Rabbi Asher Weiss

HaGaon HaRav Asher Weiss will address “Timeless Faith: Eternal Torah Perspectives and the Coronavirus” on Sunday, Dec. 6, at 1 p.m. ET, as he receives the inaugural Rabbi Raphael Zalman Levine HaCohen Endowed Distinguished Talmudic Scholar Award, presented by Touro College.

“Weiss is one of our generation’s leading halachic authorities and Torah scholars,” said Dr. Alan Kadish, president of Touro College. “He has played an historic role in providing clear and decisive halachic guidance from the onset of the COVID crisis. He is a most appropriate inaugural selection for this ongoing award, generously endowed by Mr. Joel Margolis of Albany to honor ‘individuals who have made exceptional contributions in the field of Torah scholarship and Torah dissemination.’”

Weiss will be introduced by HaRav Yonasan Sacks, rosh haYeshiva of Beis Medrash L’Talmud of Touro’s Lander College for Men, who noted that, “through his Torah and personal example, HaRav Weiss has inspired a generation of talmidim throughout the Torah world. He honors us by receiving this award.”

Albany Scholar
Margolis, a longtime family friend of Levine had sought to partner with a Jewish institution of higher learning to create this award commemorating Levine’s memory, added that “Rabbi Levine used to painfully describe his frustration during the great Spanish Flu pandemic of 1919-20 when he had no way to receive halachic guidance from his beloved teachers while recuperating in a Polish infirmary. It is extremely fitting that this inaugural award, in his honor, is presented to an extraordinary scholar who provided lucid and timely guidance to so many people in the current pandemic a century later.”

Weiss, an American-born Israeli posek, rosh kollel and dayan, is a devoted disciple of the late Klausenberger Rebbe  and his classic commentary, Minchas Asher on the Torah, is found in homes across the spectrum of the Orthodox community, according to Touro College organizers. Weiss is the author of 30 volumes of Rabbinic Responsa, including hundreds of tshuvot dealing with the interface of modern medicine and halacha. His expertise in this area led to his central role in providing crucial halachic guidance to Jews throughout the world from the earliest days of the COVID-19 crisis.

Zalman Levine, a musmach of Rabbi Chaim Soloveichick of Brisk and Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, and devoted student of Rabbi Baruch Ber Lebowitz, came to the United States in 1923. After a brief teaching career at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, he moved, after his marriage in 1929, to Albany. Eschewing any rabbinic titles, he spent the next six decades involved in studying and teaching Torah, while first supporting his family as an insurance salesman and then for several decades, as a respected staff member of the New York State controller’s office. Levine helped found Congregation Shomrei Torah on Elm Street which is now located on New Scotland Avenue in Albany. He died in 1992 and his only child, a daughter Rhoda, grew up in Albany.

Communal Lay Leader
Dr. David Luchins, chairman of the political science department at Touro College, who grew up in Albany and was a friend of Rabbi Levine, observed that “when Zalman Levine arrived in Albany, the very concept of a Torah scholar serving as a lay communal leader was unheard of. While it certainly was not his intention, his pioneering role set an example for others to emulate. Not only was Zalman Levine a devoted communal lay leader and an accomplished Torah scholar, but he also enjoyed the deep friendship of several generations of North American Torah luminaries, as well as Touro founder, Dr. Bernard Lander OB”M.”

Touro College is a private Jewish university in New York City. It was founded in 1971 and named for Rabbi Isaac Touro and his son, American businessman Judah Touro. It is a part of the Touro College and University System.

Information about the Weiss’ lecture or what is expected to be an annual Rabbi Levine Award may be obtained by contacting Rabbi Moshe Krupka at: moshe.krupka@touro.edu 

Registration for the free public lecture  may be found on www.touro.edu/ravweiss.