Rabbi Abner Weiss
Westwood Village Synagogue, Los Angeles, CA
Mar 20, 2014
Rabbi Abner Weiss studied at rabbinical seminaries in South Africa and Israel. He was ordained as a rabbi at the Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh, and by the Chief Rabbis of Israel. Later, he studied in New York with Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.
Rabbi Weiss was graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. His postgraduate education in Jewish Studies was at Yeshiva University in New York, where he was granted a Master’s Degree for his dissertation on the ethical and psychological thought of Rabbi Sa’adia Gaon, and a Ph.D. for his dissertation on Human Nature and Morality in the philosophy of Rabbi Loewe of Prague, one of the great masters of the Kabbalah. His study and teaching of the Kabbalah has continued from 1965 to the present.
Having majored in psychology in Johannesburg, Rabbi Weiss returned to the field, gaining a Master’s Degree in Psychology and receiving his clinical training at California State University, Los Angeles. He was later awarded a Ph.D. in Psychology by the Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center in San Francisco for his research on the effectiveness of rabbis as mental health professionals. Dr. Weiss is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of California. He is a clinical member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and a member of the American Psychological Association, where he participates in the Division on Psychology of Religion.
Rabbi Weiss has occupied four pulpits on three continents. He was Chief Rabbi of the Province of Natal in South Africa from 1969 to 1976, and Senior Rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center in New York from 1977 to 1985. Rabbi Weiss served for fifteen years as the Senior Rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, California, beginning in 1985. While there, he was Av Beit Din of the Beth Din of Los Angeles. He left the United States in 2000 to revive the faltering London School of Jewish Studies, revamping the rabbinical seminary and overseeing the development of a successful extension program for popular education. He was also the spiritual leader of London’s Western Marble Arch Synagogue.
In addition to his congregational work, he has served as President of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, providing direction and leadership to 250 rabbis of all Jewish denominations. He also headed the Beth Din of Los Angeles for about twelve years. He is also the former Chairman of the North American Cabinet of the State of Israel Bonds. He also served has as a Vice-President of the RCA, and maintains a busy speaking schedule in South Africa, Australia, the Far East and Great Britain.
Dr. Weiss has also maintained a busy academic career, serving as Professor and Head of the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at the University of Natal, South Africa, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Yeshiva University, New York, and Visiting Professor of Jewish Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, England. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Divinity by the Jewish University of America in recognition both of his effectiveness as a teacher and of his distinguished academic contributions to the field of Jewish studies.
Dr. Weiss has published many journal articles and book chapters including his popular "Death and Bereavement: A Halakhic Guide to Mourning" (1991 and 2000), and "Rabbis as Mental Health Professionals" (2000). In that book, he found that members of synagogues across the denominational divide would like their rabbis to provide them with counseling that is spiritually uplifting and transformative, but that most were disappointed in the inability of their rabbis to do so. These findings impacted Dr. Weiss’ approach to counseling and his recent writings and work, particularly Connecting to God: Ancient Kabbalah and Modern Psychology.
His shift from teaching philosophy to practicing psychotherapy was the realization of a dream he had ever since his first informal encounter with Kabbalah in the sixties when he began to see the Kabbalah as the framework for an integrated psychological system, and for a novel, spiritual approach to psychotherapy. His formal study of psychology ultimately provided him with the professional and academic credentials that would give credibility to his work in the brand new field of kabbalistic psychotherapy. He led a series of three-day workshops based on the ideas and the strategies of Connecting to God: Ancient Kabbalah and Modern Psychology, as well as follow-up seminars; see www.ConnectingToGod.com for more details.
Looking back over his accomplished career, Rabbi Weiss said that, “I take enormous pride my work on behalf of the South African persecuted masses, my involvement with the fledgling Jewish outreach movement through Yeshiva University’s Torah Leadership Seminars and the impact my work in the Beth Din has had on several generations of converts to Judaism and their families throughout the western United States and the Pacific Rim. It has been an honor to have touched so many lives, influenced so many students, congregants and seekers in so many places over so long a period of time.”
Rabbi Dr. Abner Weiss lives, practices, preaches, teaches and writes in Los Angeles, California. In 2002, he came out of retirement and has been sitting as the rabbi of the Westwood Village Synagogue in Westwood. His wife, Dr. Yolande Bloomstein, is his partner in Village Mental Health Associates. Between them, they have seven children, more than 30 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.