The Orthodox Union is set to name Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, a widely respected Baltimore spiritual leader, Torah scholar and psychotherapist, as its top professional next week, according to several sources.
In addition to his pastoral duties for the last 13 years at Congregation Shomrei Emunah, one of Baltimore’s largest and most active congregations, Rabbi Weinreb, 61, is known for his leadership role in dealing with domestic violence in the Jewish community, helping to train rabbis in this area and speaking to a wide range of groups, locally and nationally, on the subject.
Though somewhat of a surprise choice — his pulpit is outside of New York and he was not ordained by Yeshiva University — the rabbi was the consensus selection of the OU’s search committee seeking to replace Rabbi Raphael Butler, who stepped down as executive vice president under pressure in January in the midst of the scandal over Rabbi Baruch Lanner.
Rabbi Lanner, accused of abusing teens over a 30-year period as an OU youth leader, was indicted earlier this year in New Jersey and is expected to stand trial in the coming months.
Sources say Rabbi Weinreb’s approval by the OU’s executive committee Sept. 24 is a mere formality, and he will begin his post Jan. 1.
As one of five candidates interviewed recently in the final stages of a seven-month process, Rabbi Weinreb is said to have impressed the committee with his plans to help the OU, the largest Orthodox organization of its kind, regain its stature and restore confidence in the community by addressing its problems and implementing a number of recommendations made by a special OU-appointed committee that explored the Lanner crisis.
Rabbi Weinreb reportedly has insisted on reading the committee’s full, private report, which has not been shared with the OU’s executive officers, before accepting the top professional position.
Insiders say there is much respect in the Orthodox community for Rabbi Weinreb’s scholarship and integrity, and they feel his interpersonal skills and oratory abilities will make him a worthy leader. He has been widely sought as a speaker around the country in recent years by Orthodox synagogues and organizations.
This past Shabbat, he told his congregants he most likely would accept the OU offer, citing the opportunity to take on what he described as a vital opportunity to enhance Orthodoxy in general and the OU in particular on a national scale.
The congregation, which has doubled in membership to about 400 family units during his tenure, is in the midst of a building campaign to expand its facilities.
Eli Schlossberg, president of the synagogue, said the move will be “a tremendous loss,” but congregants “are very proud that our rabbi was chosen for this important position, and that we are able to share him with the rest of klal Yisrael [the Jewish community]. He has a greater calling now.”
A nationally known speaker and Judaic scholar of note, Rabbi Weinreb became increasingly involved with the wider Jewish community during his tenure in Baltimore through the local federation and its agencies, as well as a program of dialogue with members of all streams of Judaism initiated by his synagogue.
A former vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America, Rabbi Weinreb is a member of its executive committee and is active in the Shalom Task Force, a New York-based group dealing with domestic abuse, and a Baltimore federation group of a similar nature.
The New York native was ordained by the Rabbi Jacob Joseph yeshiva in New York and received his doctorate in psychology from the University of Maryland, specializing in group and family psychotherapy. He was chief psychologist for the Prince Georges County (Md.) public schools and later went into private practice, before taking the Shomrei pulpit in 1989.