People Walk on Their Heads: Moses Weinberger's Jews and Judaism in New York

People Walk on Their Heads: Moses Weinberger's Jews and Judaism in New York

People Walk on Their Heads: Moses Weinberger's Jews and Judaism in New York

People Walk on Their Heads: Moses Weinberger's Jews and Judaism in New York

Excerpt

In 1880, Moses Weinberger (1854-1940) arrived in New York City from Kniesen, Zips (Szepes), Hungary. He was twenty-six years old, staunchly Orthodox, and freshly trained in the rabbinate. He left Hungary, seemingly against his will, for reasons unknown. Whatever those reasons may have been, New York was the wrong place for him. True, the city then already had an Orthodox Jewish population estimated to number 10,000 people. It housed an impressive Hungarian congregation, Ohab Zedek, founded in 1872/3, as well as several other Orthodox synagogues, most notably Beth Hamedrash Hagodol (1852, reorganized 1859), Beth Hamedrash Livne Yisroel Yelide Polen (1853, later the Kalvarier Shul) and Khal Adas Jeshurun (1856). But these synagogues lived in relative poverty; most lacked the money to support a full-time rabbi. And if any did want a rabbi, they had little trouble luring one with distinguished European credentials, reports of ritual laxity in America notwithstanding. When, for example, Bet Hamidrash Hagodol Ubnai Jacob, the leading Orthodox congregation in Chicago, sought a Rabbi -- in the very year Weinberger arrived in New York -- they were able to coax the renowned Abraham Jacob Gerson Lesser (1834-1925) from Ludwinow, Suwalki. They did not need to look for a young upstart.

So Moses Weinberger found no rabbinical post. In spite of his impressive scholarly credentials -- he was at various times a student of such Hungarian luminaries as Rabbis Meier Perles, Samuel Ehrenfeld, Eleazar Loew, and Moses Sofer (d. 1917, not to be confused with his namesake known as the Chasam Sofer) -- circumstances forced him to try his hand at various sorts of business. He kept up his studies in his . . .

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