Rabbi Uri Weinberg A”H (Uri Ben Menachem Halevi) [18 May 1923 – 17 Adar 5772 (11 March 2012)]

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Please pledge to learn a Mishna in the memory of the Mes Mitzva and Tzaddik Uri Ben Menachem Halevi.a

On Sunday 11 March 2012 I received a message that Rabbi Uri Weinberg a”h (Uri Ben Menachem Halevi), or as he was known Reb Uri, passed a way in Yerushalayim after a massive heart attack in his home which was in the Batei Ungarin.

I met him for the first time in about 2000 when my brother introduced me to him. The first time I saw him, I never imagined that the man standing in front of me with his trademarked gray jacket was no simple man; he was a real Talmid Chochom with an amazing memory which never failed. There are many remarkable stories about his memory and his interesting stories. He invited bochurim for shabbos meals (I was honoured to be invited two or three times). Once you stepped in his small apartment which had one living room and one bedroom besides the kitchen, you flew back in time. We forgot the time while we listened to his life story and his songs. His frumkeit and his eagerness to do the mitzves as yekkish and pünktlich as possible, were amazing.

Me dancing with Rabbi Uri Weinberg at my wedding in Jerusalem (August, 2004)

I’ll try to write a short biography on the great man Reb Uri a”h

His youth:
Reb Uri is mentioned in a few publications. In a German book describing the Jews of Erkelenz, we read the following about Reb Uri (translated into English):

Weinberg, Alfred (born on 18 May 1923 in Erkelenz)
Alfred Weinberg attended the gymnasium in Erkelenz until the Obertertia (fifth year of German secondary school). He moved on 28 July 1937 with his parents from Erkelenz to Köln. He attended the Jawne (Yavne) school; “For him [the Jewish school] was a place of freedom.”

“He remembered,” later in a conversation with the historian Roseman, “how careful he had to be in his gymnasium back in Erkelenz. There he had to learn how to check the character of people carefully.”

In contrast to his brother Alexander, the school time in Jawne caused him to strengthen in his Jewish identity. Alfred Weinberg traveled with a class of Dr. Klibansky in May 1939 to Liverpool. Here the pupils came together in a home.

Upon the outbreak of the war he was interned as an enemy alien, and put on the Dunera ship, which brought him to Australia. On that ship there were German and Austrian refugees, as well as Italian prisoners of war. The ship left Liverpool on 11 July 1940, and arrived in Sydney after 57 days, on 6 September. The refugees were put in camps in the desert. In 1943 he was freed.

Alfred Weinberg immigrated to Palestine, which was under the British mandate. “In the first year I worked as a farm worker, and later I visited a Rabbinical college.” Unlike his brothers, he kept his family name, but on the other hand, he changed his first name to Uri. He became religious during his time at the Jawne school, and lives nowadays in Mea Shearim in Jerusalem as an Orthodox Jew. Since 1948 he has been working as a Torah scribe.

In the 1980’s, he corresponded with one of his former classmates who had attended the gymnasium in Erkelenz with him. This classmate eventually visited him in Jerusalem.
(Source: “Jüdisches Leben im ehemaligen Landkreis Erkelenz” edited by Mr. Hubert Rütten and published by the “Heimatvereins der Erkelenzer Lande e.V.”)

We can read more about the move from Köln to Liverpool on a website which is dedicated to the Kindertransporte (19,149 children and youth traveling on their own could -until the end of 1939- flee from Nazi-Germany to Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia or Palestine. Most of these flights (about two thirds) was possible thanks to the involvement of the Jewish aid organizations. More than 10000 children and youth were sent to Great-Britain):

Jawne, a private Jewish secondary school for boys and girls, was founded in 1919 in Cologne. Since 1929 Dr. Erich Klibansky served as the headmaster of the school.

In the years after the Nazi takeover Jewish pupils who were expelled from other public schools in the whole North Rhine-Westphalia, joined the Yavne school. In 1937 the school had a total of 423 pupils which was the largest number of students since its establishment.

In 1933 the school changed its goals :it started to prepare its students for a life outside Germany whereas before it had followed the regular German curriculum. This was organised and composed by Klibansky and his team. In the schoolyear 1937-38 the first English Oberklas was set up in order to prepare the boys and girls for tests to get a Cambridge School Certificate.

After the November pogrom in 1938 Klibansky tried with great energy to save the entire school by sending them to England. He was able to put through part of his plan in 1939. In four shipments approximately 130 children and young people, sometimes whole classes together, were transferred to Britain where they first stayed in “Yavne-hostels” in order to prepare themselves for the new situation.. The hostels were in London, Liverpool, Manchester and Brighton. The rescue was organised in such a way that the pupils stayed with classmates and friends which was considered a comfort amidst the traumatic experience in which they had had to leave the parents and everything familiar behind in Germany.

The first transport left on 17 January 1939 from Cologne. It had one boys class from the Unterstufe. The ca. 30 boys were accompanied by the young Rabbi Dr. Rudolf Seligsohn from Bonn who, together with his wife, had the leadership of the first “Jawne Hostel” on Minster Road 1 in London (Cricklewood).

In February 1939 another transport went to London with 15 boys and girls. The girls went to a hostel on Willesden Lane 243 and the boys went probably to Minster Road.

In May 1939 Klibansky accompannied a third transport with the pupils of the Englischen Oberklassen and 10 Sextanern to Liverpool. The children were transferred to Brighton and the bigger ones to Liverpool. They were accompanied by Dr. Moritz Samuel , Else Nussbaum and Dr. Samuels sister. The 42 boys went to Linnet Lane 19 in Liverpool.

In the middle of July 1939, 25 girls travelled under the leadership of Hans Joseph Heinemann to Manchester where they were taken to a Hostel onWaterloo Road which was managed by the couple Kahn from Altona.
(Sources: http://www.kindertransporte-nrw.eu/kindertransporte_jawne.html and http://www.kindertransporte-nrw.eu/kindertransporte_jawne_2.html, originally in German, both retrieved on 18 May 2012)

Since 1990 there is, in the heart of Cologne, a square with a monument to commemorate the deportation of 1,100 children during the Nazi era. The “Kindergedenkstätte Löwenbrunnen“, which lies between  the Sankt Apernstraße and the Helenenstraße, includes a fountain with set on its walls bronze plaques with the names of deported children from Cologne. The fountain stands on a place where the schoolyard of Yavneh once stood. The place is called after the last director of the Yavneh school; “Erich-Klibansky-Platz”.

World War II:
During the war Reb Uri was deported from Liverpool with the HMT (Hired Military Transport) Dunera. The ship left  Liverpool, England on the 10th July, 1940, and arrived at Darling  Harbour, Sydney, on the 6th September, 1940.  Reb Uri was one of 2,542 men aged between 18 and 45 from Germany and Austria, who had been loaded onto a ship with a maximum capacity of 1600, including crew, who were destined for internment here.  Ironically 80% of these men were Jewish, not “enemy” aliens but mainly refugees from Nazi Germany.

In an interview with Gavriel Horan from the Mishpacha magazine, Reb Uri Weinberg spoke about the trip with the Dunera:

Sitting there on his rickety chair, the aged man seemed to come alive, overflowing with energy. He recounted his story with such clarity, as if it had happened just yesterday, citing every detail down to the exact date, day of the week, and time of day: I came to England from Germany in 1939. I was fifteen years old…”

Where in Germany are you from?
“From a small town!” he snapped.
What does it matter anymore what the name was?

Young Uri’s school had been granted special permission to seek refuge for its students in England. And so, at his parents’ insistence, he left his family behind, never to see them again.

During the war years, fearing internal sabotage, Britain began a campaign of arresting and deporting German and Italian immigrants and refugees who were living on British soil, classifying them as “enemy aliens.” The British had a zchus, a special merit; they took in more refugees than anyone else in Europe – 70,000 in 1939. The British knew we were refugees, not enemies, so for the first year of the war, they didn’t yet put us with the rest of the German immigrants. But then, on May 10, 1940, the Germans invaded Belgium, Holland, and France. They overran these three countries within three weeks.

Today is June 12th. That year, June 12th was Shavuos. It was a Wednesday.
I can’t believe how you can remember that so precisely!
I remember everything from those days so clearly. Only today is that l don’t remember so good anymore. I remember, motzaei chag, as soon as Yom Tov was over, running to find out what had happened the past two days.

The ‘British had to evacuate all of their soldiers from Dunkirk, France during the first few weeks of June, before the invading Nazis arrived. The events of Dunkirk were one of the miracles for the British during the war. The English Channel is usually choppy waters, even stormy. That year, the Channel was quiet like a millpond for four or five days. They succeeded to take out over 300,000 troops during that time. With fishing boats, rowboats, yachts, anything. They left only about fifty thousand.” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to Dunkirk as “a miracle of deliverance,” that they were able to evacuate such a huge army in such a short time; even private citizens were involved in the rescue – anyone with a boat. Everything that could float was sent across the Channel to France; rowboats that usually held five held fifteen. The soldiers had to leave all their arms on the beach at Dunkirk; they couldn’t take any weight with them. As it was, the boats were nearly underwater. They made with Hitler like the agreement that the king of S’dom wanted to make with Avraham: ‘Tein ii hanefesh v ‘harachush koch lach – Give me the people and take the possessions for yourself.’

“None of this has to do with our story. It’s just history. I’m only telling you so you understand about what time we are talking.”

It soon came to the world’s attention that the Germans were able to take over so quickly due to the help of German civilians – spies – planted throughout France, Belgium, and Holland. In fact, I knew one myself: a German from my town was taken to a military camp in 1933 for a whole summer. He told us that he learned shooting, fighting, and boxing and all that sort of thing. Other things probably he didn’t tell us, like learning to plant bombs and such. Next thing I knew, he had a job in a weaving plant in Holland as an engineer So when it came out that the Germans were being helped by civilian spies, I thought, I knew one.

Two things the German army never did was to allow anyone who had any Jewish blood at all – even only one great-grandfather – to join, or to dress up some one as a Jew to do intelligence work. But this the British didn’t know, So when this news came out about the spies, the British decided to intern all the German and Italian refugees, and with them were the Jews. ‘Enemy aliens’ they called us. You can’t blame them. How could they know that we weren’t spies?

On June 27th, the police came and started taking my friends. We ran to get jobs as farm workers, hoping to escape the internment. But it didn’t help. Within a week, the local sergeant showed up and took us all to an internment camp near Liverpool. There they announced that whoever wants to be interned overseas instead can join a transport. We were hearing all sorts of rumors that Britain was awaiting certain Nazi invasion, any day. The street signs in Manchester were already painted over so that when German parachutists landed they wouldn’t know where they were. We saw that Britain didn’t have any arms. The soldiers didn’t even have any weapons to guard the internment camp with. We saw that the British had no chance. So eventhough we heard that the voyage across seas was also dangerous, we ran to volunteer. Little did we know we would end up in Australia!

A short time before all this, there was a certain British ship, the Andora Star, full of internees, mostly Italian restaurant workers from London, and German POWs captured by the British from enemy ships. That ship was torpedoed by a German submarine as it was attempting to cross the Atlantic to Canada. This created quite an uproar from the Axis powers, that their submarine had sunk a ship carrying their own people. I heard about this in detail from one of the few Jews that had been on board. He told me that the ship was sinking ever so slowly, so everyone thought to wait on board until a rescue ship would come. Only the German prisoners on board right away ran for lifeboats as fast as they could. This Jew saw this and thought, ‘These Germans are seamen; the Italians are cooks and waiters. The Germans must know what they’re doing.’ So he grabbed a life jacket, jumped into the water after them, and clung to a raft. An hour later, the Andora Star suddenly gave a lurch, swung stem over bow into the sea, and was sunk completely within a few moments. Over seven hundred Italians were drowned.

But even though we all knew this story, we thought that it was better than staying in England and waiting like sitting ducks for the Nazis to come to us. Who knows? In a few days, it could be an SS man up there on that watchtower, instead of our British guard. You’ll see that the Andora Star has much to do with the miracles of our story later on.

So we boarded the ship, the HMT Dunera, a military transport ship, on Wednesday, July 10th. It was a gray day, I remember. The ship was manned by British convicts, real criminals, who had been let out early from their sentence in prison in order to join the army; they were put into special units all together and sent off to the most dangerous places – in this case, as guards on the Dunera. If anything happened to the ship, no one would miss them; for these guys, the king of England doesn’t have to sit shivah. Unknown to us, these gangsters were the second part of our miracle.

As soon as they set foot on the Dunera, these ‘soldier’ right away went back to their old ‘parnassah’. First they took away all the ‘fire hazards, ‘all the lighters, matches, cigarettes, and pipes. While they were at it, they helped themselves to all our watches, jewelry, and money. I was so glad that they didn’t find my tefillin, though.

Two thousand of us were crammed into the ship’s hold. Also 440 German POW’s. We stayed there the whole time, all the way to Australia. This ship was carrying a thousand more passengers than its capacity.

Just hours after we left Liverpool Harbor – that was early morning on July 11th – as soon as we began to enter the high seas, those ‘soldiers’ were already busy on deck, cutting open our suitcases. What was good went into their pockets; the rest they chucked into the sea, suitcase and all. Chasdei Hashem, with the grace of G-d, this was miracle number three.

Meanwhile, Thursday evening down below in the hold, the seasickness started. And it was just in time, not too early, not too late. This is another one of our miracles on the Dunera. You see, there was only one door out of the hold that led to the upper decks, with room for just one person at a time to exit. Around that time, we began to hear word that there was a Nazi submarine that had been spotted in the vicinity. And if there was one, there were usually several together. But at that point, everyone was too sick to even care. I’m certain that if we hadn’t been sick, there would have been a major riot to get out of the hold.

Just then, the ship suddenly came into some tremendous waves. It was rolling and shaking like a lulav, which didn’t help the seasickness very much. At around nine-forty in the morning, a huge wave came, like never before, and lifted the whole end of the ship right out of the water. I didn’t know it was a wave; I thought for sure we’d been hit by a torpedo. I quickly said Kriyas Shema to be on the safe side. But after five or ten minutes of waiting, nothing happened; the ship just went hopping along. I guessed it must have been just a wave, not a torpedo after all, and I went back to my seasickness as if nothing had happened.

Only later did we hear that there was indeed a submarine there, and that it had fired two torpedoes at us! The firs torpedo was out of range and missed us completely. But the second one was right on target. If not with help from Hashem, we wouldn’t be here today. At the very instant that the Nazi’s fired the torpedo, the back of the ship was lifted completely out of the water by that gigantic wave, and the torpedo went right under us! Then the submarine disappeared and we continued safely on our journey, cramped as it was, until out destination in Australia.
For forty years, it remained a mystery why that submarine hadn’t pursued the Dunera, after its two unsuccessful attempts. The Nazi U-boat submarines were known to hunt in “wolf packs”, meaning that they pursued their prey in teams, and they pursued them relentlessly until the end. It was most unusual for them to let a ship out of their clutches so easily.
Only in 1980 did the truth come out, at a conference in el Aviv. Someone had gained access to the German military archives and succeeded in locating the logbook of the submarine that had attacked the Dunera, There they discovered an amazing story: As the U-boat approached the Dunera, the commander saw a strange and suspicious sight through his periscope: Every few minutes, something was thrown overboard. After missing twice, he decided to let the Dunera pass so that he could inspect the waters to see exactly what was being scuttled, before continuing the pursuit.
“You know,” Reb Uri comments, “When I was on my way to Eretz Yisrael a few years later, in 1943, it was absolutely forbidden to throw any garbage off of a ship during the day. That was in case a submarine might detect it and then be able to track down the ship. But in 1940, no one was worried about this problem. Just by the litter alone, you could have followed us to Australia!

