Aish HaTorah is the most significant outreach organization for Orthodox Judaism (along with Chabad). They are a machine. They bring people in, they love them, and they help them rebuild their lives in the light of the Torah.
Maverick Rabbi Noah Weinberg, head of the Aish Hatorah Yeshiva and one of the trailblazers of Orthodox Jewish outreach (kiruv), passed away in Jerusalem on Thursday after a yearlong battle with lung cancer. He was 78.
Thousands flooded the capital to attend the funeral of the innovative rabbi, known for his strategy of drawing young, unaffiliated Jewish travelers from the Western Wall to the nearby Aish Hatorah Yeshiva for a dose of yiddishkeit.
Weinberg, who grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, received his Torah education at Brooklyn’s Yeshivat Chaim Berlin and Baltimore’s Ner Yisrael Yeshiva, which was headed by his older brother Rabbi Ya’acov Weinberg.
Noah Weinberg arrived in Israel about four decades ago and studied at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem and at Yeshivat Hanegev in Netivot.
In the 1960s, Weinberg established yeshivot and educational programs aimed at young Jewish men with secular backgrounds who were interested in embracing traditional Judaism.
He was co-founder of the capital’s Ohr Somayach, still one of the leading educational institutions focusing on outreach.
In the mid-1970s, Weinberg broke with Ohr Somayach due to a dispute over educational philosophy, according to Janet Aviad’s 1983 book Return to Judaism.
While Ohr Somayach encouraged its students to dedicate their lives to studying Torah, Weinberg believed that after several years of study students who were the object of outreach should themselves get involved in reaching out to secular Jews, or they should find work in a secular workplace and influence fellow workers to embrace an Orthodox way of life.
Aish Hatorah’s Rabbinical Ordination/Leadership Program focuses on producing graduates imbued with the "Aish culture" of kiruv. These graduates are seen as the future leaders of the institution.
Many are sent out to one of Aish Hatorah’s 30 centers around the world to work in outreach or to help establish new centers.
Unlike most haredi rabbis, Weinberg was very pro-Zionist. He established several institutions that focus on strengthening the Jewish state.