Sunday, December 11, 2011

The fruits of imprisonment-Rabbinic Ordination

For the full text, follow these links:

 My father was able to continue his studies in prison, and, upon release, he was granted his ordination from the Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums. The text shows that he had completed the bulk of his studies by 1933, had served the Jewish community, but was granted the ordination in absentia in 1938, by which time, he was on his way to Czechoslovakia, out of reach, for a while, of the Nazis.


"The Institute for the Science of Judaism
 Document of completion of studies for
Rabbi ,Preacher, and Teacher of Religion.
Dr. Wllliam Weinberg, born on April 3, 1901, in Dolina, has, after the completion of his Doctoral Studies in Vienna in November,1926, until July, l933, completed 12 semesters in the Institute in Berlin. He has completed his studies in  Jewish theology and shown his ability in the Scientific Study  of Judaism.
Through this institute he has also served in the service of the Jewish community in many avenues and has demonstrated his knowledge of preaching.
At the completion of his studies he took his final examination for Rabbi, Preacher, and Teacher of Religion.
He prepared two dissertations:
Elisha ben Abuyah- Acher (Heretic)
Kim Lei Bederaba Minei-( The Rabbinc principal of establishing a decision on a greater halakhic authority).
He has achieved a Grade of: Satisfactory
In the months of April thorugh July, l933, he held oral examinations under:
Prof. Elbogen, Jewish History and Literature,Dr.Rabbl Baeck, Judaic History, Homiletics, and Method of Religion, together with Prof . Dr. Guttmann, Religious Philosophy ,Dr. Torzcyner, 
Bible,Dr. Albeck, Talmud. 
Dr. Wilhelm Weinberg has received a grade of” Good: in all subjects.
We affix our signature and the official seal as proof. We wish Dr. Willhelm Weinberg all the best.
Berlin, August 10, 1938, The Faculty of rhe Lehranstalt fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums.
Baeck, I. Elbogen, M. Sister,M. Wiener, A. Guttman"

My father had also personal ordination, which allowed him the authority to deliberate in matters of Jewish law, from his teacher, Dr. Chanoch Albeck. Once again, this traditional "Semikhat Yadaim"(Laying Hands on the head of the student as a sign of ordination) was a matter of distance learning-Dr. Albeck was already in Jerusalem at the time:
Prof  Dr. Chanoch Albeck

Letter of Certification as Rabbi

Dr. Zeev(Wilhelm) , Weinberg has studied under me these several years at the Bet Midrash Gavoah LeMadaey Hayahadut (Hochscule) in Berlin.He has involved himself completely in the Torah, in order to learn, study, and comprehend. Based upon his display of the wealth of knowledge by examinations whereby I tested him orally and on the wealth of understanding shown through his essays which he prepared in the matters of halakhah(Jewish Law), I ordained him with THE CROWN OF THE RABBINATE.
 I have placed in his hand this document to be testimony for him in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, for great is his ability to stand before the community to serve it, and to stand sacred watch over it,to teach the children of lsrael the way whereby they should go, solely in the path of the Torah which our sages of blessed memory, both the ancient and the recent, have bequeathed us, through whose words we live and from whose waters we drink. May he be deliberate in judgement and examine the texts ,and not rely on memory alone for giving instruction.My prayer is that he never fail in the explication of halakhah and that there never be a stumbling block because of him.  May the Lord be with him, and may he go higher and higher in Torah and wisdom. May God desire to grant him success in order to raise high the glory of our people to magnify the Torah and to make it great.
 Jerusalem, 22 Heshvon, 5698(October 27, l937)
Chanoch Albeck, formerly teacher of Talmud and
Rabbinics at the Hochschule fur die Wissenschaft
des Judentums in Berlin,  now Professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem"

Years later , I had the privilege of meeting my father's teacher in Jerusalem. He remembered my father for his exceptional mastery of the Hebrew language.