Once the Dunera had passed by, the commander sent a search party to pick up whatever was floating in the water. To his surprise, the crew brought back six suitcases. These had belonged to Jewish prisoners on board the Dunera, but he didn’t know that. During the war, Jews sent letters to their families in Germany, through relatives in neutral countries. They were careful to write only in German and not to use any Jewish words or expressions, in case the letter would be intercepted. So inside every suitcase, the U-boat commander discovered letters written in German. He therefore assumed that the Dunera was full of German POW’s.

Shortly before this time, there had been the incident with the Andora Star, that had been sunk by a German submarine. Seven hundred Italian detainees from London had been drowned. Italy and Germany were allies at the time. Since the Italian government had made such a fuss to Germany that they’d killed their own allies, the Germans were now on the alert to avoid any similar incidents. So when he found these suitcases with German letters in them, the U-boat commander right away radioed every German submarine in the area that the Dunera was carrying German prisoners and that it should be allowed to pass through the danger zone safely.

“If the British ‘soldiers’ on board had been more honest, I don’t know if I’d be telling you this story today!”

On August 28th, after fifty-seven days at sea, the Dunera docked at Fremantle Harbor on Australia’s western coast. Australian army officers boarded the ship and began formalities of debarkation. On Tuesday, the third of September, Rosh Chodesh Elul, the ship arrived in Melbourne, and remained there overnight. The next day, it continued on reaching Sydney on September 6th. There, the passengers were unloaded and transported fifteen hours by train to an internment camp in Hay, a town in rural Australia.

(Source: “Mistaken Identity” by Gavriel Horan in Mishpacha magazine  Issue 116, 16 Tammuz 5766 [ 7 December  2006])

The BBC’s ‘WW2 People’s War’-website has published a Fact File on the Civilian Internment between 1939 and 1945 which I believe gives a fair overview on the civilian interments imposed by the British government. As this explains why Reb Uri was interned, I am posting here part of that Fact file:

Internment of civilian nationals belonging to opposing sides was carried out in varying degrees by all belligerent powers in World War Two. It was also the fate of those servicemen who found themselves in a neutral country.

At the outbreak of war there were around 80,000 potential enemy aliens in Britain who, it was feared, could be spies, or willing to assist Britain’s enemies in the event of an invasion. All Germans and Austrians over the age of 16 were called before special tribunals and were divided into one of three groups:

  • ‘A’ – high security risks, numbering just under 600, who were immediately interned;
  • ‘B’ – ‘doubtful cases’, numbering around 6,500, who were supervised and subject to restrictions;
  • ‘C’ – ‘no security risk’, numbering around 64,000, who were left at liberty. More than 55,000 of category ‘C’ were recognised as refugees from Nazi oppression. The vast majority of these were Jewish.

The situation began to change in the spring of 1940. The failure of the Norwegian campaign led to an outbreak of spy fever and agitation against enemy aliens. More and more Germans and Austrians were rounded up. Italians were also included, even though Britain was not at war with Italy until June. When Italy and Britain did go to war, there were at least 19,000 Italians in Britain, and Churchill ordered they all be rounded up. This was despite the fact that most of them had lived in Britain for decades.

Thousands of Germans, Austrians and Italians were sent to camps set up at racecourses and incomplete housing estates, such as Huyton outside Liverpool. The majority were interned on the Isle of Man, where internment camps had also been set up in World War One. Facilities were basic, but it was boredom that was the greatest enemy. Internees organised educational and artistic projects, including lectures, concerts and camp newspapers. At first married women were not allowed into the camps to see their husbands, but by August 1940 visits were permitted, and a family camp was established in late 1941.

That many of the ‘enemy aliens’ were Jewish refugees and therefore hardly likely to be sympathetic to the Nazis, was a complication no one bothered to try and unravel – they were still treated as German and Austrian nationals. In one Isle of Man camp over 80 per cent of the internees were Jewish refugees.

More than 7,000 internees were deported, the majority to Canada, some to Australia. The liner Arandora Star left for Canada on 1 July 1940 carrying German and Italian internees. It was torpedoed and sunk with the loss of 714 lives, most of them internees. Others being taken to Australia on the Dunera, which sailed a week later, were subjected to humiliating treatment and terrible conditions on the two-month voyage. Many had their possessions stolen or thrown overboard by the British military guards.

An outcry in Parliament led to the first releases of internees in August 1940. By February 1941 more than 10,000 had been freed, and by the following summer, only 5,000 were left in internment camps. Many of those released from internment subsequently contributed to the war effort on the Home Front or served in the armed forces.

As regards British citizens interned by the Nazis, in September 1942 the Germans sent 2,000 British-born civilians from the Channel Islands to internment camps in Germany. Another 200 were deported in January 1943, as a reprisal for a British commando raid.

In 1941-2 approximately 130,000 civilians from Allied countries living and working in colonies invaded by the Japanese were interned. These included men, women and children from the Netherlands, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. The camps varied in size; some were segregated according to gender or race but there were also many camps of mixed gender. One of the largest un-segregated camps was the Stanley internment camp in Hong Kong, which held 2,800 mainly British internees. Unlike prisoners of war, the internees were not compelled to work, but they were held in harsh conditions in primitive camps. Brutality by the Japanese guards was common and death rates were high.

Internment was also carried out in the USA after the Americans entered the war in December 1941. Some 100,000 Japanese-Americans living on the west coast of America were interned, often in very poor conditions.
(Source: “Fact File : Civilian Internment 1939 – 1945” from WW2 People’s War (link), retrieved on March 16, 2012 (WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar).

Reb Uri thus marched (according to a file at the National archives of Australia) on 8 November 1940 into Hay (NSW) where the group was divided into two separate camps each housing 1000 men. The camps were run democratically and administration was handled by the internees themselves, even to the extent of providing kosher facilities to the orthodox.  The Orthodox Jews chose to live in Camp 7 in Hay Internment Camp and so did Reb Uri. There was separate kitchens, manned by the internees, to enable the dietary laws to be kept. Initial problems regarding meat were overcome when an internee was allowed to kill animals. He was escorted by some Rabbis, who decided whether it was kosher or not, and armed guards . Reb Uri was employed as a baker.

In 1941 Reb Uri and fellow internees were to another camp at Tatura, Victoria where life was much the same except that it was not so intolerably hot. Eventually over the following two or three years the group was gradually released when the Government finally realized what a miscarriage of justice had been perpetrated (Reb Uri was released on 9 August 1943). In fact many of the men were only released on the condition that they join a specially formed army company, the 8th Employment Company, and were used as laborers unloading wheat and goods trains, picking fruit at commercial orchards, etc. This was better than ending up in Dachau, but it was a not a very happy experience for many of the older men who mainly were tertiary educated lawyers, architects, teachers, etc.

Reb Uri’s “Prisoner of War/Internees – Service and Casualty form” (source: National archives of Australia)

However, the overall response to the Dunera experience by many of the men was that although the trip on the Dunera was pretty brutal, once they reached Australia they were happy with the reception and treatment they received and were grateful to be out of Europe and alive.

And indeed, a plaque depicting the Dunera was placed on a wall of the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour, Sydney (see http://welcomewall.anmm.gov.au). This is an acknowledgement of the contribution which the Dunera fellows have made to the multicultural fabric of Australian society.

Hay and Tatura both have small museums that focus on Dunera internees and other internees or prisoners of war.

This photograph from the ‘Dunera Boys’was taken during their reunion in Melbourne in 1997 (Source: National Library of Australia, record ID 243833, Call Number: PIC P1977 LOC Portraits drawer D)

While Reb Uri was interned in Tatura, which was within 30 miles of one of the only Orthodox Jewish settlements on the continent (Shepperarton, Victoria), a certain “Reb Moishe Feiglin” was hiring, as many the Australians would let, Jewish captives to work his orchards (see here for more on Reb Moishe Feiglin). Reb Uri choose not to be hired because he was hoping to find a way to Israel where he would be able to live an orthodox live. If he’d stay in Australia, he’d have to live in Melbourne where there was at that time only a small orthodox community, he was also worried about finding his match and he’d have to go back to England to find a shidduch which he was not prepared to do with ‘the rain and the mist and the fog’. In 1943 Reb Uri finally made his way through the Indian Ocean to Israel where he has lived until his passing away.

His marriage:
In 1953 Reb Uri married Bluma Lapidoth, born in 1930 in NJ, USA as the daughter of Rabbi Aron Chaim Lapidoth, who in turn was the only son of the renowned gaon Rabbi Gershon Lapidoth.

Once Reb Uri mentioned to Yehonoson Rubin that his wife was a Lapidus, he then asked him in all inocence if she was related to R’ Gershon. He was all excited that some one recognized him, and recounted that she came to Israel in response to the pleas of her Grandfather, Rabbi Gershon Lapidoth, to her parents for at least one grandchild to help him in his old age. Reb Uri spoke English too, hence the Shidduch (sent by Yehonoson Rubin on 20, 21 March 2012)

In 1972 Bluma passed away being 47 years of age. She was buried at the Har Hazesim in Jerusalem, where Reb Uri was buried too on 11 March 2012 (17 Adar 5772).

Unfortunately the couple did not have any children.

Reb Uri Weinberg and Bluma Lpaidoth (probably durign their engagement in about 1953? (received from Hubert Rütten)
The grave of Reb Uri’s wife Mrs. Bluma Weinberg-Lapidoth a”h (photo taken by Baruch Harris in Adar 5772-March 2012)

His last days and the levaya:
R’ Uri had 4 bachurim that made Seduas Purim with him on Friday for Yerushalayim’s purim. two more bachurim joined in the seuda and the seuda basically went until Shabbos (see the section with the photo’s for a photo which was taken during the leining of the megilla on Purim) (source is Baruch Harris via e-mail on 25 March 2012 who heard it from R’ Refael Vandervalder).

I’ve received an e-mail from someone on March 11th, 2012 about the events on the day Reb Uri passed away (I slightly edited the text):

So this is the scoop, the real turn of events as told to me by Rephoel Wondervald after the levaya.
Rephoel calls Reb Uri every Motzaei-Shabbos to see how he is feeling. Reb Uri didn’t pick up the phone, so he called a neighbor to see what’s doing. The neighbor went in and saw that he was sleeping. Rephoel thus went to Reb Uri to see what’s doing and stayed there for most of Motzaei-Shabbos. Reb Uri woke up and told him that he was not feeling well.

Early in the morning he said he was feeling a bit better but at 7.30 he said again that he was feeling a bit dizzy. Rephoel checked his temperature and he saw that it went down. He went out of the room to make him a coffee and came back half a minute later and that is when he that Reb Uri was gone. Rephoel called hatzole and a bunch of paramedics came and tried working on him. There was nothing to do and as all the paramedics were religious they said the sheimos and Shema and that was it.

There was no heart attack; it was a misas neshika, over in a second.

The levaya was called for 11 at the Yeshiva of Mir where they said some tehillim and kaddish and then they started walking towards Zvehill. At the junction a bunch of Yerushalmis decided that they were going to walk all the way. The Chevra Kadisha was at first not very happy but they had no choice. When they came near the shaar gehinom they made a circle, held hands and started running past all the tifflahs with their bells ringing. At the kevurah they made 7 hakofos as well.

There were two busloads of people at the levaya on har hazeisim. He is buried next to his wife. On top of his bed there was the certificate of his purchase of the chelka he bought years ago.

No one is sitting shiva although he has an old brother in a nursing home in London. They made a Minyan for Mincha and plan to make a Minyan all of the week. Reb Uri mad a tzava’ah 4 months ago and gave all his money to Kol Torah. Everything else to a list of people.

He already made his matzos which were on his bed ready for pesach.

[…]

I spoke to an Adom Gadol today who said if it is possible to establish perhaps a night Kollel for the next year it would be a very big zechus for him and it is a way to show hakoras hatov for all his Hachnosas orchim. But it is important to try establish it already in the next few days when there is still hisorerus.

(note: E. Selengut sent me the following correction on 14 March 2012: He had brought him the coffee in bed, but went back to the kitchen to bring him his apron and in that brief moment was when the ‘misas neshika’ took place! This, by the way, is indicative of the way Reb Refoel took care of him -he knew of and respected all of Reb Uri’s personal little ways of doing things and catered to him with tremendous love and patience!)

Reb Uri and his hospitality
Reb Uri’s hospitality was wide known, he used to invite Yeshiva students while at the same time the students were left with unforgettable moments.
In the section with anecdotes you can read about some of these experiences. In 1980 an article by Ellie Mehler named “Shaboss of Fire – A young man’s unique experience in Y’rusholayim” appeared in “Light Stories for Teenage boys“. Upon reading it, is clear that Reb ‘Pinchos’ is Reb Uri (Yehonoson Rubin sent me via e-mail [on 20 March 2012]  that Reb Uri confirmed this to him in about 1991).
From the article it seems that it happened a few months after Reb Uri’s wife’s death, which was in 1972.
I was invited in about 2001, which is some 30 years later then what is described in the article, and I too have about the same memories as the author describes! Reb Uri did this for many years!

A young man’s unique experience in Y’rusholayim
It was erev shabbos in a Jerusalem November. I had been warned about the winter in the Holy City and was now being given my first chilling taste. The cold rain poured from the sky, as Yitzchok and I, dressed in rubber boots and heavy raincoats, trudged laboriously through the thickly-puddled streets. The scraping of our boots against the concrete pavement made each step an audible one, providing us with a sort of uncanny incentive to march as we kept time with the squeaking rubber. Our destination was the Kosel HaMa’arovi where we were to meet Reb Pinchos the Sofer.

The difficulties I had experienced during the previous Elul in becoming adjusted to a Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel as well as to the Israeli mode of life in general, had been somewhat mitigated by the new friendships I had begun forming. I had met Yitzchok, who at age 20 was already a trusted, aspiring sofer, and we decided to become chavrusos for the afternoon seider.

During our third week of learning together, Yitzchok told me how he had met Reb Pinchos through their mutual bond of safruss, how he could never forget the unique, soul-stirring impact that a Shaboss with this memorable man had had on him, and how, upon recently crossing his path again, Reb Pinchos had invited him for another Shaboss meal and had asked him to bring a friend along. “You’ve never seen anything like it,” Yitzchok promised. So, appreciating his thoughtfulness, I happily accepted the invitation.

That Erev Shaboss, we journeyed to the Kosel – an hour’s walk from the Yeshiva – where Reb Pinchos was to be found every Shaboss. After davvening and introductions, we walked beside him.

Reb Pinchos was a fairly tall, robust, and stately man. His curly gray locks complemented his somber reddish-gray beard, giving him an undeniable touch of austerity. His voice, however, did not quite fit the pattern, as it was a somewhat high-pitched, warm, solicitous voice. He spoke fluent English and seemed very interested in me and my adjustment in Eretz Yisroel. As we ascended the multitude of steps, walking and talking along the narrow pathways, he would often stop to point out to us certain remnants of the Old City’s past. Whether it would be a former Jewish dwelling or a pre-State Yeshiva, he would gaze upward at the structure, unraveling his flaming narrative with such intense passion, as if his ears could hear the Torah emanating from the Yeshiva, as if his eyes could see the mother bundling her children in the dwelling in preparation for a winter’s day. Then, as suddenly as he had begun, he would cast his glance to the ground and softly mutter —“Gone now, it is no more.” What was so strange about it was the way he made us feel the consummate depth of his sadness; his thoughts became our thoughts and we bowed our heads as well. It was then I sensed this was to be a very special Shaboss.

