Weinberger, Moshe

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WEINBERGER, MOSHE (1854–1940), rabbi. Born in Hungary, he studied with Samuel Ehrenfeld, Elazar Loew, Moses Sofer, and Meir Perles and immigrated to the United States in 1880 for reasons unknown. Fervently Orthodox, deeply learned, and highly unsuccessful, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or he was the wrong man for his place and his time. A sense of his experience in the United States can be found in his book written in Hebrew, not Yiddish, on Jews and Judaism in New York (1887), in which he bemoans Jewish life in New York City and criticizes its materialism, its impiety, the low level of Jewish learning and Jewish life, and the terrible standards of kashrut. "Great cantors, but empty synagogues" is the way he characterized Jewish life. His message to those who had not yet come to the United States was simple: Don't! It was not a happy report, but it did not stem the tide of immigration. Jonathan Sarna describes his book as the best "single source for Orthodox Jewish life among early East European immigrants." It is a non-romantic portrait. The heroes resist and do not embrace Americanization.

He then became rabbi in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1890 and moved on to Philadelphia three years later, and his career was on the upswing. He then returned to New York to be rabbi of the Beth Hamidrash Hagadol, Anshei Ungarn (Hungary). He attempted to organize a Yeshivat Or-Hayyim but, in the end, could not open the school. His experience with his congregation was no better. His congregation was appreciative neither of his learning nor of his educational interests. He hung on but was not supported adequately, so he had to earn additional money elsewhere. In 1906 there was violence directed at him toward the end of Passover and the police were called in to settle the matter. He resigned, entered the matzah business and wrote an open letter to his congregation.

He wrote Kuntres Halakhah le-Moshe (1884), Rosh Divrei Moshe (1895), Ho'il Moshe (1895), Halakhah le-Moshe (1902); Divrei Shalom ve-Emet (1908), and Dorosh Darash Moshe (1914).


J. Sarna, People Walk on Their Heads, Moses Weinberg's Jews and Judaism in New York (1982); M.D. Sherman, Orthodox Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1996); S.Z. Leiman "Yeshivat Or-Hayyim: The First Talmudical Academy in America?" in: Tradition, 25:2 (Winter 1990).

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]