Between the Yeshiva World and Modern OrthodoxyThe Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, 1884-1966

Between the Yeshiva World and Modern OrthodoxyThe Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, 1884-1966

Marc B. Shapiro

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9781874774525

Publisher: Liverpool University Press

Abstract

The span of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg's life (1884–1966) illuminates the religious and intellectual dilemmas that traditional Jewry has faced over the past century. Rabbi Weinberg became a central ideologue of modern Orthodoxy because of his positive attitude to secular studies and Zionism and his willingness to respond to social change in interpreting the halakhah. But Weinberg was an unusual man: even at a time when he was defending the traditional yeshiva against all attempts at reform, he always maintained an interest in the wider world. He left Lithuania for Germany at the beginning of the First World War, attended the University of Giessen, and increasingly identified with the Berlin school of German Orthodoxy. He was soon recognized as German Orthodoxy's most eminent halakhic authority in its efforts to maintain religious tradition in the face of Nazi persecution. His approach derived from the conviction that the attempt to shore up Orthodoxy by increased religious stringency would only reduce its popular appeal. This book discusses many aspects of Weinberg's life. It elucidates many institutional and intellectual phenomena of the Jewish world: the yeshivas of Lithuania; the state of the Lithuanian rabbinate; the musar movement; the Jews of eastern Europe in Weimar Germany; the Torah im Derekh Eretz movement and its variants; Orthodox Jewish attitudes towards Wissenschaft des Judentums; and the special problems of Orthodox Jews in Nazi Germany. Throughout, the book shows the complex nature of Weinberg's character and the inner struggles of a man being pulled in different directions.