Noah Weinberg

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Rabbi Yisrael Noah Weinberg
Position Rosh yeshiva
Yeshiva Aish HaTorah
Ended 2009
Successor Rabbi Hillel Weinberg
Personal details
Born (1930-02-16)February 16, 1930
Lower East Side, New York City
Died February 5, 2009(2009-02-05) (aged 78)
Jerusalem, Israel
Buried Har HaMenuchot, Israel
Nationality American
Spouse Denah Weinberg
Children 8 sons,[1] including Hillel Weinberg, and 4 daughters

Yisrael Noah Weinberg (Hebrew: ישראל נח וינברג‎), known as Noach Weinberg (February 16, 1930 – February 5, 2009) was an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, rosh yeshiva, and a father of today's baal teshuva movement with his establishment of a global network of educational and kiruv (outreach) programs for unaffiliated Jewish men and women. Primarily through the multifaceted activities of Jerusalem-based Yeshivat Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Weinberg influenced tens of thousands of college-aged youth to learn more about their Jewish heritage and embrace lives of Torah and mitzvah observance. He also reached out to business executives, professionals and Hollywood celebrities with private and group learning opportunities. Many of the programs which he and his staff developed became successful spin-offs in their own right, such as the Discovery Seminar, Jerusalem Fellowships, HonestReporting, and the highly trafficked Jewish educational website, Aish.com.

His upbeat, charismatic personality and message of gaining happiness through acquiring Torah wisdom and experiencing the pleasure of a relationship with God were well-known to listeners of his widely circulated tape series, especially "The 48 Ways to Wisdom". He also co-authored the book, What the Angel Taught You: Seven Keys to Life Fulfillment, published by ArtScroll in 2003[2] and authored the book, The 5 Levels of Pleasure: Enlightened Decision Making for Success in Life, published by SelectBooks in 2008.

Biography[edit]

Rabbi Noah Weinberg was born in New York City on the Lower East Side in 1930. His father, Rabbi Yitzchak Mattisyahu Weinberg was a Slonimer chassid, and a nephew and grandson of the first Slonimer Rebbe, Rabbi Avrohom Weinberg.[3]

His mother, Hinda, was a direct descendant of Rabbi Jacob ben Jacob Moses of Lissa, author of Nesivos Hamishpat.

Rabbi Weinberg studied at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin of Brooklyn and Yeshivas Ner Yisroel of Baltimore; he received rabbinic ordination from the latter. He completed his undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University and post-graduate studies at Loyola Graduate School.

His older brother, Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, later became rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel.

In 1953, Rabbi Weinberg traveled by boat to Israel to discuss with Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz (known as the Chazon Ish), the leading rabbinical sage at the time, how to respond to the threat of assimilation in the Jewish world. Rabbi Karelitz died while Weinberg was en route to Israel.

He then became a traveling salesman for his brother's company. In his course of travel to many small cities in the United States, he discovered Jews of all kinds who were distant from their heritage.[4]

He married Denah Goldman, daughter of Rabbi Elchanan Goldman, also a native of New York, in February 1958. Together they established a home in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem. Shortly before the Six-Day War in 1967, they and their young children moved into a new apartment in the Kiryat Sanz neighborhood of Jerusalem, where they raised their 12 children.

Kiruv pioneer[edit]

Observing the high rate of assimilation and lack of Jewish knowledge among Western youth, Weinberg decided to enter the field of kiruv (Jewish outreach). He opened his first yeshiva for assimilated young men in Jerusalem in 1966. That school was short-lived, as were several other attempts before he co-founded Yeshivas Shma Yisrael (later renamed Ohr Somayach) with Rabbis Nota Schiller, Mendel Weinbach and Yaakov Rosenberg in 1970. After a few years, however, he broke away from the partnership over a difference in educational philosophy. While Weinberg himself was a product of top yeshivas, he believed that the times called for "kiruv soldiers" to be given a few years of basic education and then sent out to give introductory classes to other young people at risk of assimilation and intermarriage. To that end, he established Aish HaTorah with 5 students in a small apartment in Jerusalem's Old City in 1974.[5]

Aish HaTorah became a symbol of the blossoming baal teshuva movement. In addition to its Jerusalem headquarters, Weinberg spearheaded the establishment of an Aish HaTorah branch in St. Louis, Missouri in 1979. The first Aish Hatorah outreach center in North America, this became a prototype for the Aish Hatorah outreach programs in every major Jewish community today. Over the course of 35 years, Weinberg built a network of over 25 branches on five continents.[6]

In 1985, Weinberg launched the Discovery Seminar, a multi-day seminar designed to introduce proofs of God's existence to audiences all over the world. Based on the Arachim model, Discovery is seen by nearly 10,000 people each year.[7]

In 1985, Weinberg launched the Jerusalem Fellowships, a 3-week tour-and-study program that has brought 10,000 college-aged students to Israel.

