In memory of Marc Weinberg

June 26, 2010
marc weinberg

Marc was a visionary Jewish leader. Before making aliya, he led Bnei Akiva, founded the Alei Tzion community in Hendon, and was instrumental in revitalising the London School of Jewish Studies. Countless British Jews, many now living in Israel, cite Marc as their inspiration. Marc moved to Israel in 2006 with his family, where he helped to establish the El-Ad community in Modiin. He passed away of leukaemia in the summer of 2010 at the age of 35. Marc's mother, Syma Weinberg, served for many years as Executive Director of the Office of the Chief Rabbi.

He saw the good and brought out the best

At the funeral in Israel, which was attended by over 1,500 people, Rabbi Sacks paid tribute to Marc, describing him as "one of the outstanding leaders of his generation" whose "vision, faith, passion and compassion drew people to him, and he drew the best from them. In a short life he wrote a long chapter in the story of our people in our time. He will be deeply mourned and long remembered."

Here we share the hesped (eulogy) for Marc delivered by Rabbi Sacks.

Hashem Natan, Hashem Lekach, yehi shem Hashem mevorach. There are times when we have said all that can be said, when we have accepted in faith all that we can accept in faith, and yet we are left with a raw cry of pain.

Ribbono shel olam, did it have to be like this?

So young a man, so long a struggle, so short a life.

And we are left holding on - as it were - to Hashem’s hand, unable to stem the flood of tears.

Marc was a neshama tahara, such a pure soul. He loved Torah, he lived Torah, Torah was the very air he breathed.

He loved people. He understood the meaning of vayar ki tov. He saw the good in people and brought out the best in people.

He loved Eretz Yisrael. For him, his and Natalie’s Aliyah was something utterly ruchnit, spiritual not just physical. He would look out of the windows of his house and say, even in those last weeks, essa enay el harim m’ayin yavo ezrim.

He was such a loving son to Syma and Henry, such a loving husband to Natalie and such a loving father to Yona and Ma’ayan. He gave and he received so much love and that was the very texture of his life.

Whatever he did, he was a leader. Whether in Jewish student life in Britain or as mazkir to Bnei Akiva or as one of the inspirations of the revival of the London School of Jewish Studies, whether as a founder of the first dati tzioni minyan in London, Alei Tzion, whether as the leader of a group of British olim or as leader of the project that occupied his last years and now will surely be his living memorial a new Bet Knesset (synagogue) here in Modiin. Whatever Marc did, he led.

Vayifen ko vacho vayzar ki ein ish. If he saw something was lacking or something was wrong he would not complain. He would not wait for others to act. He would say, Let me be among the first to put things right, and he brought others with him. They were inspired by his vision, his faith, his moral courage, his passion and compassion. They were drawn to him and he drew out the best in them. He made you feel the world could be a better place.

And when two and a half years ago this devastating illness struck, he fought long and hard beyond all normal limits of courage and strength until finally for all his resilience of spirit, his body could hold out no longer.

It was a terrible struggle not just for Marc, but those who loved him and were so close to him. For Natalie , Yona and Ma’ayan, for Syma and Henry, and for Yudit and Jonny and the Weil family, Syma’s mother Hettie, and Henry’s mother Sadie, and his very very wide circle of friends here in Israel and in Britain – there were thousands, thousands who kept in touch. I never knew somebody who had so many admirers, and friends, and they include our own children, who were utterly devastated by the news.

The truth is that wherever he went in his life he created an ever widening circle of influence. He was one of those people not only good in themselves, but a source of goodness in others. They followed Marc’s illness day by day They davenned for him every single day. And they, like us, are today bereaved and bereft.

Yet in all of this there is a strange kind of comfort. It is signalled in a strange passage in Beha'alotecha. The people are complaining as usual, and for once in his life Moshe Rabbeinu lacks the strength to carry on. It is a crisis in his life like no other.

And Hakodesh Baruch Hu says, Gather 70 elders ve-atzalti min haruach asher alecha vesamti alehem, “and I will take of the spirit which is on you and will place it on them.” This is a very odd thing. What were the 70 elders supposed to do? Moshe Rabbeinu had other leaders and an established system of delegation in place. The 70 elders they could not help him out of the specific crisis of finding meat for the people in the midst of the midbar. In fact we don’t find they did anything at all.