Ten years of Rabbinical study, finally completed, would now be put aside for nearly a decade. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

The first descent into the Gates of Hell –Part 2 A Rabbinical Student in Berlin Prison

For the full text, follow these links:

The first descent into the Gates of Hell –Part 2      
  A Rabbinical Student in Berlin Prison

Thus it came to pass that my father found himself sitting behind the bars of a Nazi prison, convicted by a party-appointed judge, a mechanic and a postal inspector.
It had become impossible for my father to support himself while pursuing his studies and his activities in a Jewish community which no longer had the resources once at hand to employ such a gifted young leader. He took a break from his studies in Berlin and travelled to Zurich where he had an opportunity to tutor private students while he decided what his next step would be; he was desperate to get back to Berlin and finish his studies and perhaps because he had then held Polish citizenship it was easier for him to move in and out.
In summer of 1935 he met some acquaintances in Zurich who were also anxious to be able to continue in business to support themselves. There was a deal to be made with a woolen goods factory in Czechoslovakia but the principal seller was in Berlin; since Weinberg was planning on going back to Berlin, would he please deliver some cash there for them. After all, as a non-German , they told him, he was exempt from the strict currency controls that Treasurer Schacht had just set up and should have no trouble delivering the funds.
What my father did not realize was that at least one of the participants was himself a tool of the same Nazi regime which was using its control of the economy to grind down the Jews of Germany.
My father made the trip back to Berlin and met with the businessman who was to have received the funds. The Gestapo agents were waiting next door.

Friday, September 23, 2011

THE FIRST DESCENT INTO THE GATES OF HELL- Part 1 A Century of Civil Rights is Undone in a Moment

For the full text, follow these links:
Google Books            
There is an interesting problem in the Biblical plague of the frogs. Moses is told to bring up “the frogs” yet when he stretches out his staff only one frog comes out:  VaTa’al Hatzefardea —The frog came up.(Exodus 8:b). While the simple meaning of the text is to use a singular to designate a group the wording leaves itself to further imagination. Thus  in the Talmud  Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah commented, “There was one frog who croaked and the rest came after him.”
My father, a student of the Talmud, expanded upon it.  Hitler was the one frog of history who opened his mouth and thousands of frogs answered his call. Where hatred had been sown for centuries by Christian preachers it remained planted in the hearts of men. It took only one frog to bring it out.
What a plague to befall on Jews, on Europe, and finally back on to the Germans themselves! Keep in mind that when my father wrote his doctoral thesis in 1926, on the threat to democracy, he referred to Mussolini and Lenin and ignored Hitler completely. Yet within six years, Hitler had taken over the reins of power. How else to understand him other  than as a plague of one frog that unleashed all the ugly frogs.
Einstein left Berlin for the United States, and my father  continued his studies in Berlin  at the Hochschule(or Lehranstalt) für die Wissenschaft des Judentums under Rabbi Leo Baeck .
By January, 1933, Hitler had manipulated the conservative parties into joining forces with him and he had become the Chancellor of Germany. The leaders of the conservative parties—the Junkers, the military, the major industrialists-- thought that they would be able to control him as a bulwark against the socialists and communists. Little did they realize that they had brought up the plague of frogs and soon the plague of death on all.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Einstein's Last Lecture in Berlin

(A shorter version was printed in the Jewish Spectator, Winter, 1979)
As a student activist, Willi was responsible for finding funds for the many projects the Jewish Students Organization sponsored, such as finding scholarship money for students in financial need. This led him to the renowned physicist, Albert Einstein at the end of 1931.
My father often spoke admiringly of Einstein and explained his belief that his brilliant insight into the inner functioning of the universe was an example of the classical Biblical concept of prophecy, the meeting of the human mind with the Divine in revelation. The proof, he was sure, was that Einstein’s greatest work occurred within the span of one year, in 1905, when Einstein was 26. The rest of his career, my father contended, was spent in fruitless search for the Unified Field Theory, the theory that would tie together all universal phenomena and force, what a religious thinker would call ”God”. While Einstein rejected formal religion, it is well known that he viewed the laws of the universe with a religious awe. For example, here are two of his well-known quotes:
“Knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man.”

Friday, April 29, 2011

Einstein's Last LectureEssay on Einstein

The Story of Einstein's Last Lecture in Berlin as it appeared in the Jewish Spectator, 1979.

