Panel 10: Rabbi Weiler
“Rabbi Weiler has never believed that Judaism was an abstract idea. On the contrary, he has sought with every fibre of his being to make Judaism a vital, living force in South Africa – both in the community and in the community’s relations with the general population as a whole.
The mission of Israel is to implement the ideals of our faith by supporting every positive and progressive endeavour to establish social justice in co-operation with all men of goodwill, and to promote within the congregation of Israel, projects of social justice and social service among the despised and rejected, regardless of race, colour or creed’. Joseph Kuttner, Jewish journalist, The Progressive Jew, 1958
Rabbi Moses Cyrus Weiler was born on the 23 March 1907 in Riga, Latvia. His grandfather was a prominent member of the Chassidic community in Riga and this is where Moses received his first Jewish and general education. At the age of 17, he proceeded to Palestine and graduated two years later from the Herziah Gymnasium, Tel Aviv – the first modern school employing Hebrew as its medium.
In 1926, he left for America to continue his learning. He received his rabbinical degree at the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati. After his ordination in 1933, Rabbi Weiler was sent to SA by the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
Rabbi Weiler dedicated himself to the establishment of a Mother synagogue at Temple Israel, but he was also involved in the Jewish and SA community as a whole. His lecture tours for various causes took him across Africa and the world. He spoke out against the injustice of apartheid. He served as a member of the executive of the SA Zionist Federation, was vice-chairman of the Non-Party Association of SA Zionists and of the Jewish National Fund.
In March 1942, he married Una Gelman of Bulawayo, in then southern Rhodesia. The Weilers had five sons and a daughter. Sadly, two of their sons, Majors Adam and Gideon Weiler, were killed in Israeli wars. Rabbi Weiler worked constantly to perpetuate the memory of his two sons, endowing lectureships and bursaries in their names.
In 1944, the Hebrew Union College bestowed upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity in recognition of his outstanding services in the cause of Progressive Judaism. He left SA in 1958 and moved to Israel.