Mendel Weinbach

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Rabbi Mendel Weinbach
Mendel Weinbach.jpg
Rabbi Mendel Weinbach in 2010
Position Rosh yeshiva
Yeshiva Ohr Somayach
Began 1970
Ended 2012
Personal details
Birth name Chona Menachem Mendel Weinbach
Born September 24, 1933
Kantchuga, Galicia
Died December 11, 2012(2012-12-11) (aged 79)
Jerusalem, Israel
Buried Har HaMenuchot
Denomination Orthodox Judaism
Residence Kiryat Mattersdorf
Parents Yechezkel Shraga and Tshezye Genendel Weinbach
Spouse Sylvie (Shaindel) Lamm
Children 6 sons
6 daughters[1]
Alma mater Yeshiva Torah Vodaas
Semicha Yeshiva Torah Vodaas

Chona Menachem Mendel (Mendel) Weinbach (24 September 1933 – 11 December 2012)[2] was an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and one of the fathers of the modern-day baal teshuva movement in his capacity as co-founder and dean of Ohr Somayach Institutions, a Jerusalem-based educational network for young, non-Hasidic Jewish men. From the yeshiva's founding in 1970 until his death in 2012, Weinbach taught, mentored and advised generations of students, helping beginners master a high level of textual learning skills and embrace an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle.[3][4] He was a father figure to thousands, investing much time in guiding his students both during their yeshiva years and after they married, and actively participated in the brissim and bar mitzvahs of their children.[2]

Weinbach was an erudite Torah scholar and an eloquent speaker for both men's and women's groups in Israel and abroad. He wrote and edited over a dozen English-language books, and penned many newspaper, magazine and online articles on Jewish thought and practice.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Chona Menachem Mendel Weinbach was born in Kantchuga, Galicia, to Yechezkel Shraga and Tshezye Genendel Weinbach.[2][3] At the age of 4[3] he immigrated with his parents to America and settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he grew up.[5] At age 12 he left home to learn in Yeshiva Torah Vodaas,[3] where he studied under Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky and Rabbi Gedalia Schorr and became friends with Rabbi Nosson Scherman and Rabbi Nisson Wolpin, who would go on to make their own impact on Orthodox Jewish education.[6][7] He received rabbinic ordination at Torah Vodaas.[8]

In 1953 Weinbach was one of 10 Torah Vodaas students recruited by Rabbi Simcha Wasserman to open a beis medrash in Los Angeles as part of a plan to interest parents in Wasserman's proposal to open a mesivta high school in that city.[7] At the end of the summer, he went to study at Beis Medrash Elyon in Monsey, New York.[2][7][9]

In 1960[2][3] he married Sylvie (Sheindel) Lamm (b. 1941), a Belgian war orphan who had come to New York at the age of 5. She and her parents, Abraham Israel and Rachel Lamm, had been interned in the Mechelen transit camp in 1942. She had been liberated on 13 January 1944 and sent to a Jewish orphanage; her parents were deported to Auschwitz two days later. She was raised by her uncle and aunt in New York City.[10] In 1962 the couple decided to make aliyah to Israel, becoming one of the first American Orthodox Jewish families to do so.[3] They were one of the first families to settle in the new neighborhood of Kiryat Mattersdorf in northern Jerusalem, where they raised their 12 children.[3]

Teaching career[edit]

In his early years in Israel, Weinbach studied in the Mir yeshiva and opened a kollel. He also established yeshivas in Givat Ada and Netanya, and became involved with American P'eylim, which was opening yeshivas and Talmud Torahs for new immigrants.[3] He was a member of a group of avreichim (married Torah students) from the Mir, Brisk, Hebron and other yeshivas who volunteered to study with new immigrants who didn't fit into regular Israeli yeshivas.[2] Around 1965 Weinbach decided to open a yeshiva for baalei teshuva together with Rabbi Meir Schuster. Rabbis in the yeshiva, located in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem, included Rabbi Shimshon Dovid Pincus and Rabbi Yoel Schwartz. The yeshiva was forced to close due to the Six-Day War in 1967.[3]

Yeshivas Ohr Somayach[edit]

Rabbi Nota Schiller, co-founder and rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ohr Somayach.
Ohr Somayach, Jerusalem entrance sign

In 1972[6] Weinbach and Rabbis Nota Schiller, Noah Weinberg, and Baruch Rosenberg established Shema Yisrael Yeshiva to attract young, English-speaking Jewish men with little or no background in Jewish studies.[11][12] After a few years, Weinberg left the yeshiva over a difference in philosophy and founded Aish HaTorah in 1974.[12] Shema Yisrael subsequently changed its name to Ohr Somayach (after the commentary on the Mishneh Torah written by Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk), in response to critics who contended that the name Shema Yisrael belonged to the entire Jewish people, not just one institution.[13] Weinbach and Schiller continued on as rosh yeshivas, developing the program into a high-level Talmud study program with the goal of helping formerly secular Jewish students integrate into mainstream Orthodox Jewish communities.[3][9] Other Torah scholars invited to serve as rosh yeshivas over the years included Rabbi Dov Schwartzman[3] and Rabbi Aharon Feldman.[6]