Berlin and Rabbinic Studies

 Berlin and Rabbinic Studies
                Two and a half centuries ago, a hunchback Talmud Scholar, Moses Mendelssohn, made his way from his native town of Dessau to follow his teacher in Berlin. The young Mendelssohn soon became one of the foremost philosopher’s of his day, the inspiration for the opening of German society to Jews, and the opening of Jews to German thought. His teachings were the foundation of what became the Jewish Enlightenment,  the Haskalah.
Berlin would continue to be the magnet for the great figures of modern Jewish history and the German “Kulturkreise”, Sphere of Cultural Influence, would give rise to a marvelous symbiosis between Judaism  and modernity. Looking backwards from the post-Holocaust future, this is almost impossible to imagine. 
                In the 20th century, in the aftermath of World War II, the movement of seminal Jewish figures to Berlin would continue. It would serve as the meeting ground between the world of classic Jewish tradition and modernity.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Future Cardinal, the Future Rabbi, and the End of Democracy

The Future Cardinal, the Future Rabbi, and the End of Democracy 

            In 1928, a future Cardinal puts his signature on to the doctorate of a future Chief Rabbi and then, in a decade, the world is in flames.
            Willi and his brother, Munio, finished gymnasia and went on to higher learning at the University of Vienna.
            Munio studied economics and earned his doctorate in law; he was always the business minded of the two brothers and Vienna was the heart of the “ Austrian” school of economics, lead by Schumpeter (a key influence,  years later on  Cong. Ron Paul, of “ Tea Party” and libertarian reknown). This was the school of the “ creative destruction “ power of capitalism, an intellectual repartee  to Marxism, which saw the entrepreneur as the leader of civilization, and the bureaucrat as the obstacle. I don’t know to what extent Munio was indebted to that school, but years later, he would prove, both in Marxist Soviet Union and in Capitalist Canada, to be a creative entrepreneur.
The young student

            My father was more of the “master of dreams”, like Joseph of old. He once told me of a relative of his who was a poet who had the misfortune to marry the daughter of a banker and inherit the bank business; he was wealthy, but miserable, because he could no longer follow his vision. He would tell me how , for the creative writer, like Balzac, the characters of his creation were more real than the people next to him; in just the same way, his father, he said, saw the ethereal heavenly guests, the Ushpizin, AbrahamIsaac and the other patriarchs who came to the Sukkah at Sukkoth as equally real as the family seated with him at the festival table. ( Like Joseph, my father would also understand the dream of the future Pharaoh—of the horrid and terrible years of destruction following the years of plenty).
Still, my father was a doer, not purely a romantic dreamer. Because of his Zionist involvement and his continuing work in the Zionist movement he gravitated to political theory. He became president of  the Zionist  Students of Austria, was a delegate to the Zionist Congress, and was proud to work at the desk that had belonged to Theodore Herzl, founder of modern Zionism and the future State of Israel.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

“Megillat Esther: The Story of Esther”

I take pleasure in announcing that “Megillat Esther: The Story of Esther”, the account of my mother, Irene Weinberg, and her survival as an Aryan Pole under the eyes of the Nazis in Lwow and Warsaw during the Shoah, including rare photos of the period, is now online at: . You are among the first to see the page before the site officially opens it to the full public.

Other photos of my mother can be found online through Galicia Jewish Museum of Krakow,

This is part of the ongoing research into the history of the Jewishpeople in Europe in the 20Th century that is being posted on my blog,

The Museum of Family History, is an online virtual museum established by Steve Lasky. It is visual treasure trove of documents and images of Jewish life in recent history. The museum is dedicated to honoring and preserving the memory of our Jewish ancestors for the past and future generations. It attempts to do this through the use of text, photographs and audiovisual material. Many exhibitions are presented that have to do with Jewish history and culture, especially, but not exclusively, in countries such as the United States and those found on the European continent.

The Museum gives each of us the opportunity to honor our own family by becoming part of the museum, so Steve welcomes your material contributions. If you have any material that you think might be of interest to his “museum visitors”, that he may feature within his online museum, please contact him at .