Up and out through Sha’ar Shechem we journeyed, past the site of the former Mandelbaum Gate and into the Botey Ungarin quarter. As we approached, all seemed at peace along the rows of houses cramped together above us. It appeared that everyone had returned from shul some time ago. Although on the other hand, it hardly seemed conceivable that we had left the Kosel over two hours before. Where had the time gone? It hardly seemed more than forty minutes.

Although no light shone on the courtyard, I could discern that the houses were small, old, and impoverished. It all seemed faintly familiar although I was quite sure I had not seen it before. Perhaps I had read about it? Then I knew. Its features became all too clear – “I am in a Jewish ghetto,” I said to myself. Little did I know that before the evening had elapsed, a good number of my preconceived notions regarding the priorities of life would undergo interesting changes.

We ascended the flight of stairs above the courtyard. Reb Pinchos’s was the first apartment in a long, narrow row of houses. He unlocked the door, which was fastened by an ordinary hinge lock, and gently pushed it open, for it had no doorknob to pull or turn.

We stepped inside the hall, which was also the kitchen, and then into the small dining room where on the table were set the covered lechem mishneh and a bottle of red wine. The room was dimly lit by an oil-lamp, the unmistakable aroma of kerosene permeating the air, oddly not offensive in the least.

Reb Pinches reached for an old sidur on the mantel of his sole bookcase and we began to sing “Sholom Aleichem.” His tenor voice rang crisp and clear, reverberating in every direction, prompting Yitzchok and me to sing even louder. He smiled wryly at us, as if to say, “Come on, put a little feeling into it!” As we sang, my eyes drifted slowly about the room. The plaster-coated walls were bare, unadorned by the pictures and pretty platters I was accustomed to. In the corner, next to the bookcase, was a small closet built into the wall, neatly packed with more s’forirn. In the opposite corner, his dishes were neatly stacked for our Shaboss meal, and across the room sat his working desk and upon it the candles. Yitzchok had told me of the tragic passing of Reb Pinchos’s wife some months before. He had no children.

As we finished singing, I noted a clock hanging on the wall next to the bookcase. It read ten minutes after two, whereas my watch read twenty of seven. Reb Pinchos caught my surprised look and laughed. “You see, my clock is an unusual clock, for it runs according to sunset, at which I set my clock at twelve. This way I know when to davven, and bench Iicht, and end Shaboss. I suppose this sort of thing would be rare in America.” It seemed remarkable. Even Reb Pinchos’s clock was attuned to the will of HaShem and the Torah.

It was Reb Pinchos’s custom to wash before kidush, which we did too. Kidush and hamotzi were followed by a really very fine meal he had cooked himself. He served us, hand and foot, not even allowing us to hand him our dishes upon the completion of a course. He traveled back and forth with the alacrity of a professional waiter, making sure everything was just right. “You are my guests,” he vociferated comically, “I want you to be treated royally.”

We would spend long intervals between courses, conversing in Torah. He would relate Torah explanations originating in his own mind, expounding on hashkofa, on the parsha, on his memorable experiences, and on questions we fired at him in rapid succession – every bit of the discussion so strangely fascinating. It seemed odd, but we were almost overeager to hear Reb Pinchos speak. We listened, spellbound, as he awed us, made us laugh, but most of all made us identify. It is difficult for me to decide even now, why he had this unusual, almost eerie effect on us, but there we sat beneath the lambent flame of the oil-lamp, transfixed so by this man, feeling as if we had transcended time into nineteenth-century Europe. I watched his eyes, incandescent with flame as he poured out the Torah he was transmitting to us. In those hours and through hose slightly-tearing eyes I saw the meaning, the euphoria, the fears, the tears, and the laughter of generations I had never known.

Reb Pinchos would intermittently mention his wife smiling broadly once as he said. “My wife always told me, ‘Pinchos, why do always keep them so late?” and his voice droned off into silence once more. We had sung z’miros and benched, and the clock now read six-twenty. The evening had gone too fast. My heart and soul craved still more! As we got up to leave, he embraced us both, taking us unto the white coat he had worn throughout the meal, smiling as before, as he whispered, “You’ll come again soon, won’t you?”

Outside, the moon now illuminated the courtyard. We all stood in silence. I again surveyed the houses. They seemed somehow different than before. Although still cramped, old, and impoverished, they now seemed becoming, warm, and sheltering. The silence continued and I tried to say something, to thank him, to tell him how meaningful it had been, but the words wouldn’t come. I don’t think there were any words. Instead I simply gazed upward into those eyes of compassion and was immediately taken in; I had said it all.

We took leave of Reb Pinchos after our meek “Good Shaboss,” and proceeded in continued silence. After a moment or so, I glanced back. Reb Pinchos still stood statue-like, in his white coat, face cast to the ground, and as I trained my eyes intently upon his white coat, staring more fiercely now than ever, it began to blaze fire. We left Reb Pinchos still ruminating in deadened silence.

I turned away quickly and it was several minutes before Yitzchok broke the long silence muttering, “Unreal. Just unreal,” and we talked about it nonstop the rest of the way back to the Yeshiva.

It was no wonder at all that Yitzchok and I walked through the biting cold and pelting rain to meet Reb Pinchos again some two months later. I had to know, would it be there again? Had I overdone it? Had I imagined things that weren’t there.

Reb Pinchos unlocked the door and we stepped inside the hail, which was also the kitchen, and into the small dining room. Yes, it was there again, all there! The clock, the kerosene, the bare walls, the compassion, the warmth, the fire.

(Source: “Shaboss of Fire – A young man’s unique experience in Y’rusholayim” by Ellie Mehler in “Light Stories for Teenage boys” pages 68-73 published by Lightbooks, Brooklyn, NY in 5740-1980, ISBN 0-86517-004-5, many thanks to Baruch Harris who sent this on 19 March 2012)

In another book about Marianne Strauss, who was a cousin of Reb Uri, we can read about a visit to Reb Uri. It does not only tell us something about Reb Uri’s family, but also something about Reb Uri’s great feeling for humor and how a first time encounter with Reb Uri felt like:

Less than a fortnight after this conversation, I was in Israel. My aim, among other things, was to talk to Uri, Alex’s brother. On the phone, Uri had a much stronger accent than Alex, still clearly German but now mixed with something else – it sounded more Yiddish than German. He lived in Batei Ungari, part of Me’a shearim, Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox quarter and home to some of the most observant Jews in the world. Evidently, Uri’s address wasn’t going to be easy to find, since the house numbers did not follow any conventional order. The directions were complex: go past a print shop and round a corner to a gap in the wall; pass through into a courtyard; up some steps into another courtyard and then turn right; more steps, a left turn and the second door along the balcony was his.

The street with the print shop was full of hurrying men in black suits, some in black stockings and streimels. There were signs periodically enjoining visitors to dress modestly. Then, there really was a gap in the wall, and suddenly I found myself in a different world. In the courtyard, young mothers draped in simple, heavy dresses looked up suspiciously from playing with their children. I bounded up the wooden steps and counted down the doors. Uri’s was open. From the balcony, I entered straight into a room that could have been in a Polish ghetto town. A penetrating smell of meat stew floated in from the back somewhere. The wallpaper was peeling and filthy. There was very little furniture – just a wooden table, a couple of chairs, and cupboards full of books in Hebrew. Uri, who had been sweeping out the room, put down his broom. I saw only one characteristic that constituted any kind of link with Alex’ or Uri’s past: Uri’s luminous blue eyes, which looked out from a face adorned with a magnificent white beard.

I’d worried whether he might have reservations about my using a tape-recorder, but Uri was very uncomplicated about such things. He began – and it takes up a good forty minutes on the tape – by telling me the story of his trip on the notorious ship the Dunera, which took a mixture of German prisoners of war and Jewish internees from Liverpool to Australia for internment. Uri was something I have never encountered before – a truly gifted raconteur of the old school. The story began in the middle, on the gangplank out to the ship, then swept back in widening circles of explanation before plunging to its ironic conclusion. I mentioned Alex’s view that Siegfried Strauss had not been well liked in the family:

‘Alex has some funny memories; well, not funny… He was and he was not – he was liked and he wasn’t liked, you can’t say. He was more exact like, you know. He was more of a soicher [a businessman] than my father. My father was a bad merchant, like me. We are too easy-going. We can’t go after every penny.’

Uri’s memories circled more around amusing quirks of each individual.
‘The Strauss family? Well, let’s see, there were two brothers and two wives. It was known, the two brothers…nothing came between then…One said something, the other helped him a bit. The wives, it’s just the same. They were not fighting. Never.’

It was Uri who told me about the Strauss brothers telephoning, one holding the receiver, the other speaking into the mouthpiece. And he had a similar account of family life in Essen:

‘Yes, always my mother said, “In Essen it goes like this: Siegfried shouts ‘the kids should go to bed’. The kids shout back and the women say, ‘Oh, let them stay’, first Oe then Ine and then Alfred says ‘No, no, the kids into bed.’ “That’s how it was always.’

Uri’s laugh was infectious. He like Alex, had a dowry story in his pocket, but it was a different one, concerning the original dowry. Siegfried and Alfred had gone to Ahlen to collect it:

‘It was the middle of the inflation. My father was there…The whole dowry was on the table and in Germany they had these big baskets you could lock up, like trunks. They filled up the whole basket with the dowry…but it didn’t all fit in, so Siegfried and Alfred took a flour bag or whatever, a corn bag and with the rest of the dowry, the corn bag was also full…It was a rainy day. My father never laughed so much as when the two of them, just as they got the dowry – they didn’t barely say goodbye yeh – they grabbed the basket to make the train to Essen, one of them holding the bag. I don’t know who held it, Alfred or Siegfried, both holing the trunk, one on each side, and running all the way to the station. When they arrived in Essen an hour later the money was only worth half. My father laughed his head off at the time.

[…]

Before I left, Uri asked after his brother. Though their post-war diaspora had taken them in such different directions, the two retained a great deal of affection for each other and telephone occasionally. Uri had maintained intermittent contact with Marianne, to, though he had actually seen her only once since the war. She and Basil had come to visit him in Jerusalem, but they stayed only ten minutes. Why was that? The meeting had been fraught. Uri had asked after the children, but unbeknown to him it was just a few months after Elaine’s death:

‘I said to Marianne, “You have a son and a daughter, how are they?”

And then she told me right out. She could keep herself. I can also. But Basil broke down;’

(Source: Pages 46, 47 ,48 in “A Past in Hiding: Memory and Survival in Nazi Germany” by Mark Roseman, ISBN 978-0805063264, Feb 2001)

Soundclips:
Soundclips with stories, zemiros sung by Reb Uri and about Torah can be accessed via the following links:

      • Kol Halashon
      • Rabbi Uri Weinberg’s songs (on this website)
      • Another audio clip with zmiros of Rabbi Uri and the story ot the Sholom Aleichem tune from about 55’57”. The song was recorded late at night by Dovid Shapiro in January 2009 (sent by Dovid Shapiro, 19 March 2012)

        This clip contains the following zemiros:

        • 00:00 – 03:40 שלום עליכם
        • 03:40 – 05:07 מנוחה ושמחה
        • 05:07 – 10:55 מה ידידות
        • 10:55 – 16:58 יום שבת קדש הוא
        • 16:58 – 19:55 יום זה לישראל
        • 19:55 – 24:40 R Uri tells about יום זה לישראל
        • 24:40 – 26:20 צמאה נפשי (Yekkish tune from Germany)
        • 26:20 – 29:25 an explanation on צמאה נפשי (it actually is not a song for shabbos)
        • 29:25 – 34:02 צור משלו from friday night (there are three nigunnim, one for Friday night, one for Shabbes
          morning and one for Seudas Shelishis)
        • 34:02 – 36:23 שיר המעלות
        • 36:23 – 37:40 Reb Uri tells about the Shir Hamalos and an anecdote
        • 38:26 – 47:00 ברוך אל עליון
        • 47:28 – 54:02 שמרו שבתותי
        • 54:02 – 55:53 כי אשמרה שבת
        • 55:53 – 1:01:22 the story of the Sholom Aleichem tune
      • Havdalah recorded in the hospital (sent to me by Dovid N. September 2011)
      • Kavei (probably recorded in the hospital) (sent to me by Dovid N. September 2011) 

Mishna
Please pledge to learn a Mishna in the memory of the Mes Mitzva and Tzaddik Uri Ben Menachem Halevi.

Some photos:
Not sure when taken

An undated photo of Reb Uri (appeared in the English Mishpacha of 21 March 2012, copied with permission)
Photo taken in about 1995 probably on Purim by Dovid N.
A unique photo showing Reb Uri in the Machaneh Yehudah Shuk in 2004 (photo taken by E. Selengut)
Photo taken in early 2006 at Reb Uri’s appartment (by Yehonoson Rubin)
Photo taken in April 2008 at Reb Uri’s appartment (by N. W.)
Photo taken in July 2010 at Reb Uri’s appartment (by Yanky Klang)
Rav Vandervalder, Reb Uri, and Reb Tuvia Steinharter on or about Rosh Chodesh Shevat 5772 (25 January 2012)(photo sent by Tuvia Steinharter via e-mail on 27 March 2012)
Photo taken in the Mirrer Yeshiva during the reading of the Megilla. This was two and a half days before Reb Uri was nifter (photo taken by Yeshayahu Levi)
Photo taken in the Mirrer Yeshiva during the reading of the Megilla. This was two and a half days before Reb Uri was nifter (photo taken by Yeshayahu Levi)
Candles (photo received via Dovid Hershkowitz)
Certificate for Reb Uri’s chelka at Har Hazesim (photo received via Dovid Hershkowitz)
‘Arabische Zeiger’ (photo received via Dovid Hershkowitz)
The matzos were ready for the coming Yom Tov of Pesach (photo received via Dovid Hershkowitz)
Shabbos times for 5725 (photo received via Dovid Hershkowitz)
‘Shirayim on Monday’ (photo received via Dovid Hershkowitz)
The kitchen during the shiva (photo received via Yona Monk)
Reb Uri’s trademarked gray jacket orphaned of its wearer (photo received via Dovid Hershkowitz)
Bookcase with clock (photo received via Dovid Hershkowitz)
At the Levaye (photo received via Dovid Hershkowitz)
A Pashkevil with an obituary from the Kol Torah yeshiva (photo received via Yona Monk)
Other Pashkevil’s with obituaries in Reb Uri’s home (photo received via Yona Monk)
Davening during the shiva at Reb Uri’s home (photo received via Yona Monk)
Obituaries of Reb Uri on Pashekvillim in the streets of Jerusalem (photo taken by Baruch Harris in Adar 5772-March 2012)
The graves of Reb Uri a”h and his wife Mrs. Bluma Weinberg-Lapidoth a”h (photo taken by Baruch Harris in Adar 5772-March 2012)

Anectodes
Please help me to collect as many anecdotes as possible (add a new comment below this post or send me an e-mail)

