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Want to Understand What It Takes to be a Great Jewish Leader? Learn from Rabbi Noah Weinberg

January 12, 2022 | by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith

The six ways he changed my life can serve as a blueprint.

No one in the world changed my life as profoundly as Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, the revolutionary founder and dean of Aish HaTorah. With his 13th yahrzeit taking place tonight, I asked myself: what was it about Rav Noah that influenced me so deeply? Perhaps we can get a glimpse of Rav Noah’s towering greatness through a personal lens.

Here are six ways in which he spoke to me, and tens of thousands of others like me.

1. Rav Noah spoke to my idealism.

He was a visionary who took the responsibility of changing and perfecting the world, to heart. He owned the challenges and issues facing the Jewish people – and the entire world – and was passionately committed to doing everything he possibly could to make a real impact and truly fix the world.

Rav Noah would often say, “When people say to a young idealist, ‘You'll grow up,’ what they really mean is, ‘You'll give up, like I did.’" Rav Noah never gave up.

2. Rav Noah spoke to my yearning for meaning.

By teaching and sharing Judaism’s life-changing wisdom, Rav Noah gave me the keys to understanding myself and my purpose in the world. He quenched my thirst for meaning by opening the portals to Jewish learning. He provided me my "red pill or blue pill" moment.

3. Rav Noah spoke to my search for truth.

In addition to being a fiery leader, Rav Noah was a real intellectual who consistently stressed the importance of leading with your mind, not your heart. He stressed that the decision to become observant and accept the veracity of Torah should be based on a preponderance of evidence, advocating the rational basis of Jewish belief.

I was looking for truth, not a feel-good high, and respected his truth-at-all-costs position.

4. Rav Noah spoke to my ambition and need for self-respect.

One of the greatest gifts Rav Noah gave me, and countless others, was his genuine belief in my inner potential for greatness. When we first met I was a confused, non-religious, spoiled punk, and even so, he believed in me, more than I believed in myself, and always encouraged and pushed me to strive to live up to my potential, to take responsibility, and get out of my comfort zone. He was like a relentless trainer who never stops pushing you to reach your greatness.

5. Rav Noah spoke to my need for love.

Despite his enormous stature, brilliance and the weight of the world on his shoulders, Rav Noah was always approachable and there for me. He exuded love and I knew he cared deeply for me, like a father cares for his son. Rav Noah not only loved the Jewish people as a whole, he loved each and every Jew.

6. He spoke to my need for transcendence.

Rav Noah’s genuine connection with God was the engine that propelled his vision to reach millions of Jews with the depth and meaning of Jewish wisdom, his ability to shoulder such herculean responsibility and to accomplish so much in his lifetime. Rav Noah was a living example of what it meant to walk with God. His trust in the Almighty was palpable and unwavering. His love for God – and His Torah – was uplifting and awe-inspiring.

Rav Noah showed me both the depth and practical application of Jewish spirituality, how one man could live with his thoughts piercing the Heavens while remaining firmly rooted on the ground.

Here are four recommended books to read to gain a deeper appreciation of Rabbi Noah Weinberg and his wisdom.

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