Weinstein, Jacob

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WEINSTEIN, JACOB (1902–1974), Reform rabbi. Born in Stephin, Russia, he immigrated to the United States at the age of seven with his family to Portland, Oregon, where he became a protégé of Charles E. Wood, the city's most prominent civil liberties and labor lawyer, whose clients included Jewish anarchist Emma *Goldman.

He went to Reed College in Oregon and then the Hebrew Union College, where he was ordained in 1929.

He was rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in Austin, Texas, from 1929 to 1930. A year later he moved to San Francisco, where he was rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel. He became involved in the Mooney Billings case, defending striking longshoremen, as well as urging higher wages for department store employees to a congregation that included the owners of these stores. His career in San Francisco did not last for long. He went to New York for three years and then returned to San Francisco, not as a congregational rabbi but as director of the School for Jewish Studies in San Francisco from 1935 to 1939.

Jacob Weinstein became rabbi of kam in Chicago, Illinois, in 1939 and served there until 1967. He was a leading spokesman for Judaism's mission of social action in American society. A fervent opponent of racism, he helped integrate the Hyde Park neighborhood as a paradigm of solidarity and cooperation. He nudged the labor movement in the United States and in Israel toward egalitarian and humanitarian goals. He influenced such politically well-known Chicago figures as Arthur J. Goldberg and Abner Mikva, as well as Democratic presidential candidate (in 1952 and 1956) Adlai Stevenson and a host of younger rabbis and lay leaders in the Chicago and national communities.

During the years of World War ii, Rabbi Weinstein served as public member of the Chicago area War Labor Board, which arbitrated a crushing load of contract disputes between workers and their employers. This experience led to subsequent arbitration assignments in the labor relations field. He served on the Public Review Board of the United Auto Workers, established by legendary Labor leader Walter Reuther in 1957 to mediate and adjudicate disputes within the union. Among his colleagues on that board were Msgr. George Higgins, chair of the Catholic Conference on Social Research; Prof. Frank McCulloch, formerly head of the Labor Education Division at Roosevelt University, and Dr. Robin Flemming, labor arbitrator and president of the University of Michigan.

He was president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis from 1947 to 1949, during the time in which the post-war transformation of the Jewish community was taking root and when the State of Israel was established. He was president of the Hyde Park Council of Churches and Synagogues from 1948 to 1950. Admired by his colleagues, nationally as well as locally, he was president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, from 1965 to 1969. An ardent laborite and Zionist, he was President of the National Committee for Labor Israel in 1974. President John F. Kennedy, under the influence of Secretary of Labor Arthur J. Goldberg, appointed him to the President's Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity. He also served on the Business Ethics Advisory Committee to the secretary of commerce.

He is the author of A Rabbi's Rabbi: The Life of Solomon Goldman, his Conservative Colleague in Chicago, a tribute to their friendship and to his scholarship. An avid letter writer, he was both a serious pastor, writing to congregants in the army or after losses and at milestone occasions, and a significant and courageous, liberal political and religious leader.


J. Feldstein, Rabbi Jacob J. Weinstein: Advocate of the People (1980).

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]