      1. Reb Uri would ask you when your birth-date was (if I am correct it was the birth-date, it could be that he asked for the bar mitzva date) and he would then tell you on the spot after a few seconds which bar mitzva parasha you had and the day of the week you were born. This can all be calculated with mathematical calculations (which in itself is amazing and not everyone can do it), but someone told me that Reb Uri did not calculate the date, he just remembered with his sharp mind the days and their dates. He thus had to go back in his memory to tell you what day of the week it was! (The first time I met him, he asked me for my birth-date and then calculated the rest)(as remembered by Gershon Lehrer, see other anecdotes from NW and Dovid N.)
      2. Related to the previous anecdote as sent by N.W.: I asked Rav Uri several times how he was able to calculate dates of bar mitzvahs, weddings etc. and he told me similarly to what you wrote that he remembers when Rosh HaShanah is and from there he is able figure out all the dates and Parshas Hashavua of that week. (N.W., via e-mail on 13 March 2012)
      3. And here another one from Dovid N.: As mentioned earlier, he would ask his guests to give their English birthday, and on the spot provide the corresponding Hebrew date (or vice-versa), and other information. One wise guy once asked him, “Reb Uri, what was the weather like that day?” He took the challenge seriously, and started making cheshbonos — let’s see, so-and-so made a bris that week, etc. etc. Finally after a minute or two he confidently declared that the weather in Yerushalayim that day (two decades earlier!) was indeed quite nice. I’d imagine that he was correct!
        I once met him in the hallway of the Mir and asked him for his method of converting dates. There were so many steps to the process that I lost track, and tried to stop him and change the topic, but he just couldn’t hold himself back from explaining it until the very end.
        (sent via e-mail by Dovid N. on 19 March 2012)
      4. Another related one from Yirmiyahu Cohen: Reb Uri was an expert on the calendar and liked to explain the story behind the Julian and Gregorian calendars. His theory was that originally the Christians picked Dec. 25 as the date of their holiday because of a “gzeirah shava chof-hei chof-hei” from Chanukah. That date was also the winter solstice 2000 years ago. But then by the fourth century solstice had drifted back to the 21st, and by the 1500 it was on the 11th. Pope Gregory added ten days to the date to put the solstice back on the 21st. But he left the holiday on the 25th to keep the “gzeirah shava” intact.
        (sent by Yirmiyahu Cohen on 29 March 2012)
      5. R’ Uri was one of the biggest experts on halachos and matters related to the calendar and “zmanim”. In Yeshivas Kol Torah he had the privilege of dealing with all these issues with great Talmidei Chachamim like Rav Kunshtot, Rav Yonah Mertsbuch, Rav Schlessinger, and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. I don’t know of any other documentation of this aside from this quote in the sefer zikaron “Aish Tamid”.
        (sent via e-mail by Baruch Harris on 23 March 2012, see also below under “His Torah”)
      6. You could speak to Reb Uri for hours, listening to his captivating stories about Yerushalayim of old and his relationships and interactions with some of its gedolim and other well-known figures, among them his rebbi and the rosh yeshive of Kol Torah Rav Yechiel Michel Schlesinger, Rav Yosef Salant (author of the Beer Yosef) and the Tchebiner Rav. Someone aptly described him as “a raconteur of the old school.”
        (Source: “So Little,So Much” by Dovid Shapiro in Mishpacha Magazine – Issue 450, 24 Adar 5773 / 6 March 2013)
      7. I was Reb Uri’s guest for many Shabbos meals from 1991 through 1998. I have the same birthday as him (gimel Sivan) so after the first time there, he didn’t have to ask my birthday anymore, he would just give me a knowing look and a smile.
        (sent by Yirmiyahu Cohen on 27 March 2012)
      8. I never saw him upset. He always had a smile, was kindhearted and enjoyed talking to the Kollel-Yungerleit and the bochurim. (Gershon Lehrer)
      9. My uncle told me that after about 45 years, he still remembered him. My uncle used to learn at the Kol Torah Yeshiva in Jerusalem. My uncle was, like Reb Uri also from Germany and a proud yekke. My uncle was during his time in Kol Torah a young bochur without beard while he remembered Reb Uri with his orange beard and his fingers always with ink (reb Uri used to be a Sofer (Torah scribe)). In later years my uncle, with a tiny trimmed beard, saw Reb Uri in a bus in Jerusalem. My uncle went over to him (he hardly recognized Reb Uri) and wanted to (re)introduce himself after so many years. Reb Uri did not need any (re)introduction. He remembered my uncle and all his details. He even remembered some issues which my uncle and my uncle’s brother had with their visas in their students’ time, he even remembered the small details of those problems. And that after more then at least 45 years (!). And so Reb Uri knew personal stories of hundreds of people. My uncle sang until he passed away Reb Uri’s Ulveu Ulai zemiros tune. To this day his children keep singing the same Ulveu Ulai zemiros tune(GL)
      10. Not ALL his songs were Yeckish. His Shimru Shabsosai was a Sefardish nigun. Do you have a recording of it?
        (sent via e-mail by Yehonoson Rubin on 20 March 2012)
      11. My father a”h (and I still do too) sang the Shir Hama’alos at Seudas Shlishis with the same tune as Reb Uri did sing the Lecho Dodi when he davened before the ammud in Yeshivas Kol Torah. (As sent by Eli Nager on 15 March 2012)
      12. I just read this week’s Mishpacha (March 6th 2013) and enjoyed the article. In 2005 I was heading back for sukkos to New York on Motzoi Yom Kippur. While we were breaking our fast on the lavish spread put out by the Mir, Rav Uri was bidding farewells to bochurim who were leaving.
        He came over to me and I told him that I had a flight tonight, Motzoi Yom Kippur which was Thursday night. He then told me “Never travel on Erev Shabbos, you will not know, maybe the plane will have to refuel and you will be stuck for Shabbos somewhere”.
        I told him that the ticket had been purchased a while back and it was too late to change.
        It turned out that the flight was scheduled to leave 12:30am which it did only to return at 1:30 due to the failed AC which made it very hot on the plane. Back in Israel I was unsure what to do, but I boarded the 6:30am flight to JFK and davened to make it home for Shabbos. I made it to NY on Friday by 1:15PM but I sure did learn a lesson from Rav Uri’s “Never travel on Erev Shabbos”.
        (sent by Avi Czermak on 7 March 2013)
      13. I remember this story like it happened yesterday. In the summer of 1996 I was a bochur learning in the Mir and was heading home to the United States to start Shidduchim and begin learning in the Yeshiva in Lakewood. At that time I slept in the dorm room on the top floor in the Mir. The night before I left I went to Rav Uri’s humble abode and bid him farewell as I had many many memorable and delicious Shabbos meals at his house. He asked me what time my flight was during that evening as we emotionally said good bye. The next night about six hours before my flight there was Rav Uri outside my dorm room. I was excited to see him again and he told me he came to find out what time the “Nesher” tender was taking me to the airport as he wanted to be “Melaveh” me on my way home. Sure enough an hour before the tender was departing there was Rav Uri by my room asking me if he could help bring my heavy suitcases down. I politely refused. He waited till the Nesher pulled up and wished me many Brachos and, as the Nesher pulled out from in front of the Mir, I turned around and saw Rav Uri with his distinct gray smock following the Nesher van by foot down Rechov Bais Yisroel.
        (N.W., 13 March 2012 via e-mail)
      14. When we were moving back from Eretz Yisrael we were shocked to find Reb Un waiting beside the van taking us to the airport, to bid us farewell. (After he passed away, I learned that this was something of a custom for Reb Uri.) We were so moved that Reb Un had come to wish us off that we asked if he would accept as a gift a challah board that he had complimented a number of times. Here again, Reb Uri understood that his taking the challah board would be more of a gift to us than to him and he graciously accepted. I remember him mentioning the challah board a number of times in the years that followed, making me feel that he appreciated it. (Specifically, he called me to task for having cut the challah the wrong way, against the grain.) Reb Un didn’t stand on ceremony or have expectations of others, and after we left Eretz Yisrael he called us a number of times to wish us a good Yom Tov before we had a chance to call him.
        (Source: “So Little,So Much” by Dovid Shapiro in Mishpacha Magazine – Issue 450, 24 Adar 5773 / 6 March 2013)
      15. Since 1998 I only spoke to Reb Uri once: he somehow found out that I was getting married in America, and took the trouble to call me the night before my wedding. It was around 10 PM in America so he must have been up at 5 AM.
        (sent by Yirmiyahu Cohen on 27 March 2012)
      16. R’ Uri wore a distinct trademark gray overcoat. They lasted many years and he never seemed to run out of them. The story behind it; he once came across a sale of these gray overcoats. He figured that since they were so cheap he would buy out a whole bunch of them. Like that he would just pull out the next one when the previous one was unusable. Did anyone else hear this story?
        (sent via e-mail by Yanky L. on 23 March 2012)
      17. One anecdote of mine which I remember. I ate a couple of times by R Uri; he knew my father from Kol Torah, and also my older brothers who also learnt in Mir. Once during the meal, he was telling me and another bochur, that there were two bochurim in Mir, one called Yisocher Dov Rokach and the other Yoel Teitelbaum. He thought it would be a fantastic idea if he would invite them both for Shabbos, and then he could say he had the Belzer Rebbe together with the Satmarer Rebbe eating together at his Shabbos table!! And he did! He told the story over to us with such delight, chuckling along the whole way, with his bright eyes sparkling! (Yoni Monk, via e-mail on 14 March 2012)
      18. We had invited R’ Uri to come to a bris my family was making. Unfortunately he didn’t turn up. When I asked him a few days later where he was, he replied “There are two reasons. Firstly, I wasn’t feeling well. Secondly, I forgot!!” (Yoni Monk, via e-mail on 14 March 2012)
      19. I was zoche to be quite close with him. For approximately twenty years he would even come to us for shabbosos (when we lived in Sanhedria he would walk back and forth three times over shabbos for each of the meals!)
        We (my wife and seven of our children) were zoche to visit him this past Thursday as he was getting ready to go to Megilla at the Mir. He was especially happy to see our 9 month old baby for whom he was Sandak.
        His sudden petirah was obviously a shock to all of us who knew him but as Reb Refoel Vandervalder told me it was just the way he (Reb Uri) would have liked it to be-without having to go to the hospital not being a burden on anyone and without fanfare. (sent by E. Selengut on 14 March 2012)
      20. He was a great guy I remember eating by him Friday nights and then giving out the 96% lechaim which would literally blow you through the roof. One American guy asked what is this? So someone else said it’s water just drink it!!! (sent via e-mail on 14 March 2012 by Sruly Monk)
      21. On Friday night he would daven by the Kosel and walk home thru the old city. When he had an oilom with him, he would give them a tour of the old city with a lot of interesting anecdotes. I think that I walked with him twice on Friday night on his walking tour. The meal would start very late as a result. Then it would take another couple of hours for the meal. On the way thru the old city he showed us a place that he said that when he walked past there after the old city was liberated in ’67, he was sure that there was a shul somewhere nearby as he remembered it from before 1948 and for some odd reason he couldn’t find it. He retraced his steps a few times until he realized that he was standing directly above that spot. The shul was no longer as it was buried underneath all the rubble (or a new structure on top of that spot – I don’t remember) he was standing on. I don’t remember any of the details like the name of the shul etc.
        (sent via e-mail by Yanky L. on 23 March 2012)
      22. Reb Uri once explained to me the history of the Third Wall of the Old City. This is the wall built by Agrippa about 30 years before the Churban. It is now underground, but sticks out in some places. The current wall of the Old City is built on the location of the second wall. Now, the official burial place of Oso ho’ish, the church of the sepulcher, is inside the current walls of the city. Since it is known that Jews never buried anyone inside the city walls, the Christians were forced to claim that the current wall lines up with the Third Wall, which was built after Oso Ho’ish. Thus when he was buried, the place was not yet inside the city. The problem is that in the 1500’s, parts of the real third wall were discovered poking up out of the ground to the north of the city. This proved that their burial location was inside the second wall, which was in existence before Oso ho’ish. So their location was revealed as false. To cover up this problem, the Christians hastily purchased as much land as they could along the remnants of the Third wall, and built churches there, so that no one would be able to excavate it. That’s why there are a bunch of old churches in a line to the north of the Old City, all built about 500 years ago.
        (sent by Yirmiyahu Cohen on 29 March 2012)
      23. I remember so clearly we were eating Friday night by him with a few bochurim and he was re-telling his story about the Dunera. Anyway he was saying we ended up near the Murrumbidgee.
        One of the American boys asked “Where’s that?” and R’ Uri replied “Just past Meron!” and he continued laughing for ten minutes!!!
        (It is a river in New South Wales R’ Uri was in the town of Hay which was built alongside the Murrumbidgee River). Also remember the tune which he started in Hay for Sholem Aleichem! (sent via e-mail on 14 March 2012 by Sruly Monk)
      24. When he recounted the story of the Dunera the first time I heard it from him, I took issue with some of the details since I had read it in the book “The Maggid Speaks”. There were a few discrepancies. But he stood his ground and proved himself to be the accurate version. Well obviously, he was actually on the ship. One of the discrepancies, the book stated that the ship was blown up by the Germans on the way back after they were confident that the German nationals were no longer on the ship. He stated however that the ship was not blown up and was eventually sold as a luxury cruise liner, and some of his friends actually went to visit the ship when it came to the port of Chaifa in the 60’s ( I’m not sure if he joined them). Comes to prove that you can’t take everything you read at face value.
        He also recounted how he figured out by the position of the sun during the trip that the ship was heading south and not west as it was supposed to be going to Canada or erroneously some thought. He told the others but they did not believe him at first. He was able to get a glimpse of the sky although they were holed up in the bottom of the ship, from a small window in the bathroom stalls. There he had to lift himself up to be able to peer thru the window.
        (sent via e-mail by Yanky L. on 23 March 2012)
        Related to the previous from N.W. (sent on 26 March 2012 via e-mail): What you wrote regarding directions brought back a flood of memories… And made me remember that the British “Tzadikim” (as Gershon pointed out ex convicts) refused to tell them where they were headed. Many of the ships passengers thought they were headed to South America but Rav Uri by following his sense of directions and the position of the sun was convinced that they were headed to Australia and turned out to be correct
      25. On the way to Australia the Dunera docked at several ports along the way. The British sailors didn’t tell anyone on board where they had docked and no one was allowed off the boat. The sailors purchased provisions at the port. Rav Uri related that one of his friends on the boat, after they left the port, traded with a British sailor several cigarettes for a newspaper which the sailor picked up from the . The date was 10th of August 1940 and they read that the day before the leader of Torah Jewry Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski passed away the day before. Thus Rav Uri knew on the way to Australia that Rav Chaim Ozer was Niftar.
        (sent via e-mail by N. W. on 26 March 2012)
      26. I learnt in Kol Torah 1965/7. On from Australia arrival in Adar I 1965 I lived with some other bochurim in his house in Rechov Bayit Vegan which served as an over flow dorm. I soon discovered that like my father z’l Uri too was a Dunera boy with many recollections of his days in Australia and always looking for more updated information about teh kehilla and his former fellow internees. However my particular recollection of him was that while he did not exactly walk around sartorially dressed (and that’s an understatement) when it came to Kiddush Levanah he was always dressed in the most formal manner. I never found out why this was his thing but one never asked about Uri — we took him as he was. Did anyone ever get a comment on this from him?
        (Yossi Aron from Melbourne on March 25th, 2012)
      27. With Rav Uri’s flowing white beard and distinct smock in the heart of Meah Shearim one would never guess that he was fluent in so many languages. One day in the early 1990’s two English speaking American Bochurim were walking in Batei Ungarin and wanted to get directions. When they saw Rav Uri, one Bochur remarked to the other “Let’s ask that “weird” looking person for directions”. They asked Rav Uri in Hebrew for directions and he gladly gave them directions. Rav Uri didn’t like the way they were talking and decided to teach them a lesson. Rav Uri asked them where they were from “Brooklyn” was their reply. Rav Uri then pretended he didn’t know much and he told them “Brooklyn that’s a different country from London correct?” The two Bochurim began talking in English amongst themselves and said “Boy, this guy is even dumber than we originally even thought” and spent about 10 minutes conversing with Rav Uri while their remarks about Rav Uri flowed freely in English. When Rav Uri had enough and was ready to impart his lesson to the two bochurim. He turned to them in a perfect English and told them “You shouldn’t be making fun of anyone especially an old man like myself who just so happens to speak a fluent English”. Rav Uri remarked that before he walked away he had enough time to take a good look at the Bochurims faces and their jaws literally dropped to the floor. Rav Uri concluded, I think, that that was the last time in their lives these two bochurim made fun of someone in front of them. (N.W., 13 March 2012 via e-mail).
        Dovid Herskowitz adds to this the following: I remember him telling me this story too, there was a similar one about two seminary girls who also gawked at him and were talking behind his back so he turned them in English and said to them, “Excuse me young ladies, do you by any chance have the time?” and he laughed when he saw their jaws drop. (Dovid Herskowitz, sent via e-mail on 14 March 2012)
      28. Last night I went to Maariv at R Uri’s place where there are organising minyonim throughout the week. Approximately 15-20 people came; it was really eerie davening there. The same smell, all his belongings are still there etc. I stood at the end of the room, by the door leading to his bedroom. Suddenly in the middle of Krias Shma, that door swings open by itself, and I see his smock and hat hanging on the hook…I nearly fainted, it was petrifying.
        Afterwards a few of us hung around to share some stories; there is a guy called Refoel Wundervald who took care of him for many years, and has the key to his apartment. He said R Uri took care of everything before he died, all his belongings etc. (see the photo’s in the section with photo’s, sent via e-mail on 15 March 2012 by Sruly Monk)
      29. After getting married Rav Uri lived first in Rechavia and later in Bayit Vegan until moving to his final home in Batei Ungarin. When he lived in Bayit Vegan he always invited Bochurim from the nearby Kol Torah Yeshiva (which incidentally he himself was one of its first Talmidim) to eat the Shabbos meals with him and his wife. When the renowned author of the Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchaso Rav Neuwirth was a Bochur in Kol Torah he ate many meals by Rav Uri. Before Pesach 1967 Rav Uri told his neighbors in Bayit Vegan that he is moving to Batei Ungarin. His neighbors asked him why he was moving from the lovely Bayit Vegan to the more crowded neighborhood of Batei Ungarin. Rav Uri replied that the Batei Ungarin neighborhood was much closer to the Kosel HaMaaravi. His neighbors were surprised by his answer for at that time the Kosel HaMaaravi along with the rest of East Jerusalem was under Jordanian control and Jews were not allowed entry into East Jerusalem or the Kosel. About two months later during the six day war when the Kosel HaMaaravi was recaptured and returned to Jewish hands were Rav Uri’s almost prophetic words understood…
        Rav Uri related many times that although he went to the Kosel many times before 1948 when the Jordanians captured East Jerusalem and the Kosel HaMaaravi and banished Jewish worshipers from going there, one of the happiest moments of his life was Shavuos morning 1967 when Rav Uri joined the thousands who thronged to the Kosel HaMaaravi which was open for Jewish worshipers the first time after the six day war on Shavuos morning. Rav Uri related that he spent the entire day till the late afternoon with his wife davening by the Kosel. (N.W., via e-mail on 15 March 2012)
      30. Related to the previous anecdote, from Chesky Monk: I had actually once asked him how a Yekke ended up in Batei Ungar!!!!.
        He said that in 1967 that was the border with the Arabs being right behind kvish echad.
        People left batei unger because they were scared of a possible attack from the Arabs.
        When Batei Ungar emptied out, they were scared that the Arabs would move in therefore they offered it to any ‘Kli Kodesh’ (I think that’s what he said) and being a sofer he was able to move in there. I guess he took them up on it as you say, because it was closer to the Kosel than Bayit Vegan was. (Chesky Monk, via e-mail on 15 March 2012)
      31. Related to the previous anecdote, from Dovid Herskowitz: The full version of the moving to meah shearim story goes like this, at least that is what he told me a few years ago:
        There was some politics going on in Bayit Vegan where he was living so he decided to move to battei ungar. When he was asked he didn’t want to say the reason so he said that he thinks that Jordan will make a peace agreement with Israel and allow the Jews to go the Kosel on Shavuos but it is too far to walk so he is moving closer and then the six day war broke out and that was the first time the Jews walked to the kosel (sent by Dovid Herskowitz on 15 March 2012)
      32. Related to the previous anecdote, from Yehonoson Rubin: Prior to his moving into his apartment, in rare instances there was gun fire from the Jordanian border, hence the unwillingness of people (especially those with children who couldn’t be relied upon not to stray torwards the border). (as was told by Reb Uri to Yehonoson Rubin) (Yehonoson Rubin on 21 March 2012))
      33. R’ Uri spoke both English and German. As a result, when he moved to Battai Ungarin, he served as a sort of secretary to R’ Avrohom Katzenelenbogen of the (previously normal) Neturie Karte. Much of the expense for his hosting Bachurim was covered by Ruth Blau, widow of R’ Amrohm Blau. She couldn’t have Bachurim herself for obvious reasons, so she had him host at her expense.
        (sent via e-mail by Yehonoson Rubin on 20 March 2012)
      34. Due to the war mentality he despised food being thrown out. (As sent by N.W. via e-mail on 15 March 2012)
      35. Ba’al Tashchis was something that Rav Uri would try to avoid at all costs. Whenever serving guests Shabbos meals or Monday Shirayim, Rav Uri would check that the guest finished the food. He would always offer extra portions for those who finished what he served them and if someone left over food on the plate Rav Uri would politely say that he finds it difficult to throw food out and it is hard for him to clear a plate with food on it. (As sent by N.W. via e-mail on 20 March 2012)
      36. Once he was approached by a newly married boy who ate with him for many years. He asked Reb Uri the recipe he used to cook fish for Shabbos. Reb Uri said: “You should know, on the subject of the kitchen – a husband must not interfere what his wife does prepare in the kitchen. If she wants it, she may ask for the recipe. To you I’m not willing to give it”
        (Source: Hebrew Mishpacha, 15 March 2012 (21 Adar 5772), pages 14, 15 in the newspaper supplement section)
      37. He had the wisdom of a lifetime of experiences, as well as an insatiable curiosity about the world that surrounded him. He had his thriftiness and the enjoyment he derived from not wasting anything. Once, when Reb Un joined us for a Shabbos meal, we had watermelon for dessert, and Reb Un grabbed the opportunity to teach us how to choose a good watermelon.