Megillat Ester: The Story of Irene Weinberg

presented with love by her son Rabbi Norbert Weinberg


In every age, the Jewish people saw the echo of the Scroll of Esther and the Festival of Purim in their struggle to survive. Out of the darkness, "Layehudim Hayetah Orah v Simchah" for the Jews, there shone light and joy. For my mother, out of the darkness, there came the light and joy of not only surviving, but of creating new life.

Purim provides the metaphor for my mother.

You see, my mother Irene Weinberg, Irka as she was nicknamed, was in Hebrew, Esther.

Esther was the name of public record for Hadassah. Esther was the name Hadassah used to save herself and her people. In the ancient languages of the Middle East, Esther was a pagan goddess, the morning star, Ishtar, Venus - but in Hebrew, Esther was derived from "nistar" [or] "Hidden" [in English]. By hiding her identity as a Jew and pretending to be a pagan on the outside, Hadassah, Esther becomes the Queen and saves not only herself but her people. In later Jewish lore, she is publicly the Queen, but in truth she is married to her uncle, Mordecai, the political figure and advisor.

You see, my mother, Irene-Esther, saved herself and others by hiding in plain sight....

To read the entire story about Irene Weinberg, please click here.

Copyright © 2011. Museum of Family History. All rights reserved. Image Use

Sunday, January 23, 2011

More on the Gemuetlich Life in Vienna

The Vienna Chapter of Hashomer Hatzair, showing founder Meir Yaari, middle,second row, and my father, Wilhelm Weinberg, last row, on left.

Mishmar, May-June 1947, on 50 the Birthday of Meir Yaari, the founder of Hashomer and Mapam.
The article describes the adulation heaped upon Meir Yaari for his role in founding major institutions in then British Palestine, soon to become the State of Israel. His colleague, and co-founder of the movement, the Kibbutz Artzi and Mapam, Y. Hazan, described the early years in the kibbutz movement, which could well have described the early years of Hashomer in Vienna,".” We were like a small family. Each one knew the other. We grew up together and moved upward in a great movement"

Scenes from the better years, when the Weinbergs could spend a pleasant summer on the beach somewhere on the Yugoslav coastline.C. end of 1920s, early 1930's. The family had business interests in Trieste,a former part of th Austrian Empire that had been occupied by Italy, and the Benjamin spent much time there to oversee the business.
My father, center, with his brother, Munio, right, and uncle , Jonah Gelernter, noted Hebraist and teacher of Hebrew at the Vienna Hebrew Gymnasium.Before World War I, he was active in Galicia, in the area of Stryj, with the Ivria Society for the revival of Hebrew as a living language and culture.

On the beach in better days:left to right, Benjamn( Munio),unknown woman, Jonah  and on his shoulders,his wife, Sarah, sister of Samuel Weinberg and aunt of my uncle and my father, on the right.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Coming of Age in Vienna

Chapter 3a
Coming of Age in Vienna
My father taught me to avoid crowds. One of the books in his library was by a noted French sociologist, Gustave Le Bon, on “ The Psychology of Crowds,” and apparently both Hitler and Mussolini studied it and learned the lessons of manipulation of the masses from it.
With the fall of the Habsburg Empire, Vienna was in chaos. At one point, my father, then young and idealistic, joined in one of the demonstrations, when suddenly the crowd, perhaps confronted by police or military force, panicked. He escaped the stampede, and learned, from there on, not to go on with the herd.
       The capital city of the new Republic of Austria, was dominated by socialists, hence, it earned the nickname of “Red Vienna”. At the same time, it was a heavily cosmopolitan city, having served as capital for so many distinct nationalities under the Empire, and, during and after the war,  it was swollen with refugees, particularly Jews like the Weinbergs.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dr Benjamin Weinberg's notes on Family

Benjamin Weinberg’s family history notes- written c 1977-78
My Uncle, Dr. Benjamin Weinberg, was the source of much information on the family lineage. He wrote me several letters, by long-hand, and filled in the margins when he ran out of room or had an additional thought to add. Sections of the original notes have been realigned for sake of continuity of theme and I have headed them accordingly.  I have transcribed it as he wrote it; keepin mind that English was his sixth or seventh( and last) language.
The origin of the Weinbergs in from Spain to Dolina-salt mines, the first cemetary