Yet that moment marked a change in Moshe Rabbeinu’s life. From a man who was suffering breakdown and spiritual crisis, immediately thereafter, when he faces a new crisis — Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp and Joshua says, “My master, Moses, shut them up”, Moshe says, “Are you anxious on my behalf? Would that all God’s people were prophets.”

When his own brother and sister turned against him, the text says “Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than any man on earth.” He faces both crises with calm and generosity of spirit. We see, in short, a man transformed from agonising spiritual crisis to peace of mind and serenity. Something had happened to change Moshe Rabbeinu’s life and the lives of those around him. What was it?

I believe it was the simple fact that ve-atzalti min haruach asher alecha. It was that Moshe Rabbeinu was given a glimpse — and it is very rare for anyone to be given such a glimpse — of the influence he had on those around him. He saw how his spirit rested on them, he saw how they were able to see through his eyes, hear through his ears, be lifted to the heights by his spirit. That was enough. And though he never ceased to struggle, thereafter he could live content, knowing that others were different because of him. Perhaps that is as much of a reward as any of us have this side of heaven.

In the last years of his life, Marc was given that rare gift. He saw, he heard, he knew, he felt, just how many hundreds and thousands of people were different because of him. And though he never ceased to struggle, somehow at the deepest level of his spirit he was able to live content and die content.

Hashem natan, Hashem lakach, yehi shem Hashem mevorach. God lent us Marc for all too short a time, but in that time he lived a life of such vision and responsibility that it became indelible.

He received and gave so much love to Natalie and his children, to Syma and Henry, and Debra and Aviad and everyone around him that we know in our bones that kasheh kamavet ahavah, or as the poet Dylan Thomas paraphrased those words:

Though lovers are lost

Love is not

And death shall have no dominion

And now Hakadosh Baruch Hu is holding Marc in His zero’ot olam, His everlasting arms, ve-atzalti min haruach, and He has left us with his spirit and his memory and those we will never lose and never cease to thank God for, even in the midst of our tears and our grief.

May Hashem comfort his beloved family and friends.

May He give strength to Natalie.

May He bless and look after Yona and Ma’ayan and be with them every inch of the way.

May Marc live on in them and in us, and may his soul be bound in the bonds of everlasting life.

Tehi nishmato tzerurah bitzror hachayim.

A leader, a student, a teacher, and a builder of communities

Rabbi Sacks also wrote this piece in memory of Marc, shortly after he passed away.

Marc was such a pure soul. He loved Torah, he lived Torah; Torah was the very air he breathed. He loved people. He saw the good in people and brought out the best in people. Whatever he did he was a leader.

Whether in Jewish student life in Britain or as Mazkir of Bnei Akiva or as one of the inspirations of the revival of the London School of Jewish Studies, whether as a founder of the first religious Zionist minyan in London, Alei Tzion, whether as the leader of a group of British olim or as leader of the project that occupied his last years, and now will surely be his living memorial, a new Bet Knesset in Modi’in. Whatever Marc did, he led.

Marc had Jewish responsibility written into the very fibre of his being. Almost as if he sensed that his life would be all too short, he crammed a week into a day, a day into an hour, and did as a young man more to change, lift and inspire the lives around him than most of us will ever know, however long we live.

As a youth leader, a student, a teacher and a builder of communities, he took time with people, taught them, counselled them, gently but firmly guided them, and showed them possibilities within themselves that they had never known. He inspired admiration and more than that – love.

His fate was a devastating tragedy. Young, brilliant, gifted, with a devoted wife and two beautiful young children, Marc was diagnosed with leukaemia. For two and a half years, helped by advanced medical technology and lifted by the prayers of friends, he fought with all his strength against the civil war taking place within his body. In the end it was all too much, and he died still young.

Shmuel Yosef Agnon, the Nobel prize winning writer, once speculated that Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, speaks not about human death but about Divine life, as if it were our way of offering comfort to God for the loss of one of His children. Mortality is written into the human condition, but so too is the possibility of immortality, in the good we do that continues, long after we are here, to beget further good. There are lives that defeat death and redeem existence from tragedy. In Marc we had known one of them.

In 2010, shortly after Marc passed away, Rabbi Sacks wrote this article for The Times

In 2012, Rabbi Sacks wrote this piece to commemorate Marc's second yahrtzeit

In 2013, Rabbi Sacks delivered this shiur to students in Jerusalem, in memory of Marc