        (Source: “So Little,So Much” by Dovid Shapiro in Mishpacha Magazine – Issue 450, 24 Adar 5773 / 6 March 2013)
      38. The reason all his food tasted the same was because he had a huge container of spices, with which ALL his food was extremely liberally spiced. Said container was a mix of a huge number of different spices, mixed well. As a result, all foods had the same proportion of spice.
        (sent via e-mail by Yehonoson Rubin on 20 March 2012)
        Yehonoson Rubin added on 21 March 2012 the following to the previous: I dont think he had an exact chesbone. When his contanier got low, he would go buy a bunch more and mix them up
        (sent via e-mail by Yehonoson Rubin on 21 March 2012)
      39. Rav Uri would go shopping for Shabbos every Wednesday afternoon in the Machne Yehuda Shuk. He would walk there with 2 very large orange baskets which would overflow with the large provisions of food that he would purchase for Shabbos. Since the baskets were very heavy he would take an Egged bus back home. I once asked him why did he go to the Machne Yehuda Shuk and not purchase everything locally. He replied that he already had set people in the Machne Yehuda Shuk that he would buy from for many years and didn’t want to change his routine. Additionally he concluded since the same products were much cheaper in the Machne Yehuda Shuck it bothered him to pay more money at the more expensive local stores as he felt it was Baal Taschis on the extra money. (As sent by N.W. via e-mail on 20 March 2012)
      40. I would add about how his week revolved around Shabbos, how he would already be shopping for his fish on Monday-Tuesday, and then cook it for the next couple of days. He once said that his cholent has seven different ingredients ( barley, meat, etc.) and 7 spices (incl. curry and nutmeg plus others). It is interesting to note that he put the same spices into everything so there were those that felt that everything tasted the same. I didn’t feel that way though, and still have a yearning for those legendary fish balls that were unique. Can anyone share his recipe??? Some people, however, didn’t like them, and since he was insistent that you finish everything on your plate, and was a bit sensitive, he claimed that he once found fish balls under his seforim shafer when he was cleaning for Pesach. Apparently, someone had found an ingenious way out of this situation!
        With Pesach coming up, I remember when I was in E[rets] Y[isroel] one Pesach, how you had to bring your own matzah wherever you went to eat – with one exception, when you went to R’ Uri. In fact, I think he would even be upset if you brought along your own matzah. This is going back a while, so I hope its accurate.
        (sent via e-mail by Yanky L. via Dovid N. on 18 March 2012)
      41. I remember when I went to his apartment the first time for his pre Pesach Hagaddah shir I felt like I was in the early 1900’s. The oil lanterns, walls, pots, padlock on the door all mesmerized a young American bochur. During the shir Rav Uri raised a very interesting question on chad gadya: “Had you ever seen a kitty eat a goat?” Yeshiva bochurim who are usually engrossed in Tosfos and other rishonim tend to think deeper and did not have a good answer for him. Rav Uri humorously answered “Sometimes you can have a very big kitty like a lion or tiger”. We all smiled together along with Rav Uri’s that made it a memorable experience for me.
        Great Job, I am sure Rav Uri will be a meilatz yosher for all of us, Avi
        (sent via e-mail by Avi Czermak on 7 March 2013)
      42. R’ Uri was fond of pointing out an allusion (in jest) to the PLO in יום חמישי בשיר הייחוד. There it states: ו”אשף” וחרטום לא ילחצוך (the Hebrew abbreviation for PLO is אש”פ).
        (sent via e-mail by Yanky L. on 23 March 2012)
        The following I did not hear from R’ Uri, but felt worth mentioning, in a similar vein. An allusion to the ‘peace process’ in selichos # 82 of יום רביעי עשי”ת with the heading שלום. There it states in the fifth to last stanza, שלום הנה ו’מר לי מר וכ then ends off הנושכים בשיניהם וקראו שלום
        (sent via e-mail by Yanky L. on 23 March 2012)
        Dovid N. adds the following to this (via e-mail on 23 March 2012): The abbreviation אש”פ indeed refers to the PLO, and the reference to אשף in the 5th day of שיר הייחוד is most certainly what Reb Uri had in mind.
      43. Reb Uri was a gifted Baal Menagen, and composed many niggunim that are well known to all who ate meals by him. He related that when he was interned in Australia and working as a baker, he used to spend a lot of time using a large mixing machine that had some worn-out parts, and which would therefore periodically get “stuck” for a few moments. For long, tedious stretches, he had to listen to this annoying and repetitive sound: “Whirrrrrrrrrr…. click, click, click, click, Whirrrrrrrrr….. click, click, click, click,” etc. To counteract the tediousness (and the depressing circumstances), he composed a tune that fit with the tempo of the mixer, and he would hum the tune as he worked! It was a pretty good niggun, as I recall.
        (sent via e-mail by Dovid N. on 19 March 2012)
      44. He had his Yekkish minhagim and beautiful Shabbos zmiros — always the same zmiros at the same meals, and each with a backstory as to when and why Reb Uri began to sing that particular zemer. My personal favorite was the majestic and uplifting tune he used for “Shalom Aleichem.” Reb Un would recount that on the first Shabbos at the camp in Australia the mood among the small minority of shomrei Shabbos who had gathered toeat together was understandably low. One of Reb Uri’s fellow detainees decided to do something about it and began to circulate within the group, cajoling everyone into an uplifting “Shalom Aleichem.” Slowly but surely everyone began to sing along, their spirits rising together with the niggun. Ever since then, Reb Un adopted that niggun as his own. When he sang it, you could almost feel yourself together with him in that Australian camp on that first Shabbos.
        (Source: “So Little,So Much” by Dovid Shapiro in Mishpacha Magazine – Issue 450, 24 Adar 5773 / 6 March 2013)
      45. Dikduk B’Mitzvos: He insisted that his guests wash before kiddush, as stated in the Ramo (271:12). Even though the prevalent practice is to wash after kiddush, he proved from the Mishnah Berurah (I think) that a guest of someone who follows the Ramo’s minhag could wash before kiddush at the same time as his host. After making Hamotzi, Reb Uri would quickly rush to cut and distribute the challah to his guests, so as to minimize any hefsek. On Sukkos, he was very careful to immediately remove empty utensils from the sukkah, as stated in halachah.
        (sent via e-mail by Dovid N. on 19 March 2012)
      46. I think he said that he ate very sparingly during the week (mostly only drinking). It was only on Shabbos that he ate big seudos Lchovod shabbos. On Shabbos, he would eat a chunk of Shmaltz along with the chulent. Someone asked him if perhaps it was not too healthy to eat shmaltz. He responded with a whole maaseh, that once he felt that he should check out his heart and cholesterol levels. It turned out that his numbers were the most optimum. So he took from that, that there is not one formula for all people. It depends on a lot of factors, and what’s bad for one person can actually be good for another.
        (sent via e-mail by Yanky L. on 23 March 2012)
      47. His sense of humor was refreshing and contagious. Among the things I remember him saying: There is a phrase to describe the fellow who has all the gossip in the mikva – “Maggid Rochtzo”! There was a shul in Tzfas that was using a Sefer Torah which stated “Vayomos Choron B’Terach” instead of “Vayomos Terach B’Choron,” but for decades nobody realized, since the phrase is so familiar to the baal kriyah. Reb Uri would keep old wedding invitations as bookmarks in his seforim, due to sheimos. Jokingly (or perhaps seriously), he said that the invitations to marriages which did not work out, he kept in Maseches Gittin!
        (sent via e-mail by Dovid N. on 19 March 2012)
      48. Reb Un was the consummate gentleman. Since he did not view himself as deserving of sympathy, he had the confidence to graciously accept a kindness that was performed for him. Whenever I would go to visit him or call him on the phone, he would always end with a gracious “Sanks for ze visit!” or “Sanks for ze call!” He was a most polite and appreciative guest, as those of us who merited hosting him were able to see firsthand. At the brissim of my children, as Reb Un would shake my hand to say mazel toy, I would feel a crinkled piece of paper pass into my palm, which, to my great surprise, turned out to be a $100 bill.
        (Source: “So Little,So Much” by Dovid Shapiro in Mishpacha Magazine – Issue 450, 24 Adar 5773 / 6 March 2013)
      49. He enjoyed showing off his ‘bekius’ in American geography. (His wife was originally from the US, and he had visited at some point, so he was familiar with some popular street names.) He once started listing all of the 50 states, which he remembered by imagining a hypothetical cross-country walking trip that would take him through each and every state.
        (sent via e-mail by Dovid N. on 19 March 2012)
      50. In 2000, a number of American bochurim approached Rav Binyomin Finkel shlita (known by many simply as Ray Binyomin HaTzaddik) to say a vaad in Yiddish (that vaad continues to this day). The vaad was held late Tuesday nights, and despite the fact that it meant going to bed very late and getting up just a few hours later for his vasikin minyan, Reb Uri would come every week. It was a memorable sight, for those who were zocheh to see it: Reb Un would sit up front, perching forward so as not to miss a word from a speaker many years his junior. I wondered on occasion why Reb Un was so dedicated to these vaadim, considering that they were generally geared toward younger bochurim. I believe the answer is consistent with the ayin tov’ and positive outlook with which he approached the rest of his life. He simply focused on what he could take out of the vaadim and wasn’t bothered or distracted by the parts that were less relevant to him.
        (Source: “So Little,So Much” by Dovid Shapiro in Mishpacha Magazine – Issue 450, 24 Adar 5773 / 6 March 2013)
      51. The following is an obituary which appeared in the Mishpacha edition of March 21st, 2012-27 Adar 5772 (Inner Circle page 35). Pay attention to the respect which the much older Rabbi Uri gave to the much younger rosh Yeshiva Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel Shlita:
        For thousands of alumni of Yerushalayim’s Mirrer Yeshivah, the face of Reb Uri Weinberg was that of a beloved uncle. Far from home, they were welcomed to his humble Batei Ungarin apartment, where ample nourishment was provided for body and soul.The German-born Reb Uri had come to Yerushalayim as a survivor of World War II, marrying the granddaughter of Rav Gershon Lapidos, rav of the Beis Yisrael neighborhood. The couple never merited to have children of their own, and when the Rebbetzin died some four decades ago, Reb Uri adopted the talmidim of the Mir as his children.A proud bearer of minhageiAshkenaz, Reb Uri always insisted that his guests follow their own customs and make themselves comfortable. He made sure to stock items he knew they would enjoy and his stories and insights kept the large crowd of bochurim gathered around the table late into leil Shabbos.In recent years, his health declined, but he resisted being pushed into his beloved Mirrer Yeshivah on a wheelchair. Last week, on Erev Purim, he was feeling particularly weak, and an attending bochur wanted to push him up the ramp constructed for the late rosh yeshivah, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel.Reb Uri asked if Rav Nosson Tzvi’s son Rav Eliezer Yehuda, the present rosh yeshivah, had already davened, and only once he confirmed that Rav Eliezer Yehuda had joined an earlier minyan, would he consent. He explained that he noticed that when he would be wheeled into the beis medrash, the young rosh yeshivah would rise in respect for him, and it made him uncomfortable.With his passing, the rich mesorah of Ashkenaz has lost a torchbearer. And the bochurim of Mir have lost a dear friend.
        (Source: “In Sorrow” in the “Inner Circle-“section of the Mishpacha edition of March 21st, 2012-27 Adar 5772, page 35)
      52. His wife was born in NJ. She came to EY in response to the pleas of her Grandfather, R’ Gershon Lapidus, to her parents for at least one grandchild to help him in his old age. R’ Uri spoke English too, hence the Shidduch (Unlike most bachurim, I knew who R’ Gershon Lapedus was. When he mentioned his wife was a Lapidus, I asked him in all inocence if she was related to R’ Gershon. He was all excited that some one recognized him, and recounted to me what I wrote about the shidduch) (sent by Yehonoson Rubin on 20, 21 March 2012)
      53. R’ Uri told me that while he was in Bait Vegan, he tested the future Amshinove Rebbe on all Hilchos Teffilin prior to his Bar Mitzvah, including Hilchos Stam. Afterward, while the Rebbe was learning in Brisk, he would occasionally eat by R’ Uri.
        (sent via e-mail by Yehonoson Rubin on 20 March 2012)
      54. In 1992-ish, R’ Uri sat shiva, (I believe for his brother). At that time, he told me that he attributed his not having children to the fact that his parents were first cousins. His grandparents were small town cattle dealers.
        (sent via e-mail by Yehonoson Rubin on 20 March 2012)
      55. R’ Uri had an interesting way of stacking up his pots as seen in one of the pictures. The science behind it was that he cooked using steam as opposed to direct heat. Among the benefits were that the food didn’t burn even though he cooked it for a long time. I think he also said that he would keep it on a much smaller flame and save on energy costs as well. The bottom pot was filled with water and the food pot was placed on top of that. Then there was another pot on the tippy top to hold the cover of the middle pot down tightly so the moisture wouldn’t escape. I’m not sure of the whole system, but it definitely resulted in an amusing array of piles of pots with the various Shabbos dishes cooking.
        (sent via e-mail by Yanky L. on 23 March 2012)
      56. Am I accurately remembering that there were some shells wedged into R’ Uri”s walls from the Arab shelling of one of the wars, anyone with details? I think this was only in his inner chamber, which we only got to see on Succos, in order to enter his Succah on the rear porch.
        (sent via e-mail by Yanky L. on 23 March 2012)
      57. He had an Arabishe Zeiger or I think he called it a Turkishe Zeiger. It would be set to 12 at Netz I think. If someone could expand on this subject, as I don’t remember the system or its benefits. One thing was for sure. You had to constantly make cheshbonos to figure out the time.
        (sent via e-mail by Yanky L. on 23 March 2012)
      58. He was a neighbor of R Chaim Na’ah. However, he took issue with a lot of R Chaim Na’ah’s shitos on shiurim, and was a big defender of the Chazon Ish. I don’t remember all his questions on this subject.
        (sent via e-mail by Yanky L. on 23 March 2012)
      59. One Shabbos after Purim (either in ’88 or ’89)when I was at R’ Uri for a shabbos seuda, he told me “It vas a great joke but you vas not yotzeh Mishloach Manos”. I told him that I had no idea what he was talking about and he thought that this was even funnier. He then called me a chevra man and insisted that it could only have been me. Apparently, someone left a bag of raw turnips and beets hanging on his front door and he figured that whoever it was, was taking a dig at him by giving him a tzugipasteh Mishloach Manos. (and to whoever did it, if that was your kavana you were right on the mark, I’m sorry that it was me who got the credit for it).
        (Sent by Moshe Eliyahu HaCohen Papelow on 26 March 2012)
      60. One more story he told us: “There was a man who had to eat on Yom Kippur because of sickness, so the rabbi told him to eat a half a shiur every 9 minutes. At 2 AM the man came running to the rabbi holding his stomach and said, “I can’t eat any more. Am I allowed to stop yet?” And then Reb Uri would laugh for a long time.
        (sent by Yirmiyahu Cohen on 27 March 2012)
      61. In his succah, he would point at the sticks in the s’chach and could recall when and where he got each one.
        (sent by Yirmiyahu Cohen on 27 March 2012)
      62. Reb Uri pointed-out where he had picked-up each of the wood branches he used for schach. It was very funny since he also mentioned which years he found each brach or a bunch of branches together. His was just another unique quality he had which was he genuinely appreciated whatever he owned.
        (sent by Shaya Yankelovich on 23 April 2012)
        I think Reb Uri picked-up some in the area where he used to live near Kol Torah, and then he picked-up more in-and-around Meah Shearim. He walked a lot so he could always find schach (fallen branches). A lot of the trees in Yerushalayim do not have lots of branches- they are more like fir and pine. So, I guess Reb Uri had to go a bit out of the way to get the branches he used for his schach.
        It may not be a major inyun for his memory but it does indicate how much he even regarded not wasting resources by using fallen branches and keeping them for years as his schach. Maybe he was a “Green Person” decades before the movement.
        (sent by Shaya Yankelovich on 24 April 2012)
      63. He used to say that the world trembles because of two people – Einstein and Marx, but they both have their mekor in the klap (shock) of the Gemara of Moses Mendelsohn, when he stopped learning in 1783 and instead studied German and produced his German translation of the Torah to lead Jews into assimilation (Mendelsohn published between 1780 and 1783 the work called Biur wwhich was a German translation in Hebrew characters of the Pentateuch which was supplemented with a modern commentary in Hebrew. It was sharply condemned by a number of rabinic authorities).
        Exactly 150 years later to the day, Hitler passed his first gezeiros. While back in 1783, Hashem was already preparing the refuah to the makkah – America, the power that defeated Hitler, became recognized as independent (The Treaty of Paris was formally signed on September 3, 1783).
        He said that Marx’s doctrine “Religion is the opium of the people” is found in the words of the nachash (serpent) who told Chava that Hashem only forbid eating from the Etz Hadaas (the Tree of Knowledge) in order to keep them in the dark so that they shouldn’t create worlds too. Spell Karl Marx קארל מרקס (kuf-alef-resh-lamed mem-resh-kuf-samech); Both names have a kuf (ק) and a resh (ר). Remove those letters and you are left with ס-מ-א-ל (samech mem alef lamed), the name of the nachash.
        (sent by Yirmiyahu Cohen on 27 March 2012)
      64. רבי אורי ז”ל סיפר לי מקור של יום הכזבים הבינלאומי ב1 באפריל. לפי הקתולים, י. נולד מאם ללא אב ב 1 ינואר. לפיכך חוגגים 9 חודשים לפני כן יום הכזבים הבינלאומי דהיינו 1 באפריל
        (sent by A. F. via N.W. on 2 April 2012)
      65. I received the following from Dr. P. Breuer from New York on 30 March 2012 via e-mail (I slightly modified the text):
        I learned in kol torah during 1963-64.
        I became very fond of Rav Uri z”l. The first time i met him was the first day of the Elul zeman when he came over to me in the bes hamedrash and just stared at me -and i stared at him back. I thought that he was a rebbi and seeing how he was dressed and groomed I had serious thoughts of leaving the yeshiva right then and there we soon became best friends and he of course knew of my family and all my ancestors better than i did.
        I remember that my father z”l mailed me the annual dinner journal of my yeshiva in New York, Yeshiva rav Samson Refael Hirsch, which is the yekkisher school in New York. It had thousands of names of contributors. Rrav Uri z”l took this book from me and showed me that he knew 90 % of them, much more than I did.
        All the chutz laaretz boys ate their meals at his house during ben hazemanin. It was like having a party every day on the torpedo. Seudo night he invited all the chutz boys for a kiddush kind of seudo in one of the shiur rooms of the yeshiva and it lasted till late in the night with just good schmoozing.He loved calling me up to the tora because I had a second cousin in the yeshiva with the same Hebrew name and the same name of a father. So when he called me up or he called me, he used my grandfather’s name also. So he called Shlomo ben Mordechai ben Yosef. He just loved the idea of this unique situation.
        The morning I left kol torah to fly back to the USA, I was supposed to leave the yeshiva at 5.30 in the morning, at 4.45 I get a knock at my door and there is Rav Uri beatzmo ubechevodo with a lavish breakfast for me. I had to hold off my tears and will never forget that moment of seeing gadlus.
        The year after I returned to the USA I was going to a 5.00 am selichos minyan at the yekisher shul in New York and I see Rav Uri z”l at the entrance, like he dropped from heaven. He wanted to see if the New York yekes still go to selichos at 5.00am. It was packed in shul and he was all smiling happy that the minhag was being kept up. He then asked me to arrange a visit to meet Rav Breuer z”l (my grandfather) and Rav Schwab z”l. He was in 7th heaven after those two meetings (I had come along with him to these meetings).
        30 years later I visited him with my wife at Batei Ungarin and when I entered he said “Hi Shlomo, is this your wife?” just like that. Amazingly he was then just reading the biography of my grandfather Rav Breuer z”l and started telling me stories which the biography left out. My wife thought that Rav Uri was some kind of malach with those penetrating eyes ,beautiful smile and warmth. My youngest son, who learned in Mir, often went to Rav Uri. I remember urging him to go because I told him you won’t believe it. So he called me after visiting Rav Uri z”l for the first time and he said “Dad I still don”t believe it.”.
      66. I received the following from Shaya Yankelovich of Beverly Hills, CA on 20 April 2012 via e-mail:
        I was very close to Reb Uri for the five-years I learned in Yerushalayim from 1988-1993. A friend of mine from a different yeshiva than mine mentioned that he goes to Reb Uri’s, and that since Reb Uri likes guests, I should come with him one shabbos nacht for dinner at Reb Uri’s. I did not go immediately but then asked my friend to ask Reb Uri if he had room for another guest this coming shabbos. My friend said Reb Uri said ‘for sure’ and that was the first time out of about over 100+ times I would eat at Reb Uri’s over 5-years’ time, including each seder.Certainly it was unique visiting Reb Uri for the first time not only within Beitei Hungarin, but too, amongst Reb Uri’s dirah which was more like a college dorm than a meticulously clean Beitei Hugarin dirah. Reb Uri lived alone and was not at all into goshmius. All of us who knew him and enjoyed being in his dirah had no issue with it. I did though spend a day or two helping Reb Uri clean his place each year erev Pessach. Everybody remembers the kerosene and hundreds of bottles of his homemade wine packing his dirah.Anybody who has spent any time, especially a meal, with Reb Uri knows he was one of the most unique yid in the world! His depth of Torah; knowledge of Eretz Yisroel (especially Yerushalmi minhagim) combined with his own stories from Europe-to-Australia-to-Israel…were all remarkable. He was also a genuine baal hachnasis orchim par excellance. The money, effort and sensitivity he put into serving all of us guests meals year-around was amazing! He was very kind to all types of yeshiva guys who sat at his table never insulting anybody- whether an FFB or BT. The kindness and care speaking with each person knowing his audience was something to learn from.One of his most interesting stories was about his wife- who was deaf. Reb Uri told the story how he and his wife had hand signals/gestures that they would send to one another across rooms at simchas, sometimes very large halls, indicating how the simcha was going and when to leave. He said it was very easy for them to leave large simchas full of people because his wife was adept at seeing his signaling!As respectable and kind Reb Uri was towards us; so too, we respected his dalad amos not asking deep questions about how he dressed, lived in his dirah and about family, etc. It was always best to let Reb Uri describe his life and tell us his stories all of which painted-a-picture of his life with enough information that a mentsch would understand as a challenging life, yet a life Reb Uri accepted and made the best of. The fact that he invited hundreds of yeshiva guys and others into his world was in itself enough to have much respect and love for him. All of us from chutz l’aretz, cities and homes all mesudar & picture-perfect, needed to see-through Reb Uri’s type of living, enough so that we really understood him and his chochmah. He often told me when in his Sukkah (and yes- he described where he found each sukkah roof tree branch), that he had no issue living in a very small dirah and with zero fancy surroundings. He said that if he were to live richly, people would pursue him, he would be worried about ganavim and he would have to spend time cleaning. Rather, he was able to focus on learning, chazorah and preparing all the hundreds of meals each year for his guests!Baruch Hashem we all had the zchus to meet and be around a person like Reb Uri who was a genuine Torah scholar, remarkable mentsch and person who conveyed to all of us the often lost mesora of what it truly is to be a finer mentsch.Shaya Yankelovich
        Beverly Hills, CA
His Torah:
      1. Baruch Harris sent me the following (via e-mail on 23 March 2012):

