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 Yeshiwot, later in Israel in two more. Although he was a good student, Rabbi Weingarten was often thrown out of class because he asked too many critical questions. Free thinkers were not welcome in the community.
He received his first Smicha * at the age of 17, was engaged at 19 and married at 20. Two years later he was already father of two children.
* Ordination to the rabbi
Rabbi Weingarten went to Israel at the age of 18 to continue his studies and lived there for about 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, he has a very good relationship with them.
At the age of 28 Rabbi Weingarten left Israel and the ultra-orthodox community and came to Germany. He studied “Jewish Studies” at the Free University in Berlin and at the University of Potsdam where he enjoyed the openness to ask questions and the freedom to develop academically.
Today he is the Rabbi of the liberal community ‘Migwan’ in Basel, Switzerland and of the “Jüdische Kultusgemeinde” in Dresden, Germany. In addition, he founded the “Besht Yeshiva Dresden e.V.” in 2020 that helps OTDs to integrate in the non-orthodox world while working on strengthening Jewish life in Dresden.
Weingarten is the only liberal rabbi who wears Hasidic dresses such as Shtreimel and Kaftan to Shabbat these days. In his sermons, he often uses Hasidic stories and explanations about the Torah, along with a liberal and up-to-date interpretation. He describes himself as liberal Hasidic.