When a foreigner asks Rabbi Michael Weinberg what his name is, he has a ready answer. “I am a Jew,” he said. “Since ancient times, Jews have understood that they are inextricably linked and responsible for one another.”
Nurturing Jewish unity marked the more than 40-year career of Rabbi Weinberg, who will enter a new phase in June with his retirement as spiritual leader of Beth Israel Temple in Skokie.
“It has been a blessing, an honor and a privilege to serve this congregation,” said Rabbi Weinberg. “It was a great race, but I will have the opportunity to stay connected as a Rabbi Emeritus.”
The next chapter, he said, will include travel. “We would like to go to Israel in the fall,” he said. “We have a daughter in Tel Aviv. We also have a son in New York and another in Skokie.”
Rabbi Weinberg came to Temple Beth Israel in 1987 as the fourth rabbi in the congregation’s more than century-long history. He had previously served at the Sinai Temple in Michigan City, Indiana. “When you’re a rabbi, it’s good to be where the Jews are,” he joked. “There are a lot more Jews in Skokie than in Michigan City, Indiana.”
From the start, Temple Beth Israel was a good choice. “I came to a well established community,” he said. “The congregation is warm, welcoming and inclusive; serious about worship and study and also serious about fun. Temple Beth Israel had a history of being involved in things that were important to me: worship. social justice, Zionism and dedication to education. “
Rabbi Weinberg has been married for 47 years to Jody Weinberg, a specialist in learning disabilities. Their marriage is mixed – He’s on the south side of Chicago, she is on the north side. They got to know each other in high school and then both served as senior training advisors at
Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute(OSRUI) Summer camp.
“Our community needs leaders like the Rabbi and Ms. Weinberg,” observed Rabbi Leonard Matanky of the KINS congregation in West Rogers Park. “We need leaders like them who work tirelessly on behalf of others, bring their zest for life into the lives of others, and who have represented our community with distinction and grace. Together the Rabbi and Jody have created a wonderful next family. generation leaders. “
Since announcing his retirement, Rabbi Weinberg has reflected on the most significant moments of his tenure at Temple Beth Israel. But what remains most important to him, he said, “is the continued dedication, day after day, week after week, to learning, to an active Jewish life and to the possibility of involve in the lives of our members at the most poignant moments of their lives, happy or sad. “
A long-time OSRUI staff member, Rabbi Weinberg will remain active in the camp’s intensive Hebrew immersion program for high school students.
“The Jewish summer camp is an opportunity to deeply touch people’s lives,” he said. “You create an environment at camp where the entire camp community lives and breathes Jewish life every day.”
But perhaps his most enduring legacy, Jody said, is: “He was a very practical rabbi. At the end of a program, he would help put away chairs and fold tables. He was a mentor and a well-rounded person who people could relate to as one of them. Yet he had this exceptional ability to lead, from the time he led the Chicago Temple Youth Federation. That’s what I saw in him in high school.
“One thing that will be difficult to replace,” she said, “is that he’s a man of many talents. He’s a carpenter and Mr. Fix-It. He could fix the wooden rollers on the rollers. of the Torah. “