by Michael Dickson
One of the beauties of Bnei Akiva and one of the reasons it has endured as a vibrant and innovative force of religious Zionism in Britain is the new leadership the tnua gains as the Mazkirut is refreshed each year. It is amazingly empowering that a new set of individuals is given the responsibility and the opportunity to help shape the movement.
Within this structure, it is hard to make an impact. How many Mazkirut members do you remember? No doubt if you try and recall there will be many devoted leaders who you forget; that's only natural in a movement with such a turnover and a testament to the fact that while people come and go, the values of BA remain front and centre.
Yet, every so often, there are leaders who loom large; whose attributes and leadership shine for a long time after they move on from the movement. One such star in the Bnei Akiva galaxy was Marc Weinberg.
Marc influenced thousands and he did it modestly and humbly. He engendered respect in people by virtue of his natural leadership and his belief in the cause. Simply put, Marc was the real deal.
I was privileged to serve on the Mazkirut twice and the first time was with Marc as Mazkir. When I rejoined the Mazkirut two years later, the institutional changes that Marc pioneered and his hashkafa were still evident.
Marc ran Bnei Akiva like a CEO, organised, confident and with vision. He saw beyond his years service and laid the groundwork for a more streamlined organisation that put education at the centre of its mission. Marc was always a pleasure to work with, and he gained respect from his peers in other movements, no matter where they were on the religious/political spectrum. Marc's demeanour and interaction with others was a kiddush Hashem. His approach was uncompromising on key elements of ideology but his arms were open to fellow Jews; the definition of a mensch and an example for Anglo-Jewish leadership then and now. Marc's easy charm and amenable nature – and his derech eretz - won him friends and admirers in all quarters. Towards the end of a Mazkirut's year, they sit together with the Hanhalla and decide on the next Mazkirut – such a meeting could result in catty comments and lashon hara as people who are competing for the same position are discussed; Marc ensure the proceedings, which went on all night in the Manchester bayit, were dignified and that everyone was treated with respect.
He was the voice of Bnei Akiva, not just in rhetoric, though he spoke with passion. As part of BA's 60th anniversary, he created a CD of Bnei Akiva themes, remodeled. His aim was simple: to take the words that had inspired generations since decades before the modern State of Israel was declared, the songs that had buzzed around the Chadar Ochel in hundreds of machanot and show that those ideals still had relevance. More than that, he wanted to demonstrate that the BA way of life was as significant today as it was then.
Marc's achievements were many. He championed the idea of giving back to the community, yet he also believed that Anglo-Jewry's support of Israel was vital. Marc revitalized Limmud and the idea of Torah study in BA. He provided stable leadership, giving the movement a sense of purpose in its 60th year.
As well as being inspirational, Marc was fun to work with too. He was always in control and he began the year by organizing the mess of resources in the Bayit so that they would be easy for madrichim to access. And he operated a "clean desk policy" – reminding his mazkirut to keep everything tidy, of the importance of how we presented ourselves and our work (surely a first in the messy old Bayit!). And together with Natalie, who would soon after become his wife, he redecorated and rearranged the Bayit and in doing so made it a professional workplace.
Marc took the values he had embodied in his movement work onwards – he lived them - establishing Alei Tzion and busying himself with educational initiatives and with chesed. And in August 2006, we made Aliyah together with him and Natalie. Since that time, he continued inspiring and leading others in the Modi'in community and beyond.
When the history of Bnei Akiva in the UK is written, we may forget the amazing passion of the thousands who contribute and have contributed to its success. But we can be assured that Marc Weinberg and his legacy, will be writ large. What is apparent already, is that this special person is so sorely missed.
יהי זכרו ברוך
To read Marc's Yom Ha'atzmaut speech delivered in 1999 click here.
To send a message of condolence to the family through Bnei Akiva click here
Bnei Akiva members are learning the whole of Tanach in memory of Marc.
The Siyum will take place at Veida at the end of shloshim. To join in the learning please click here