Weinbach was personally involved with each student, encouraging his spiritual growth. He always had time to speak one on one, and often allowed students to interrupt his meetings with faculty members to discuss their issues and concerns.[6] He became a "fatherly and grandfatherly figure" in the lives of many students, who continued to seek his advice long after they married and established families.[6]

He oversaw the growth of Ohr Somayach into different branches beginning with the 1984 establishment of its Israeli division.[9] Later branches were established in the United States, Canada, England, South Africa and Ukraine.[3] Weinbach also oversaw the development of several successful kiruv initiatives, including the Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE), a summer learning course for young men from overseas; the Ohr Lagolah teacher-training program; and the Mentors Mission, which brings American Jews to Israeli for kiruv activities.[2]

Personal qualities[edit]

Weinbach had an encyclopedic grasp of the Talmud, and could identify any gemara cited on the spot.[3] Consequently, he was able to deliver a shiur (Torah lecture) on a moment's notice.[6][14] Notwithstanding his mastery of Talmud and Halakha, he interacted with both beginners and advanced students with the same friendliness and ready smile.[6]

Other activities[edit]

Weinbach was a clear and eloquent speaker both in and outside the yeshiva. Every Tisha B'Av, he delivered a shiur that lasted two or three hours.[6] He also spoke at women's events such as the annual Shmiras Halashon Rally, and at the Mercaz Bais Yaakov high school and seminary in Geula, which he co-founded with Rabbi Yeshaya Lieberman.[3]

In the 1970s[6] he wrote articles for The Jewish Press under a pseudonym and also ghostwrote columns for Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin and Member of Knesset Rabbi Menachem Porush.[15] Later, under his own name, he wrote articles for The Jewish Observer[7] and wrote and edited English-language books on a variety of topics, including the Land of Israel, Jewish prayer, and the writings of the Chofetz Chaim. Shortly before his death he completed a two-year project, The Essential Malbim on Chumash and Nach.[9]

In his last years, Weinbach taught a daily Daf Yomi shiur in Kiryat Mattersdorf.[3]

Weinbach was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 but continued to teach, lecture and write even as he underwent treatments.[6] His health deteriorated several months before his death.[6] On December 11, 2012, the same day that a prayer gathering was to be held at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach on his behalf, he died.[1] He was eulogized in the main synagogue in Kiryat Mattersdorf and at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach.[3] He was buried on Har HaMenuchot.[1]

Selected bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Klein, Asher (11 December 2012). "הַמַּחֲזִיר בִּתְשׁוּבָה: הגאון רבי מנדל וינבך זצ"ל הלך לעולמו" [The One Who Brought Others Back to Judaism: HaGaon Rabbi Mendel Weinbach, zt"l, Has Passed Away] (in Hebrew). jdn.co.il. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Marks, Yehudah. "Harav Mendel Weinbach, zt"l, Rosh Yeshivas Ohr Somayach". Hamodia, 13 December 2012, p. A20.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Sever, Yechiel (13 December 2012). "NEWS: HaRav Mendel Weinbach zt"l". Dei'ah VeDibur. Retrieved 16 December 2012. 
  4. ^ "Hertz Family Foundation Announces $1.5 Million In Grants Made to Yeshiva Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem". PR Web. 5 November 2009. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 
  5. ^ Hoffman, Rabbi Yair (3 December 2009). "The ArtScroll Revolution: 5TJT Interviews Rabbi Nosson Scherman". Five Towns Jewish Times. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Heimowitz, Rabbi Yehuda. "The Long Short Road: How Rav Mendel Weinbach ztz"l led thousands on the journey of a lifetime". Mishpacha, December 19, 2012, pp. 50–59.
  7. ^ a b c d Wolpin, Nisson. "Memories from a Boyhood Chaburah". Hamodia Israel News, January 3, 2013, p. 21.
  8. ^ "Meet the Staff: Rabbi Mendel Weinbach". Jewish Learning Exchange. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d Hoffman, Dovid (12 December 2012). "Rav Mendel Weinbach zt"l". Yated Ne'eman. Retrieved 16 December 2012. 
  10. ^ Weinbach, Sheindel. "I was Number 43". Hamodia Features, 8 January 2009, p. C2.
  11. ^ Donn, Rabbi Yochanan. "Conscience of the Lost Jews: Harav Yisroel Noah Weinberg, zt"l". Hamodia. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 
  12. ^ a b "Today's Yahrtzeits and History – 11 Shevat". matzav.com. 26 January 2010. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  13. ^ "Did You Know That #16". Ohr Somayach International. 1 March 2003. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 
  14. ^ Rosenblum, Yonoson. "Rav Mendel Weinbach ztz"l: Personal Memories". Mishpacha, December 19, 2012, pp. 18–19.
  15. ^ Schiller, Mordechai. "Still Crying Because It Hurts". Hamodia Israel News, January 3, 2013, pp. A20–21.

External links[edit]