Rabbi Noach Weinberg, the founder of the Aish Hatorah yeshiva in Jerusalem that grew into an international outreach institution, and one of the leaders of the 1960s movement that brought thousands of unaffiliated Jews back to traditional Judaism, died Feb. 5 in his Jerusalem home after a long illness.
Rabbi Weinberg – he was popularly known as Reb Noach – was a charismatic speaker, an renowned fundraiser and an effective administrator who developed Aish Hatorah into a brand, a yeshiva with branches in 35 cities around the world. He oversaw the growth of the aish.com Web site into an Internet resource with a nondenominational following.
His philosophy of serving God through joy and of finding pleasure through a life of meaning was summarized in his book "What the Angel Taught You: Seven Keys to Life Fulfillment" (Artscroll, 2003), and his lectures on "48 Ways to Wisdom" was turned into a popular series of tapes.
"Jewish wisdom teaches that G-d is our Father n Heaven. He created the world simply to bestow pleasure upon his children, because just like a human father, all G-d wants for his children is their pleasure," Rabbi Weinberg wrote in a 1998 article on the jewishworldreview.com Web site.
"Rabbi Weinberg dedicated his life to bringing a renaissance with Jewish people, to reach out to every Jew and reconnect him to the depth and meaning of our heritage," according to a statement issued this week by Aish Hatorah. "The Jewish people are meant to be a light unto nations. Rabbi Weinberg undertook the task to galvanize the Jewish people and inspire us to live up to our mission and be Kiddush Hashem – to sanctify God’s Name in this world."
A native of Brooklyn who studied at the Chaim Berlin and Ner Israel yeshivas, he helped establish several so-called baal teshuvah yeshivas for young men and women from secular backgrounds, before he became dean of Aish Hatorah, now located in the Old City of Jerusalem near the stairs to the Western Wall. Previously, advanced Jewish learning was limited to people who had studied Jewish texts for years; men and women with minimal Jewish backgrounds found few resources geared to their remedial level.
Some 100,000 people today take part in Aish Hatorah’s international educational programs.
Rabbi Weinberg was buried today in Jerusalem’s Har Menuchos cemetery. His late brother, Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, was rosh yeshiva of Ner Israel in Baltimore.