        R’ Uri was one of the biggest experts on halachos and matters related to the calendar and “zmanim”. In Yeshivas Kol Torah he had the privilege of dealing with all these issues with great Talmidei Chachamim like Rav Kunshtot, Rav Yonah Mertsbuch, Rav Schlessinger, and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. I don’t know of any other documentation of this aside from this quote in the sefer zikaron “Aish Tamid”.

        The passage which is mentioned by Baruch Harris, is printed in the sefer Aish Tamid which was written in the memory of Eliezer Schlesinger a”h. The passage reads as follows (on page 792):

        עוד יש לציין כי על פי עדות תלמידו הרב ר’ אורי וינברג, הקפיד רבינו שלא יתפללו ערבית י”ח דקות אחר השקיעה, כדי שלא יסברו המתפללים, שכבר יצאו ידי חובת קריאת שמע של ערבית, והעדיף שיתפללו חמש דקות אחר השקיעה, ולא י”ח דקות. (כי להטריח את הציבור כולו להמתין זמן ממושך יותר לא רצה רבינו.) עדות זו נוגעת לאחרית ימיו, ולכאורה היא תמוהה, שכן גם הקדמת זמן תפילת מעריב, אף כי יש לה סימוכין כהנהגה במקום שיש קושי לקבץ את הציבור, מכל מקום ודאי אין היא תואמת את מנהג ירושלים, וכפי שציין הוא עצמו בתשבתו דלהלן, אך דומני שהנהגה זו לא היתה אלא תגובה למה שראו עיניו באותו לוח שכנגדו נכתבה התשובה. שאחר שראה כי היו מקומות שנכשלו בספק איסור תורה, בחשבם כי י”ח דקות הוא באמת זמן צה”כ בפועל, ביקש לבטל בכל וכל זמן זה.

