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November 12, 2014 12:55 pm

An Amazing Movie: ‘Righteous Rebel: Rabbi Avi Weiss’

avatar by Ronn Torossian

Email a copy of "An Amazing Movie: ‘Righteous Rebel: Rabbi Avi Weiss’" to a friend
Rabbi Avi Weiss in a solidarity march for the 300 missing girls in Nigeria, in New York City, on June 16, 2014. Photo: Facebook / Jordan Soffer.

Rabbi Avi Weiss in a solidarity march for the 300 missing girls in Nigeria, in New York City, on June 16, 2014. Photo: Facebook / Jordan Soffer.

A packed house attended the screening of “Righteous Rebel: Rabbi Avi Weiss” on Saturday night at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.

It was a touching, beautiful movie that captured the essence of Rabbi Avi Weiss in front of a crowd of hundreds of his supporters, including Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg and his wife, Blu Greenberg, telecom mogul Howard Jonas, and a slew of activists including Glenn Richter, co-founder of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry.

The movie – which Phil Schneider spent years making – captured the essence of one of America’s most influential rabbis in an amazing manner. So many people cried and were deeply emotionally impacted (including yours truly).

This special man has had an impact on my entire life – and I could not help but think of my mother, Penny Waga, who passed away in 2013 and who I wish could have been with me at the screening. She joined the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in 1980 and admired our Reb Avi tremendously. Memories of traveling with him worldwide (some portrayed in the movie) captured me, as did the dedication to Bernie Glickman, a holy Jew who was always by Weiss’ side until his passing 6 years ago.

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It’s a meaningful, powerful documentary. In a special way, the movie described that which has defined Reb Avi’s life. In footage recorded in his living room Reb Avi says, “The first human question recorded in the Bible is Cain’s ‘am I my brother’s  keeper?’ Do you know why there is no answer given in that chapter? It’s because the whole Torah, our entire lives, asks if we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. Every moment of every day we have the mandate to respond, we are our brothers’ keepers. We are with you.” Indeed, that is the lesson that Reb Avi has lived his life by, and inspired so many of us with.

A great quote came from Dr. Jeffrey Gurock, a Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University, who said “Rabbi Meir Kahane was our Malcolm X, and Rabbi Avi Weiss is our Martin Luther King.” It’s a fascinating analogy and one I had never considered. There was extensive discussion in the film about the impact of the Rabbinical seminaries he created, Yeshiva Chovevei Torah and Yeshivat Maharat, and their impact on the American Jewish community.

These stories reminded so many in the room why it is so important to act – and undoubtedly will inspire so many to more action. It is upon us to answer the first question in the Torah. The question is not why am I active – the question is why others are not. Rabbi Avi Weiss has taught an entire generation of Jews to be there when a Jew is in trouble, and it’s inspiring.

This special documentary provides a compelling and insightful, comprehensive look into the extraordinary life of Rabbi Avi Weiss and shows how, as a result of his crusading activism and “speaking truth to power,” he has inspired others to “show up, stand up, and speak up” in times of crisis.

Rabbi Avi Weiss is a Jewish hero who has shaped Jewish history and dedicated his life to making the world a better place. “Righteous Rebel: Rabbi Avi Weiss” is a movie that should be seen by all people concerned with humankind, the Jewish people, and simply learning about a kind-hearted amazing Jew who celebrates and loves our people so much. Go see the movie today.

More information on the film is available here.

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  • Bert

    My memory is imperfect but I think it was Rabbi Weiss who organized a rally in Washington D.C. about 2002 when Israelis were being blown to bits by terrorists almost daily. That rally to show support for an embattled Israel drew about 200,000 on only six days notice. Jews came by car, bus and plane from far and wide to stand together for Israel. The Jewish establishment was barely awake when Rabbi Weiss sprung into action. Perhaps someone could document that great event in Jewish history which deserves to be remembered.

  • Yossi A

    Rabbi Avi Weiss is among the heroic Jews of this generation. From Russian Jewry to countless issues he is there when no one else is. Great tribute to Rav Avi.

  • Anon.

    Rabbi Avi Weiss a righteous rabbi? Really? He, his yeshiva are turning Torah upside down.

  • Shirley Glickman

    Ronn, your review of the film, Righteous Rebel, eloquently captured the essence of Rabbi Weiss as presented in the documentary. May you go from strength to strength.

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