Bnei Brak rabbi named to new beit din post
MONTREAL - Rabbi Yonasan Binyamin Weiss of Israel, an American-born Chassid who has been living in the haredi community of Bnei Brak for 35 years, has assumed the new position of segan av, or deputy head of the Montreal beit din.
Rabbi Saul Emanuel, executive director of the Jewish Community Council, or Vaad Ha’ir, said a suitable candidate to assist Chief Rabbi Avraham David Niznik has been sought for a few years.
Appointed in 1998, Rabbi Niznik is now 84.
The beit din, or court of rabbinic law, rules in matters of marriage and divorce, assists with conversions and mediates financial disputes. Rabbi Emanuel said Rabbi Weiss will also oversee the Vaad’s other main department, kashrut supervision.
Rabbi Weiss, 57, was in charge of the shchitah department of the Bnei Brak rabbinate, headed by Rabbi Moshe Landa.
Rabbi Weiss also supervised kosher slaughter in Uruguay and other South American countries.
He is recognized as an authority of the halachic interpretation of medical and bioethical issues, Rabbi Emanuel said, has been consulted by rabbis and doctors around the world, and written some 30,000 responsa on the subject, some of which have been compiled on a compact disk.
Rabbi Weiss, who is fluent in English, is also described as a gifted orator and sought-after lecturer.
“We feel very fortunate to have secured the services of Rabbi Weiss, because many communities are looking for such individuals. It has been very difficult,” said Rabbi Emanuel, who added that Antwerp, Belgium, had been seeking Rabbi Weiss for its chief rabbi.
However, Rabbi Emanuel said it should not be assumed at this time that Rabbi Weiss will eventually succeed Rabbi Niznik as chief rabbi. The Vaad does say in its official announcement that it “looks forward to many years of [Rabbi Weiss’s] inspired leadership.”
Rabbi Weiss enjoys the “universal respect” of the different segments of Montreal’s Orthodox Jewish community. “He came to Montreal to meet the different rabbinical groups, and all gave their approval and blessing,” Rabbi Emanuel said.
Born in New York, Rabbi Weiss is a member of the Klausenberg chassidic community, which originated in Transylvania, whose rebbe today resides in Israel. Rabbi Weiss left the United States when he was 16 to study in Israel, and received his first rabbinical appointment at age 22, in Bnei Brak, which is near Tel Aviv. He is one of seven sons, all of whom are rabbis.
Rabbi Weiss comes to Montreal with his wife and unmarried twin daughters, as well as another daughter and her husband and family. He has other married children.
“He stated clearly that he has chosen to come to Montreal because the community has earned a reputation as a place where the various segments of the community exist together in harmony,” Rabbi Emanuel said
Rabbi Weiss will be inaugurated at a ceremony Nov. 28 at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel on Cote de Liesse Road, to which the community at large is invited. The guest speakers are one of his brothers, Rabbi Osher Weiss of Jerusalem, rosh yeshiva of Chug Chasam Sofer, who frequently lectures abroad; and Rabbi Aaron Dunner of London, England, who recently made a landmark ruling forbidding the use of human hair from India in the making of wigs for observant Jewish women because he considered it to have been obtained through an idolatrous ceremony.
Other rabbis and leaders from Israel, Europe and North America, representing a spectrum of communities, are also expected to attend.
The Vaad, established in 1922, has had only two chief rabbis since 1969 when Rabbi Pinchas Hirschprung assumed the position and held it until his death in January 1998. Like his predecessor, Rabbi Niznik is Polish born. He has lived in Montreal since 1953, after time in France and Belgium. He is a former president of the Agudath Israel movement.