web analytics
February 28, 2015 / 9 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


‘How Can You Be A Jew If You Don’t Know Tanach?’: An Interview with Rabbi Berel Wein

Rabbi Berel Wein

Rabbi Berel Wein

“I have always considered autobiographical works somewhat presumptuous. Why should anyone be interested in the details of someone else’s life? Naturally, that observation applies to others’ autobiographies. But sharing my life experiences with complete strangers is different, for they’ll surely value my story.”

Thus begins Teach Them Diligently: The Personal Story of a Community Rabbi by Berel Wein, recently published by Maggid Books. Born in 1934, Rabbi Wein fills his autobiography with stories and observations from his upbringing in Chicago; his rabbinic career in Miami Beach; his tenure as executive vice president of the Orthodox Union in New York; his time as rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Shaarei Torah in Suffern, NY; and his experiences in Israel since making aliyah in 1997.

Rabbi Wein – who is best known for his lectures and films on Jewish history – currently heads the Destiny Foundation. In November, the foundation hopes to premiere episode five of Faith and Fate – The Story of the Jews in the 20th Century,” a 13-part documentary series based on Rabbi Wein’s book of the same name.

The Jewish Press: You begin your autobiography with a story about Israeli Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, which, you write, has “continually inspired and challenged” you. What is that story?

Rabbi Wein: Rav Herzog came to Chicago after the Second World War and spoke in the Chicago yeshiva. He said he had just come from the pope in Rome and gave him a list with 10,000 names of Jewish children who had been sequestered in Catholic institutions during the war. He asked the pope to give him back the children, but the pope said he could not do so because all the children were baptized and once they were baptized they could not be raised in a different faith.

When Rav Herzog said that, he put his head down on the lectern and wept. And then he looked at all of us and said, “I can’t do anything more for those 10,000 children, but what are you going to do to help rebuild the Jewish people?” Later on, when we all went to shake his hand and receive a blessing from him, he said, “Don’t forget what I said, what are you going to do?” And that has reverberated within me all my life.

When most people hear your name, they think, “Ah, yes, the Jewish historian,” and yet, as your book makes clear, history wasn’t a career you chose. It essentially resulted from a fluke.

It wasn’t a fluke, it was accidental.

I was writing sefarim on the Talmud. Then one day in Jerusalem, a man came up to me – whom I never saw before or since – and said, “We’ve got plenty of people writing on the Talmud, but we don’t have anybody writing on Jewish history. You should write on Jewish history.”

That man – the prophet Elijah, I don’t know who it was – had an effect on me, and I began writing on Jewish history. I had always lectured on Jewish history, but I didn’t start writing until later.

But recording and distributing your lectures on Jewish history wasn’t exactly planned either.

No, it was not. I was giving a Jewish history class to women, and their husbands came and said they would also like a class. Many of them were physicians and did not have regular hours, so they asked me if they could send their tape recorders. I said certainly – especially since they had paid the registration fee – and after a while they came back and said, “You know, we circulate these tapes in the hospital to other doctors and everybody loves them. You should do something with them.”

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “‘How Can You Be A Jew If You Don’t Know Tanach?’: An Interview with Rabbi Berel Wein”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prays at the Western Wall ahead of his speech next week at the US Congress.
Netanyahu Visits Western Wall before Leaving for US
Latest Indepth Stories
Netanyahu in a previous address to Congress-

Bibi’s speech to Congress will bring respect and honor to the Jewish Nation from the US & the world

Korenblit-022715

Obama & Putin have handwriting/signature clues indicating differences between public & private life

Councilman David Greenfield

It’s time for a new Jewish policy regarding Ramallah, NOT just because of the yarmulke incident

Levmore-022715

“GETT’s” being screened for Israeli Rabbinical Court judges at their annual convention.

If Jackson were alive he’d denounce Democratic party’s silence towards virulent anti-Semitism

Victim of Palestinian Arab terrorism, a victor in NY federal court, after years of being ignored by Justice Dept.

March 2013: Arabs hurled stones hitting the Biton’s car; Adele’s mother swerved the car-into a truck

The real issue is that in many respects the president has sought to recalibrate American values and our system of government.

Former Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman, writing in the Washington Post on Sunday, provided one of the clearest and most compelling analyses we’ve seen of the importance of the prime minister’s speech.

A central concept in any discussion about happiness is achieving clarity. “Ain simcha ela k’hataras hasefeikos” – there is no joy as that experienced with the removal of doubt.

“Je Suis..,” like its famous origin 400 years ago, implies the ability & freedom to think & question

Many anti-Israel demonstrations at universities have a not-so-latent anti-Semitic agenda as well

Believing a few “extremists” hijacked Islam is myopic in history and geography, numbers and scope

More Articles from Elliot Resnick

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Nouril concluded he had no choice: He had to become more observant.

I was very pro-Israel, I was very proud of being Jewish, and I was living in New York at the time as a single man in my 20s and I was just looking for a little bit more.

A school voucher means the state is giving you a voucher to send your kid to whatever school you want. That might be problematic as far church-state issues are concerned.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

To many Orthodox Jews the issue is “Permitted & Prohibited;” “Right & Wrong” barely considered,

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/how-can-you-be-a-jew-if-you-dont-know-tanach-an-interview-with-rabbi-berel-wein/2014/07/23/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: