Rav Noach lived with the faith that if we show the Almighty that we care enough, He will provide us with the means to repair His world. To that end, he sacrificed his personal Torah learning and time with his family over decades to build Aish HaTorah and to aid hundreds of other organizations.
Scoffed at and dismissed at the outset of his life’s mission, Rav Noach lived to see much of his vision fulfilled, though never to the degree for which he prayed and worked so ardently.
Rav Noach Weinberg: Torah Revolutionary is an inspiring and thought-provoking biography, written by famed biographer Yonoson Rosenblum. This unique work honestly addresses the development, teachings, controversies, and legacy of one of the most powerful and influential Torah figures of recent times: Rav Noach Weinberg of Aish HaTorah.
Yaakov Meyer –
Incredibly researched and thorough.
A biography unlike any other I have ever read. Having known the Rosh Yeshiva z”l fairly well, I was overwhelmed at how much I didn’t know about him and is included in this book. A maverick and innovator whose love for Hashem and His people was seemingly without boundaries. This book should be required reading for anyone who cares or wants to care about Klal Yisroel
Aaron Kampf –
An absolute masterpiece! I couldn’t put the book down and have now read it twice. The author captures the very essence of R’ Noah zt”l and it inspires me daily. The gift that keeps giving.
C Cohen –
It is both rare and refreshing to read such an honest portrayal of such a Torah giant. Knowing Rav Noach personally I was apprehensive to read his biography as I was afraid it wouldn’t do him true justice.
This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to make a difference to the Jewish world. Rosenblum has clearly done his research interviewing many people from across the globe who knew Rav Noach at different stages in his life. He writes about Rav Noach’s early failed attempts at creating Kiruv organisations and how Aish differs from other Yeshivos. This book will help you understand many of the controversies that surrounded Aish, but more importantly the incredible impact that Rav Noach had on the wider Jewish world.
The historical narrative is both fascinating and easy to read while the portrait it draws of Rav Noach challenges the reader to take responsibility for the Jewish people.
I’d like to have seen the pictures printed in colour, rather than greyscale, though otherwise a perfect book.
Chanoch Harris –
I’ve read it twice. All my big kids have read it. As a student of Rav Noach’s, I found this to be a wonderful opportunity to revisit his compelling and uplifting legacy. It’s an extraordinary review of the origins and reach of his life’s work. It’s also a moving challenge to live up to the opportunities and urgency of H’s call.
Ephy Greene –
This book helped me get to “know” Rav Noach and the entire Aish enterprise. It was inspirational and informational, bringing me into a world I though I knew, but learned so much more about. I literally did not want to close the book after reading the last page as I didn’t want to disconnect from the life of Rav Noach and his mission. I’m looking forward to reading it again.
Miles Kerr-Jarrett –
For a figure like Rav Noach, who is famous for his incredible impact on the Jewish world in general and the field of kiruv in particular, this biography is testimony that, in this case at least, the truth is even greater than the legend. It’s packed with powerful stories and lessons from the lives of not just Rav Noach but also many of his talmidim, who themselves followed their rebbe’s vision to achieve great things in their own right. Yonason Rosenblum’s writing style is as easy, engaging and enjoyable as always. The book is downright essential.
Ben Rothke –
Rosenblum has written a remarkably insightful and candid memoir about one of the most important Jewish figures of the last fifty years.
While Rav Noach was one of the earliest founders of the kiruv movement, it must be understood the milieu in which he grew up. He was thinking about kiruv in the early 1950s. This was just after World Word 2 when the notion of bringing Jews back to Orthodoxy was an utter absurdity. His label them as Noach, the meshuggener was certainly a pejorative, but at the time, accurate. Conservative and Reform Judaism were at their apex, and the future of Orthodoxy was in doubt. This chronicle shows how remarkably prescient Rav Noach was.
There is the well-known story of Rav Elya Meir Bloch of the Telz Yeshiva, who went into a sefarim store in the Lower East Side in the early 1950s and asked to purchase a copy of Ketzos Hachoshen. The owner gave it to him and told him that it was the last Ketzos that would ever be sold in the United States. The owner was simply echoing the reality of the times. Any rational, i.e., non-visionary, person would have thought the same. Rav Bloch, like Rav Noach, were visionaries. Rav Bloch’s was about Torah flourishing in America, and Rav Noach was about bringing the Jewish people back. Had either of them gone with the times, the world today would be a much darker place.
As Rosenblum eloquently writes, Rav Noach was not some wild-eyed dreamer; rather he had a laser-focused understanding of the problems facing the Jewish people. An important point he shows is that Rav Noach was not a one-trick pony with kiruv. His laser-focused vision was apparent early on when long before the phenomenon in the Torah observant world of adults at risk was ever a topic. Rav Noach warned that the lack of emphasis in the Torah educational system on the necessary foundations of Judaism would undermine the Torah world from within. The outgrowth of that was Project Chazon headed by Rabbi Daniel Mechanic.
Rav Noach could have thrown in the towel after his myriad setbacks and betrayals. Furthermore, his surrender would have been fully justified. However, Rosenblum details in chapter after chapter, Rav Noach knew that he was not working for himself, instead for the Almighty and his children, and felt he did not have the right to surrender.
Rosenblum has written a remarkably candid biography that details the many successes and failures that Rav Noach faced. The title correctly calls him a revolutionary. Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein noted that the Torah prefers evolution, rather than revolution. Nonetheless, be it the Baal Shem Tov, Sara Schenirer or Rav Noach; these revolutionaries knew that taking revolutionary responsibility for the Jewish people meant incurring the wrath of many of those who preferred the status quo, and the approach of sha shtil, makh nit keyn gerider (be passive and do not make noise).
This is the only biography I have ever read where I knew the subject intimately well. Spending over four years at Aish, the book was a walk down memory lane. While Rosenblum has done an extraordinary job, I am reminded of the events of chapter 3 from the book of Ezra.
It says that “When the builders had laid the foundation of the Temple of the Lord, priests in their vestments with trumpets and Levites sons of Asaph with cymbals were stationed to give praise to the Lord, as King David of Israel had ordained.
However, a few verses later, Ezra writes, “many of the priests and Levites and the chiefs of the clans, the old men who had seen the first house, wept loudly at the sight of the founding of this house.”
To those who knew Rav Noach, walked with him, and spent extended periods with him, the book does not capture the essence of who he was. It does not capture his passion, his exasperations, his sense of urgency, and who he really was.
This is undoubtedly not Rosenblum’s fault, as the written word simply lacks that capability to detail such a unique personality fully. Words cannot capture the essence of the person such that you can truly understand them from a biography. That may be why the Oral Torah was originally forbidden to be written down because the nature of it simply cannot be put into words. Furthermore, when it is put into words, it loses much of its essence.
For example., when writing of Rav Noach’s habit of snapping his fingers, it could sound like an odd, almost Tourette-like habit. However, those who walked through the Old City streets with Rav Noach will understand precisely what that snapping meant. Rather than being odd, it was his method to raise his consciousness to be aware of God and was a mechanism to focus and remember the six constant mitzvos.
If Rav Soloveitchik was The Lonely Man of Faith, then Rav Noach was The Lonely Man of Kiruv. It was a struggle he faced in large part alone. Alone from his family for a large part of the year on fundraising trips, and alone in his struggle to bring back the Jewish people to their roots. Rosenblum does not hold back and writes of the countless antagonists and naysayers that got in his way.
In the world of biographies written by and for the Orthodox world, this work is unique in its text and approach. Rosenblum does not sugarcoat things, and where Rav Noach’s imperfection needs to be discussed, he details them.
His research was superb, and the accuracy of the book is due in large part to the assistance of Rabbi Asher Resnick, a long-time and close student of Rav Noach.
The only error I found was when Rosenblum writes that Rabbi Amram Blau of the Neturei Karta was fluent in English, both spoken and written.
According to Dr. Motti Inbari, professor of religion at the University of North Carolina and author of The Making of Modern Jewish Identity: Ideological Change and Religious Conversion, which has a chapter about him – Blau certainly did not know how to read English. However, Inbari speculates that he may have known how to speak English because of his connections with the British Mandate and the British government.
Inbari notes that Blau prohibited his wife from publishing in English because he could not read her papers to review the text for accuracy.
There nothing not to like in this remarkable and inspirational biography. If I have any complaint, it is that I would have loved it to go on for another few hundred pages. But at 550 pages, the book is certainly thorough and engrossing.
One is hard-pressed not to find a Jewish community worldwide that has not been a beneficiary of Rav Noach’s wisdom and efforts. Rosenblum has done a superb job in finally bringing the magnificent story of Rav Noach Weinberg to print.
David Markowitz –
There are few books that can inspire, educate and activate as this one. It captures a life and it opens the story of countless others who are actively working to better the world and bring back Hashem’s children thanks to Rav Weinberg. This is required reading for anyone who is serious about being a Jew.
Gershon Unger –
Rebetzin Sara Finkel, the mother of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt’l of the Mir, recently celebrated her 100th birthday. One of her many presents she received was a copy of “Rav Noach Weinberg”. Yesterday she shared with me these words which she gave me permission to share, “Thank you again for recommending this book. I agree with what you once told me – It’s a Masterpiece!”.
Jonathan Rosenblum’s masterful journalism speaks for itself. His personality and writing style, combining being highly analytical and critical while being honest while at the same time being filled with passion and emotion, places him in a class of his own.
It was a stroke of genius to have him author the book on Rav Noach zt’l. When Jonathan began working on the book, he shared with me that he was surprised to learn that they actually learn Torah in the Aish Yeshiva. That is how far removed he was from knowing Aish and understanding Rav Noach.
Jonathan mentions in his introduction that the groundwork for the book included interviewing more than 150 people. As he covers one facet of Rav Noach and Aish after another in the book it becomes increasingly clear that he really enjoyed meeting and learning about Rav Noach and so many new people.
Criticisms I’ve heard from people who have already read the book include: Occasionally there are too many details; There are some elements of commercialism; Some of the strong differences of opinions are “smoothed out”. At the same time, there are an abundance of “right on the mark” presentations of highly sensitive and controversial subjects. In fact, it took a “bold” Torah-based publishing company like Mosaica Press to publish “Rav Noach Weinberg – Torah Revolutionary”, and leave in Jonathan’s “not so politically correct” truisms from his original manuscript.
Jonathan writes in his introduction that his first reaction when being asked to write the biography of Rav Noach was to decline. One of the convincing arguments was from his Rav Rabbi Aaron Lopiansky, quoted numerous times in the book as he is here. “If Yaakov Avinu represents the perfect balance of Avraham Avinu’s chesed (kindness) and Yitzchok Avinu’s gevurah (strict judgement), why were the first two necessary? ….. We see that the ultimate perfection must result from the balance of opposing qualities…… Both are necessary components of a larger synthesis. Rav Noach was a major Torah thinker whose ideas have drastically changed the Jewish world. That others disagreed with particular approaches does not detract from the magnitude of the impact one iota, even if the naysayers also raise valid points based on Torah sources.”
Enlightening quotes include :
– Rabbi Berkowits “Though he was an introvert by nature, content with his own thoughts for company, there is no figure in our generation who directly changed the lives of so many Jews through the force of his personality and his ideas as Rav Noach.”
– “Rabbi Aaron Feldman was Rav Noach’s younger roommate (in Ner Yisrael). When a number of Rabbi Feldman’s contemporaries in Ner Israel left to study in Beth Medrash of Lakewood under Rabbi Aaron Kotler, it would have been natural for Rabbi Feldman to join them. But he did not. Rav Noach, he recalls, was too charismatic, and he did not want to lose the experience of rooming with him.”
– “…. Years of failing to arouse the larger Orthodox world to the mission of kiruv had left him convinced that he would have to train baalei teshuva for the task. By virtue of their backgrounds, they were the ones most likely to feel the urgency of the mission and to bring the greatest passion …… Rav Noach’s kiruv agenda was very much evident in his reaction to talmidim leaving Aish HaTorah to learn in mainstream yeshivos. He feared that few, if any, of those who did so would end up involved in kiruv. As Chaim Willis, one of Rav Noach’s closest early talmidim (and also one of the most gifted in Talmudic learning) put it, ‘If a baal teshuva spends ten years in a mainstream yeshiva learning Gemora, there is little chance that he will subsequently go into kiruv work’.”
– “The Novorminsker Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow (zt’l), another young man from a Chassidic background who was together with Rav Noach at (Yeshivas) Chaim Berlin, remembers him as a ‘leibidige briah’ (one full of life), always thinking, always with something to say. Wherever he was found, there was action and animated discussion ….. In his eulogy (of Rav Noach) he recalled a conversation with Rav Noach at the beginning of …. (his) mission: ‘He was shaking. He would quote statistics (and would say), How can we sit still in Boro Park? … I had no answers for his questions. He didn’t either. But (his attitude was) when you see people drowning, you don’t sit and plan on the shore’. The Rebbe admitted that in more recent years, he had tried to avoid Rav Noach on those rare occasions when their paths crossed. ‘He was confrontational. He sizzled with emotion. I wasn’t seized by those emotions, and I wasn’t happy to be confronted in the way he did. I didn’t have answers; not too many people do. He wanted to save the world ….. He was the first, the Nachshon ben Aminadov. Often, those who burn with passion to right every wrong make others uncomfortable’.”
The Jewish world has Jonathan Rosenblum to thank for producing another, in the words of Rebbetzn Sara Finkel, “A masterpiece”. It is an outstanding tribute to Rav Noach zt’l who was described by Rabbi Aaron Feldman in his hesped of Rav Noach, “Rav Noach was a yachid b’dor (one of a kind in the generation)”.