        Here are copies of the front page and the page with the referenced passage:

        The front page of the sefer Aish Tamid

        The page with the referenced passage in the sefer Aish Tamid (page 792)
      2. He was a neighbor of R Chaim Na’ah. However, he took issue with a lot of R Chaim Na’ah’s shitos on shiurim, and was a big defender of the Chazon Ish. I don’t remember all his questions on this subject.
        (sent via e-mail by Yanky L. on 23 March 2012)
      3. In an article by הרב משה דוד צ׳צ׳יק which appeared in the journal המעין, – כתב עת היוצא לאור ע׳׳י מוסד יצחק ברויאר וישיבת שעלבים – פרסומים תורניים ע ״ש הרב שאול רא טה שליט׳׳א and which discusses a new print of the Siddur from the Gr”a , we find another reference to Reb Uri a”h:

        עמ׳ קפד: ״ טבילה בליל שבת מוטב לטבול במוצאי שבת. אבל מאידך שמעתי מהגר״ש אויערבאך ששמע מהגרז ״ר בענגיס ששמע מזקן ששימש בצעירותו את הגר״ח מוואלאז׳ין, שהיה הולך עם הגר״ח כל שבת למקווה. וגם מהגרי”ש דבליצקי שמעתי, שהפרושים בא״י טבלו בשבת בצונן” . אם בשמועות עסקינן, שמעתי גם אני מפי זקן אחד מיקירי ירושלים – ר’ אורי וינברג מבתי הונגרים – ששמע מפי אחד מנקיי הדעת שבקרתא ורב ישעיה חעשין שמו, שפעם אחת שיחרו כמה מן המעוררים אל פתחו של מארי דאתרא , הגר״ש סאלנט , בבקשה שיאסור על פתיתתה המקוואות בשבת. ביקש מהם הגאון רבי שמואל לשוב אצלו לאחר השבת ואו אז ידון בשאלתם. בצהרי אותו שבת יצאה השמועה בעיר כי הגאון הנזכר שהה במי המקווה כשעתיים בצפרא דשבתא. ושמא ממעשיות ואגדות פורחות דוגמת אלה נבעו השמועות חסרות הסימוכין, שמקומם אולי במאמר מקיף אודות עניין זה – אד לא בפסקים קצרים המשולבים בסידור התפילה.

        Thanks to Dovid N. for the hint from the Hebrewbooks.org website.

      4. Dikduk B’Mitzvos: He insisted that his guests wash before kiddush, as stated in the Ramo (271:12). Even though the prevalent practice is to wash after kiddush, he proved from the Mishnah Berurah (I think) that a guest of someone who follows the Ramo’s minhag could wash before kiddush at the same time as his host. After making Hamotzi, Reb Uri would quickly rush to cut and distribute the challah to his guests, so as to minimize any hefsek. On Sukkos, he was very careful to immediately remove empty utensils from the sukkah, as stated in halachah.
        (sent via e-mail by Dovid N. on 19 March 2012)
      5. He also commented that the word “Yehudi” (יהודי) is the same as Hashem’s name if you put the last yud and daled together to make a hei (Yud Kay Vuv Kay).
        Paroh said “Mi Hashem.” The Eirev Rav was composed of Mitzriyim who joined the Bnei Yisroel. So the Eirev Rav of today says the same thing as Paroh: “Mi Yehudi.”
        I’m sure there were other parts to this shtikel – maybe someone else can recall it?
        (sent by Yirmiyahu Cohen on 29 March 2012)
      6. As a bachur I davened with R’Uri at the Kosel one Friday night during Sefiroh. I realized that I had counted the wrong number on the previous night and R’Uri said “No cheese blintzes for you this Shavuos !” He then told me his original way of making sure not to miss a day -Every day at Shacharis as he finished Shmone Esrei and said ose shalom he would immediately say the sefiroh of that day (obviously w/o a brocho) (sent by E. Selengut on 9 April 2012)

Request: Please send us more references and interesting anecdotes which relates to Reb Uri’s Torah.

תנצב”ה

I’d like to thank the following people for sending me information and photo’s:
Dovid Herskowitz, Aaron Dovid Schindler (a nephew of Reb Uri’s wife), Dovid Nachfolger, Mr. Hubert Rütten, Naftali Weinberger, Family Masel, Helen Hill from Perth (a third cousin of Reb Uri), Lorraine Bertelsen (whose step grandfather Dr. Josef Gold of Vienna was one of the ‘Dunera Boys’), Yoni Monk, E. Selengut, Sruly Monk, Chesky Monk, Dovid Shapiro, Yisroel Besser from the Mishpacha, Yehonoson Rubin, Baruch Harris, Yanky L.,  Yeshayahu Levi, Yirmiyahu Cohen, Avi Czermak and others whom I have forgotten to mention.

Other sources:

      • National archives of Australia: Prisoner of War/Internee file (Series number MP1103/1, Control symbol E40872, barcode 8618552 on the name of Weinberg, Alfred)
      • Letters from Jewish Australia (No.39 By Geraldine Jones on 6th September, 1996, retrieved 13 March 2012 from http://www.join.org.au/letters/dunera.htm)
      • “A Past in Hiding: Memory and Survival in Nazi Germany” by Mark Roseman, ISBN 978-0805063264, Feb 2001)
      • Jüdisches Leben im ehemaligen Landkreis Erkelenz” edited by Mr. Hubert Rütten and published by the “Heimatvereins der Erkelenzer Lande e.V.”
      • Mistaken Identity” by Gavriel Horan in Mishpacha magazine  Issue 116, 16 Tammuz 5766 ( 7 December  2006)
      • So Little, So Much” by Dovid Shapiro in Mishpacha Magazine Issue 450, 24 Adar 5773 (6 March 2013)
      • Shaboss of Fire – A young man’s unique experiencein Y’rusholayim” by Ellie Mehler in “Light Stories for Teenage boys” pages 68-73 published by Lightbooks, Brooklyn, NY in 5740-1980, ISBN 0-86517-004-5
      • Jawne, das jüdische Gymnasium in Köln by Dr. Cordula Lissner on NRhZ-Online – Neue Rheinische Zeitunghttp://www.nrhz.de/flyer/beitrag.php?id=10551

Please share with the rest of us your memories (add a new comment below this post or send me an e-mail)

עברית

 המאמר הבאה הופיע במשפחה העברית של כ”א אדר תשס”ב (15.03.2012) על ידי הרב אליהו גוט

אחרון חסידי אשכנז
דמותו היוותה דוגמה חיה לאדם המתנהג בצורה מוחלטת על פי ה’שולחן ערוך’, פניו המאירות ודרכי החסד שלו, הפכו אותו לאדם שגם רחוקים הסכימו לקבל את דעותיו ולאמץ את מנהגיו >> הרב אליהו גוט חוזר לימים בהם נמנה על באי ביתו של הרב אורי ויינברג זצ”ל, האיש שהפך לאביהם של בני ישיבת ‘מיר’, ולשומר הגחלת של מסורת יהדות אשכנז העתיקה
הרב אליהו גוט

גם אני אחד מאלה. אחד מאותם אלפים שחייבים הכרת הטוב לרבי אורי ויינברג זצ”ל, שהלך השבוע לבית עולמו במיתת נשיקה. אלפים – אם לא רבבות – הכירוהו על פי מראהו. הוא הפך להיות חלק מנופה של ירושלים שבין חומות בתי הונגרין, על חלוקו האפור וסלי הנצרים שבהם היה שם את הפירות והירקות שהיה קונה פירות וירקות מידי יום רביעי לקראת שבת.
קשה להגדיר אדם שכל כך הרבה פנים היו לו. מצד שני, המונים יהנהנו על כל הגדרה קטנה, על כל סיפור ועובדה – כולם ייזכרו ברבי אורי מאיר הפנים והשמח בחלקו תמיד. אך בעיקר כל אותם אלפי בחורים – ואני בהם – שסעדו על שולחנו בשבתות ואף בחגים, כולל ליל הסדר הראשון והשני ל’חוצניקים’ – ייזכרו בר’ אורי שהיווה סמל ודוגמה אישית לעולם שאינו עוד, של חסידי אשכנז על יראת השמים המופלגת, דקדוק ההלכה ללא פשרות וההשקפה התורנית מוצקה.
סביב שולחנו סעדו בסעודות השבת במשך עשרות שנים קבוצות של ששה בחורים ומעלה, בקיטונו הצר, בעל התפאורה האוטנטית כבימי קדם: לוקסים על הקירות, שעון אורלוגין צר וגבוה המכוון על פי שעון ארץ ישראל, מאזניים עתיקים ופתיליות נפט במטבח.

בית מדרש לטאקט
בשנים קודמות יותר החל את סעודת שבת בתפילת קבלת שבת וערבית בכותל המערבי, ובהמשך סייר בין החומות עד לבתי הונגרין, כאשר לעיתים נוספים בדרך עוד אורחים לא צפויים.
קידוש היה תמיד בשעה עשר דקות לשתיים ‘עראביש’ – כלומר שעה וחמישים דקות לאחר השקיעה.
כבר כאן, בעת ההזמנה לסעודה – נחשף הבחור המוזמן לעולם שונה וחדש של מושגים ששורשם בהלכה, המלווה בהסברים ארוכים ומפורטים, שלא אחת התמשכו להם שעה ארוכה ואף שעות אל תוך הלילה.
כל כך הרבה תחומים שצורב רגיל לא נתקל בהם בדרך כלל, כמו מנהגים, הלכות קידוש החודש וקביעת השנה ועוד ועוד, שרבי אורי שלט בהם בצורה מוחלטת, קיבלו באמצעותו מימד מרתק – שריתק את האורחים במשך שעות רבות אל שולחנו.
ביתו היה גם בית מדרש לטאקט. רבים מהבחורים נוכחו שם לדעת ליד שולחנו, שניתן לשבת גם ליד מישהו מחוג שונה לחלוטין, לשמוע את דעתו ולכבד אותה – אך בלי להתפשר. כמה וכמה שיחות השקפה נשמעו שם, בדירה בבתי הונגרין, כאשר מישהו העלה זווית לא תורנית. רבי אורי היה גם קשור לנטורי קרתא, שנים רבות שימש מזכיר עיתון ‘החומה’, והיה בעל קשרים מסועפים עם רבי אהרן קצנלבוגן ועם שאר חברי הנהגת היישוב הישן.
לצד החסד עם בחורי ישיבה ממיר ובריסק שסעדו על שולחנו, היו שם גם בעלי תשובה רבים, כאלה שבאו מבתים שאינם של תורה, והוא הראה להם את העומק ואת היופי שבהשקפה התורנית. לא רק הידע העצום שלו בכל תחומי החיים, היסטוריה, גיאוגרפיה, אסטרונומיה ועוד – לצד שליטתו בכמה שפות – כל דמותו הייתה דוגמה חיה לחיים המונהגים בצורה מוחלטת על פי שולחן ערוך. גם רחוקים הסכימו לשמוע מאיש אמת כזה, החיי ללא פשרות את חייו שרובם לא סוגים היו בשושנים, ולקבל ממנו דעות שלא היו מקובלות עליהם עד כה.
בסעודות הארוכות שהיו מלאות סיפורים ועובדות, לצד דברי תורה מקוריים – אף אחד לא הרגיש בחלוף הזמן. סעודה של חמש שעות בלילות החורף לא היתה נדירה.
אצל רבי אורי הכל היה מחושב. לכל דבר היה סיבה, ולכל הנהגה היה מקור. בחורים חוצניקים וגם ישראלים נהו אחריו, והיו שאף כינוהו האדמו”ר של האמריקנים.
בחכמה רבה ידע למצוא שפה משותפת עם כל אחד. רק קבלת הפנים לאורח חדש על שולחנו הפכה אותו לחלק מ’המשפחה’: ‘מתי נולדת?’ היתה תמיד השאלה הראשונה. תגיד תאריך עברי או לועזי, לא משנה.
ובתדהמה מוחלטת היו האורחים החדשים נוכחים לראות כי תוך שניות ממש הוא מחשב את התאריך המקביל ואת היום בשבוע. וכבר הפכת לחלק מהמשפחה. כל אחד משאר האורחים ידע לתרום את סיפורו כיצד קיבל רבי אורי את פניו לראשונה.