Aish HaTorah's umbrella of educational programs also include:[8]

  • Essentials, an introductory learning program for men ages 18–29
  • Executive Kollel, which develops Talmudic learning skills in men over age 30
  • Executive Learning Center, a short-term, customized learning program for men and women
  • B'nei Aish, a 4-week summer program for ninth through twelfth graders
  • Jewel, a 3½-week introductory program for young women
  • Gem, a 10-day program of learning and touring for women over age 30
  • Intermediate and Advanced Yeshiva
  • Rabbinic Ordination/Leadership Program
  • Hesder Yeshiva
  • EYAHT College of Jewish Studies for Women, led by Rebbetzin Denah Weinberg

The aish.com website, which receives over 2 million hits per month, includes articles and audio segments on spirituality, parenting, dating, weekly Torah portion, Holocaust studies, and "Ask the Rabbi" questions and answers. This website also operates a 24-hour live webcam from the Western Wall. Spin-off sites in Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Russian are also up and operating.

Other activities[edit]

Weinberg believed in the idea of Israel activism. He took a lead role in the founding and growth of Honest Reporting, today the largest organization in the world countering media bias against Israel.[citation needed]

In 2001, as Israel was losing an important public relations battle on college campuses,[citation needed] Weinberg founded the Hasbara Fellowships to bring university students to Israel for 2 weeks of Israel Activism training.

In 2006, Weinberg took a group of Aish HaTorah rabbis to Poland to visit the concentration camps. Rabbi Weinberg believed that the threat of spiritual assimilation was no less a threat than the physical holocaust of decades ago. While standing in front of the crematoria at Auschwitz, he declared that just as the Nazis were motivated to destroy the Jewish people, we have to be motivated to build the Jewish people.

For many years, Weinberg promoted the idea of harnessing members of the Jewish community with a significant Jewish background to reach out and share with fellow Jews. In the past few years this idea has caught on, giving rise to Project Inspire and bringing this issue to forefront of communal discussion and efforts.

Government recognition[edit]

In recognition of Aish HaTorah's accomplishments, the Israeli government awarded Weinberg the last two building sites — 40% of the frontage — directly facing the Western Wall. In 1996, Weinberg dedicated his newly designed yeshiva, housing Aish HaTorah's manpower and leadership training programs.

In his final months, Weinberg was devoted to the development of the Aish HaTorah at the Western Wall Building, housing Aish HaTorah's extensive outreach programs, which is scheduled to open in June 2009. A second phase, with a hi-tech Explorium and the Kirk Douglas theater, is slated to open in 2011.

In 2005, Weinberg was honored with the "Treasured of Jerusalem" Award by the mayor of Jerusalem.

Final years[edit]

He was diagnosed with lung cancer in late 2007,[9] for which he underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Late in 2008, he broke his thigh bone and shoulder, compounding his condition. He died of cancer on the morning of February 5, 2009 (11 Shevat 5769). In accordance with a halakhic ruling by Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, Rav of the Old City, his casket was not allowed to be brought into the Old City for eulogies at his yeshiva, Aish HaTorah. Rather, the funeral began at a synagogue near his home in Kiryat Sanz, and proceeded to interment on Har HaMenuchot.

Weinberg left behind his wife of over 50 years, Denah, 12 children, and more than 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.[10]

He was succeeded as rosh yeshiva of Aish HaTorah by his son, Rabbi Yosef Hillel Weinberg.[11]

Works[edit]

Weinberg created new curriculums to teach the fundamentals of Jewish belief and practice to Jews ignorant of their heritage. These include:[12]

  • "The 48 Ways to Wisdom"
  • "The 6 Constant Mitzvot"
  • "Foundations"
  • "The 5 Levels of Pleasure"

Books[edit]

  • What the Angel Taught You: Seven Keys to Life Fulfillment (Artscroll, ISBN 978-1-57819-134-5) (co-authored with Rabbi Yaakov Salomon)
  • The 5 Levels of Pleasure: Enlightened Decision Making for Success in Life (SelectBooks, ISBN 1-59079-109-6)

References[edit]

External links[edit]