Before the War
The “Trzebiner Gaon,” Rabbi Dov-Berish Weidenfeld (1881–1965)
Rabbi Dov-Berish Weidenfeld was born in 1881 in Gryzmalow, Galicia. His father, Rabbi Yaakov Weidenfeld, the author of Kochav Miyaakov, the town rabbi and a Husiatyn Chassid, passed away when Dov-Berish was a young boy. After he was married, Rabbi Dov-Berish moved to Trzebinia. He made a living in the kerosene and textile trades, all the while continuing his Torah studies. His intellect, acuity and vast knowledge of Jewish texts were legendary throughout Poland.
For many years, Rabbi Dov-Berish refused a salaried rabbinical position, insisting on make his living through trade. In 1918, he went bankrupt and took on a teaching post. In 1923 he was appointed rabbi of Trzebinia, headed the Beit Din (religious court) and established the “Kochav Miyaakov” Yeshiva, named for his father, which attracted students from across Poland. His lectures and rulings were collated in a book of responsa called Dovev Meisharim.
With the outbreak of WWII, the life of Rabbi Dov-Berish, a very well-known figure, came under great threat. His picture was printed in the Nazi party newspaper Dur Stürmer as a wanted man. At the end of 1939 Rabbi Dov-Berish fled from Trzebinia to Lwów, where he stayed for nine months, answering many halachic questions regarding the difficulties of the time. Most of these questions appear in Dovev Meisharim, which was published after the war.
In 1940 Rabbi Dov-Berish was arrrested by the Soviet Secret Police as a foreign citizen, and he was exiled with his family to the Sverdlovsk forests in Siberia, where he was put to hard labor. Despite attempts to rescue him from the deportation train, he refused to be saved. During his exile in Siberia, he continued to study Torah and answer questions, some of them coming from his students scattered across Europe. He wrote the answers on wrapping paper, wood chips and torn pieces of cement bags, making sure to preserve them. In 1942, Rabbi Dov-Berish and other exiles were transferred to Bukhara, and in 1946 he managed to leave Russia and arrive in Eretz Israel with the surviving members of his family.
In Israel, his name preceded him and he was recognized as a leading scholar and rabbinical authority. He was appointed one of the leaders of the council of sages of “Agudath Israel,” and led their public struggles. He lived in the Shaarei Chesed neighborhood of Jerusalem, where he reestablished the Trzebin Kochav Miyaakov Yeshiva.
Rabbi Dov-Berish Weidenfeld passed away in 1965 at the age of 84.