talmud, (2010) ISBN 978-1-59264-286-1
- Patterns in Jewish History: Insights into the Past, Present and Future of the Eternal People, (2011) ISBN 978-1-59264-326-4
- Real Messiah: A Jewish Response to Missionaries by Aryeh Kaplan, Berel Wein, and Pinchas Stolper (1976), ISBN 978-1-879016-11-8
- Sand and Stars (2 vol.) by Yaffa Ganz and Berel Wein (1996), ISBN 978-0-89906-392-8
- The Legacy: Teachings for Life from the Great Lithuanian Rabbis by Warren Goldstein and Berel Wein (2013), ISBN 978-1-592643-62-2
- Rashi – A Light After the Dark Ages (with Leonard Nimoy) (1999)
- Berel Wein's Israel Journey – Jerusalem (co-authored with Wayne Kopping) (2003)
- Rambam – The Story of Maimonides by Leonard Nimoy, Armand Assante, Ashley Lazarus, and Berel Wein (2005)
- Faith & Fate – The Story of the Jewish People in the Twentieth Century Episode II (1911–1920) narrated by Debra Winger and Dick Rodstein (Directed by Ashley Lazarus) (2005)
General: "Rebbetzin Yocheved (Jackie) Wein, a"h", by T. Silber, Hamodia, May 31, 2006, p. A15.
- Rabbi Wein's website
- Short Bio & Free MP3 Lectures by Rabbi Berel Wein
- Official biography and current projects
- Links to Berel Wein's articles on the online Jerusalem Post
- JewishHistory.org Rabbi Wein's free crash course in Jewish history
- Congregation Bais Torah official site
- Shaarei Torah of Rockland (high school stats)
- The story of the Jewish people by Berel Wein (article)
- Judaism has never been scared of democracy by Berel Wein (article)
- Laws and Legality by Berel Wein (article)
- Berel Wein at Ohr Somayach