Rabbi Akiva Weingarten
Rabbi Akiva Weingarten was born in New York in 1984 and grew up with ten siblings in a Hasidic community in NY. He studied there in four yeshivot, later in Israel in two more. Despite being a good student, Rabbi Weingarten was often thrown out of class for asking too many critical questions. Free thinkers were not welcomed in the community.
He received his first Smicha at the age of 17, got engaged at 19 and married at 20. Two years later he was already the father of two children.
At the age of 18, Rabbi Weingarten went to Israel and lived there for ten years in the ultra-Orthodox community in Bnei Brak. There he received his second and third Smicha. His three children still live in Israel today and they have very good contact with each other.
In his late 20s, Rabbi Weingarten left the land of Israel and thus the ultra-Orthodox community and went to Germany. He finally studied “Jewish Studies” at the Free University and the University of Potsdam. He enjoyed the openness of being able to ask questions and the freedom to develop academically. Today he is a rabbi in the LiberalMunicipality migwan in Basel and the "Jewish Community" in Dresden. In addition, in 2020 he founded the Besht Yeshiva Dresden gGmbH, with which he helps Jewish ex-ultra-Orthodox dropouts to gain a foothold in the non-Orthodox world and to live Jewish life liberally.
Weingarten is the only liberal rabbi who wears Hasidic clothing—like the shtreimel and caftan—on Shabbat today. In his sermons he often uses Hasidic stories and explanations of the Torah, along with a liberal and contemporary interpretation. He describes himself as a liberal Hasidic.