קלעים של חסד
‘משפחת’ רבי אורי הפכה למוחשית ביותר בהלווייתו. “גם אני אכלתי אצלו, בשנים תשמ”ז עד תשנ”ב” – היה משפט נפוץ. אחרים ניגשו אחד לשני לאחר שלא נפגשו שנים, מרגישים כולם בני משפחה אחת, כי כולם אכלו ביחד אצל רבי אורי. הזיכרונות המשותפים ייצרו אחווה, משהו שלא מצוי במקומותינו.
לכל אחד סיפור אישי משלו, זווית מיוחדת. אחד בירר אצלו כיצד הוא מייצר בעצמו את היין, שני רצה לדעת על ההיסטוריה של המקום, שלישי – על מנהג ‘ייקי’ עתיק – ואפילו בענייני שידוכים נועצו בו.
בליל הסדר אירח בחורים שלא נסעו לביתם על שולחנו, כאשר הסדר כולו הופך להיות לחוויה מכוננת לכל החיים. את הסדר ערך בו זמנית בשפות לפי האורחים, עברית, אידיש ואנגלית. לימים היה מי שהקליט אותו בימי חול בשלוש השפות בנפרד והעלה את זה על גבי מערכת ‘קול הלשון’ לזיכוי הרבים.
לצד תדמיתו זאת, רק מעטים זכו להציץ אל מאחורי הקלעים ממש. ר’ אורי, יהודי ניצול שואה שלא זכה לפרי בטן, שאשתו היתה נכדת רבי גרשון לפידות רבה של שכונת ‘בית ישראל’ ונפטרה לפני יותר מארבעים שנה, ומאז הוא בודד וגלמוד לחלוטין – זורח, מאושר ועליז תמיד.
את כספי השילומים שקיבל מגרמניה היה מקדיש להוצאות שבת – לסעודות של הבחורים, והוא עצמו די היה לו בקב חרובין במהלך השבוע כולו. הוא נהג להתפלל ותיקין בבית הכנסת של בתי נייטין, שם שימש גם גבאי. בכל יום ויום היה מסיים ח”י פרקי משניות, כך שסיים את כל ששה סדרי משנה מדי חודש בחדשו. פעם הסביר שלמד את המשניות בעל פה, כי כאשר נכנסים לבית מדרש, תמיד בדיוק הספר שלו אתה זקוק – תפוס. כאשר כל המשניות שגורות על פיך – אין בכלל צורך בספר…
פעם פנה אליו אחד הבחורים שאכל אצלו במשך שנים רבות, תקופה קצרה לאחר נישואיו, וביקש ממנו את המתכון לדגים שנהג לבשל בשבת. רבי אורי אמר לו: “תדע, בנושא המטבח – אסור לבעל להתערב לאשתו במה שהיא עושה. אם היא תרצה, שהיא תבקש את המרשם. לך אני לא מוכן לתת אותו”…
לאברך אחר מבאי ביתו, שכמה שנים לאחר נישואיו עדיין לא זכה לילדים, סיפר שלו עצמו הציעו כמה פעמים לאמץ ילד יתום. הוא סירב. הסיבה היתה, שמכיוון שבאותם ימים עדיין היו בתי יתומים רבים, וילד כזה – אם לא אומץ היה גדל באחד מבתי היתומים האלה – הרי שרבי אורי עשה חשבון כזה: אם הוא יהיה בבית יתומים, כשיגדל הוא יזכה לשידוך רגיל. זה שהוא יתום לא יפגע בו. אבל אם הוא יאומץ על ידי משפחה – הוא יקבל סטיגמה של ‘ילד מאומץ’ ואז סיכוייו לקבל שידוך רגיל נמוכים בהרבה. “אני לא מוכן עבור נוחותי האישית לפגוע בסיכויי הילד לשידוך הגון. זה לא הוגן כלפיו ולא כלפי הוריו המנוחים”…
בימיו האחרונים נחשפו מקורביו לעוד פן של גדלות אמיתית. מכיוון שבשנים האחרונות סבל רבות מכאבים בברכיו, הביאו אותו לתפילות בישיבת מיר בכסא גלגלים.
הוא תמיד התעקש לעלות את המדרגות של הישיבה ברגליו תוך כאבי תופת ובאיטיות מרובה, ולא הסכים שיעלו אותו בכסא הגלגלים דרך הרמפה שנבנתה בזמנו עבור ראש הישיבה רבי נתן צבי פינקל זצ”ל.
בשבוע האחרון, בפורים דפרזים, הציעו לו שוב, בעת שהגיע לתפילת מנחה, שיעלו אותו דרך הרמפה. הוא בירר האם ראש הישיבה, רבי אליעזר יהודה שליט”א, כבר התפלל במניין קודם. כאשר התברר שאכן כן, הוא הסכים שיעלו אותו בדרך זו.
התברר כי הקפדתו לעלות בעצמו ברגל במדרגות היתה משנוכח לראות שכשהוא מוכנס לבית המדרש דרך הרמפה בפתח הסמוך למקומו של ראש הישיבה הצעיר, הלה קם לכבודו. כדי למנוע זאת, הוא התאמץ בשארית כוחותיו ועלה במדרגות תוך ייסורים רבים…

הסבא של הבחורים
הקפדתו שלא לשנות ממנהגי בית אבותיו מעולם לא באה על חשבון הזולת. לאורחיו הסביר כי הוא נוהג ליטול את ידיו לפני הקידוש, אך הם יכולים ליטול את ידיהם לאחריו. כמו כן נהג לשבת בעת אמירת ‘ויכולו’ בקידוש ליל שבת – לאורחים הסביר שכל אחד יעשה כפי שהוא רוצה. בפסח נמנע משרויה – בגלל האורחים, ורק לעצמו שם מצה במרק בכלי שני.
חישוביו בכל נושא היו לשם דבר. את הסכך בסוכותו, למשל, שהיה מורכב ברובו מאסף הלולבים ששמר משנה לשנה במשך עשרות שנים, הוא הניח לפני חג הסוכות בצורה כזו שלאחר הסוכות די במשיכה אחת וכולו מתפרק.
לנשואי הבחורים שאכלו אצלו היה מביא אוסף של כלי בית שהוא היה בטוח שאיש לא זכר לקנות והם שימושיים בכל בית, כמו מערוך, נפה ועוד כלים שונים. רבים חשו אליו קרבה גדולה וכיבדוהו בהזדמניוית שונות בכיבודים ‘משפחתיים’, משל היה סבא או דוד.
הבחורים אכן חשו כך כלפיו והיו מגיעים אליו גם לאחר נישואיהם עם בני ביתם, מאוחר יותר גם עם ילדיהם ואף נכדיהם, וייתכן שגם כבר נינים ביקרו אצלו.
יחס מיוחד היה כלפיו בישיבת קול תורה שהוא נמנה עם ראשוני התלמידים בה, והיא אף פרסמה מודעת אבל לאחר פטירתו. הוא נהג לצטט רבות את רבותיו, בהם הגאון רבי יחיאל שלזינגר זצ”ל והגאון רבי ברוך קונשטט זצ”ל. קשר אמיץ במיחד קשר עם הגאון רבי יהושע נויבירט שליט”א, שבביתו היה אף מתארח לשבת.
אלפים רבים נזכרו השבוע באותה הצצה לחיים של פעם שלה זכו בימי בחרותם. החיים של ירושלים של פעם משולבים בחיי חסיד אשכנז מדורות עברו. רבים העלו את הצורך לקבץ בספר את כל אלפי הסיפורים האישיים, ואכן מתברר שהתחילו לאסוף חומר בנושא.
במקביל נקראו ידידיו מכל השנים ללמוד לעילוי נשמתו – רבי אורי בן מנחם הלוי זצ”ל.
יהיה זכרו ברוך.

12 thoughts on “Rabbi Uri Weinberg A”H (Uri Ben Menachem Halevi) [18 May 1923 – 17 Adar 5772 (11 March 2012)]”

  1. A big Yasher Koach for all that you are doing to perpetuate Reb Uri’s memory and help people learn from his middos and divrei torah.
    Although he insisted on there not being any hespedim for him, I believe the world should know and deserves to know about this tzaddik and multifaceted person!
    I was zoche to be quite close with him for approximately twenty years he would even come to us for shabbosos (when we lived in Sanhedria he would walk back and forth three times over shabbos for each of the meals!)
    We (my wife and seven of our children) were zoche to visit him this past Thursday as he was getting ready to go to Megilla at the Mir. He was especially happy to see our 9 month old baby for whom he was Sandak.
    His sudden petirah was obviously a shock to all of us who knew him but as Reb Refoel Vandervalder told me it was just the way he (Reb Uri) would have liked it to be-without having to go to the hospital not being a burden on anyone and without fanfare.
    (a small correction: he had brought him the coffee in bed,but went back to the kitchen to bring him his apron and in that brief moment was when the ‘misas neshika’ took place! this, by the way, is indicative of the way Reb Refoel took care of him -he knew of and respected all of Reb Uri’s personal little ways of doing things and catered to him with tremendous love and patience!
    I hope to find some pictures ,anecdotes to forward to you.
    meanwhile, keep up the good work
    Elly Selengut

  2. Thank you for posting this informative memorial to R. Uri Weinberg z’l. He was a distant cousin of my mother Bernice Ruth Weinberg z’l and therefor of me. I had the honor and pleasure of visiting briefly with him a few years ago in his home to share family stories and history during a longer journey from my home in Minnesota, USA to visit with my children in Tsfas.

    The Weinberg HaLevi family has a long, large and complex family history and Uri was a keeper of many parts of it. I thank and bless all of those who were a part of his life and wish that his memory be a blessing to you as it is to me.

  3. I learnt in Kol Torah 1965/7. On from Australia arrival in Adar I 1965 I lived with some other bochurim in his house in Rechov Bayit Vegan which served as an over flow dorm. I soon discovered that like my father z’l Uri too was a Dunera boy with many recollections of his days in Australia and always looking for more updated information about teh kehilla and his former fellow internees. However my particular recollection of him was that while he did not exactly walk around sartorially dressed (and that’s an understatement) when it came to Kiddush Levanah he was always dressed in the most formal manner. I never found out why this was his thing but one never asked about Uri — we took him as he was. Did anyone ever get a comment on this from him?
    Yossi Aron, Melbourne

  4. I can not thank you enough for putting together such a beffiting and wonderful tribute to the great “Reb Uri” I had the privelage of meeting Reb Uri and eating at his home a few times in 1997-1999 while I was learning in Eretz Yisroel. The way he is described in “Shabbos of fire” echoes my sentiments and feelings. What a prince of a person! After not being in Eretz Yisroel for twelve years, I had the Zechus of returning to Eretz Yisroel about two months ago. I walked into the Mir Yeshiva and I could not believe my eyes, walking down the steps was and old man… Could it be him? I asked him “Can I help you walk down?” he answered in his heavy German English No No I’m goilng myself! I was overjoyed as I introduced myself… We took a picture and I told him that I sing his Sholom Aleichem every Shabbos… I asked him if I can visit him and he gaciously agreed.
    When I came to his house I videotaped the entire Sholom Aleichem as well as some other amazing personal stories that he shared.
    What a loss!
    Gershon! Please contact me at my email address listed…

  5. First of all “A Groisen Yesher Koach” to all making the memory of this צדיק known, may his זכות be מליץ יושר for all.

    I just heard today this sad news upon reading all this i am in tears, i personally knew Reb Uri Z”L, when i first left home to learn in EY in 1991 my father Z”L told me to go look for him, he was interned with him in Australia and of course also on the boat from Liverpool, together with my two uncle’s and were Zoche to the special ניסים from Hashem to be spared after escaping Germany at the start of the war.

    I ate at his place only once during my stay there i must say it was unique and special, however i met him many times and we talked alot.

    I will bl”n learn for his neshomo may he be a Melitz Yosher for all those who cared for him and for klal yisroel.

  6. I was Reb Uri’s guest for many Shabbos meals from 1991 through 1998. I have the same birthday as him (gimel Sivan) so after the first time there, he didn’t have to ask my birthday anymore, he would just give me a knowing look and a smile.
    In his succah, he would point at the sticks in the s’chach and could recall when and where he got each one.
    He used to say that the world trembles because of two people – Einstein and Marx, but they both have their mekor in the klap of the Gemara of Moses Mendelsohn, when he stopped learning in 1783 and instead studied German and produced his German translation of the Torah to lead Jews into assimilation. Exactly 150 years later to the day, Hitler passed his first gezeiros. But back in 1783, Hashem was already preparing the refuah to the makkah – America, the power that defeated Hitler, became recognized as independent.
    He said that Marx’s doctrine “religious is the opiate of the masses” is found in the words of the nachash, who told Chava that Hashem only forbid eating from the Etz hadaas in order to keep them in the dark so that they shouldn’t create worlds too. Spell Karl Marx kuf-alef-resh-lamed mem-resh-kuf-samech. Both names have a kuf and a resh. Remove those letters and you are left with samech mem alef lamed, the name of the nachash.
    Since 1998 I only spoke to Reb Uri once: he somehow found out that I was getting married in America, and took the trouble to call me the night before my wedding. It was around 10 PM in America so he must have been up at 5 AM.
    One more story he told us: there was a man who had to eat on Yom Kippur because of sickness, so the rov told him to eat a half a shiur every 9 minutes. At 2 AM the man came running to the rov holding his stomach and said, “I can’t eat any more. Am I allowed to stop yet?” And then Reb Uri would laugh for a long time. Reb Uri was a remarkable man. Yehi zichro boruch.

  7. i just saw your rav uri blog and found it fabulous-i have some of my own stories to add-i would certainly be interested in helping put a proper book together-he deserves it——p.s. no one wrote about the famous torpedo seudah that rav uri made once a year-how come- please let me know-sincerely paul breuer (kol torah,1963,1964).

  8. Reb Uri was an expert on the calendar and liked to explain the story behind the Julian and Gregorian calendars. His theory was that originally the Christians picked Dec. 25 as the date of their holiday because of a “gzeirah shava chof-hei chof-hei” from Chanukah. That date was also the winter solstice 2000 years ago. But then by the fourth century solstice had drifted back to the 21st, and by the 1500 it was on the 11th. Pope Gregory added ten days to the date to put the solstice back on the 21st. But he left the holiday on the 25th to keep the “gzeirah shava” intact.

    Reb Uri once explained to me the history of the Third Wall of the Old City. This is the wall built by Agrippa about 30 years before the Churban. It is now underground, but sticks out in some places. The current wall of the Old City is built on the location of the second wall. Now, the official burial place of Oso hoish, the church of the sepulchre, is inside the current walls of the city. Since it is known that Jews never buried anyone inside the city walls, the Christians were forced to claim that the current wall lines up with the Third Wall, which was built after Oso Hoish. Thus when he was buried, the place was not yet inside the city. The problem is that in the 1500s, parts of the real third wall were discovered poking up out of the ground to the north of the city. This proved that their burial location was inside the second wall, which was in existence before Oso hoish. So their location was revealed as false. To cover up this problem, the Christians hastily purchased as much land as they could along the remnants of the Third wall, and built churches there, so that no one would be able to excavate it. That’s why there are a bunch of old churches in a line to the north of the Old City, all built about 500 years ago.

    He also commented that the word “Yehudi” is the same as Hashem’s name, if you put the last yud and daled together to make a hei. Paroh said “Mi Hashem.” The Eirev Rav was composed of Mitzriyim who joined the Bnei Yisroel. So the Eirev Rav of today says the same thing as Paroh: “Mi yehudi.”

    I’m sure there were other parts to this shtikel – maybe someone else can recall it?

  9. I am doing some research on Dunera Internees & have notified the Dunera Association of your blog.
    Reb Uri was in Camp 7 in Hay Internment Camp which was where the Orthodox Jews chose to live. There was separate kitchens, manned by the internees, to enable the dietary laws to be kept. Initial problems regarding meat were overcome when an internee was allowed to kill animals. He was escorted by some Rabbis who decided whether it was kosher or not & armed guards.
    Hay & Tatura both have small museums that focus on Dunera internees & other internees or prisoners of war.

  10. As a bachur I davened with R’Uri at the Kosel one Friday night during Sefiroh. I realized that I had counted the wrong number on the previous night and R’Uri said “No cheese blintzes for you this Shavuos !” He then told me his original way of making sure not to miss a day -Every day at Shacharis as he finished Shmone Esrei and said ose shalom he would immediately say the sefiroh of that day (obviously w/o a brocho)

  11. Gershon- please e-mail me your email address. I was very close to Rav Uri and would like to send you an email about him. Thanks.

  12. I just read this weeks Mishpacha (March 6th 2013)and enjoyed the article. In 2005 I was heading back for sukkos to New York on Motzoi Yom Kippur. While we were breaking are fast on the lavish spread put out by the Mir, Rav Uri was bidding farewells to bochruim who were leaving. He came over to me and I told him that I had a flight tonight, Motzoi Yom Kippur which was Thursday night. He then told me in “Never travel on Erev Shabbos, you will not know, maybe the plane will have to refuel and you will be stuck for Shabbos somewhere”. I told him that the ticket had been purchased a while back and it was too late to change. It turned out that the flight was scheduled to leave 12:30am which it did only to return at 1:30 due to the failed AC which made it very hot on the plane. Back in Israel I was unsure what to do, but I boarded the 6:30am flight to JFK and davened to make it home for Shabbos. I made it to NY on Friday by 1:15PM but I sure did learn a lesson from Rav Uri “Never travel on Erev Shabbos”

    AC Mir 2005-2006

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