Lithuania was the cradle of the yeshiva movement, and the Yeshiva of Volozhin was the first and most influential of the Lithuanian yeshivot. Under the influence of its founder, Rabbi Haim of Volozhin, the Yeshiva took over the teaching method of the beloved Rabbi Elijah, Gaon of Vilna, who had been Rabbi Haim’s rabbi and teacher. The method, briefly, consisted of intensifying and broadening, while at the same time simplifying, the study of the Talmud. The heads of the Yeshiva, including Rabbi Naphtali Zvi Berlin, Rabbi Joseph Baer Soloveichik, and his son Rabbi Hayim Soloveichik of Brest-Litovsk, were among the most revered Talmudists of their time. Their students later founded yeshivot patterned after the Yeshiva of Volozhin throughout Lithuania.

The history of the Yeshiva of Volozin was a stormy one. Founded in 1803, it was closed by Russian edict in 1824, to be reopened later. In 1858, its doors were once again barred, but again it was reopened for study. In 1892, it was closed for the last time; there was no appealing the decision. But “illegal” study continued until World War I. Volozhin left its mark on all the great yeshivot of Lithuania and has strongly influenced the development of present systems of study in the U.S. and Israel.

Scientist, educator, author. Born in Ukraine, Waksman came to the U.S. in 1910. By 1938, he was recognized as one of the world’s authorities on soil microbiology. With the outbreak of World War II, Waksman’s interest shifted from soil study to disease causes in humans and animals, and began intensive work on the development of antibiotics, substances which destroy or arrest the growth of certain disease-causing microbes. In 1952, Waksman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his work in antibiotics and for the development of streptomycin, an invaluable antibiotic for fighting tuberculosis. He donated all royalties from his discoveries to Rutgers University for the creation of the Institute of Microbiology, of which he was director. He was the holder of a number of honorary degrees. In 1952, Waksman traveled to Israel on the invitation of the government, to advise upon the construction of a new antibiotic center there.

WALD, LILLIAN D. (1867-1940).

Social worker. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, she left a sheltered existence to enter the field of nursing and organized the first city school nursing program in the world. Moved by the appalling conditions on New York‘s Lower East Side, she became a pioneer social worker and founded the Henry Street Settlement in 1893. In 1908, she organized the Federal Children’s Bureau, and her labors in behalf of the underprivileged earned her gratitude and an enduring place in the history of American social service. Her book describing the nurses’ Settlement, The House on Henry Street, was published in 1915.

WALLENBERG, RAOUL (1912-ca. 1947).

Swedish diplomat. During World War II he served in Hungary, and as Jews were being deported to the death camps by the Nazis, he forged papers and engaged in other clandestine activities which helped save thousands of Jewish lives. When the Russians occupied Hungary after the war they took him to Russia. For years, attempts were made to discover what had happened to him, but to no avail. Today, there is a street in Washington, DC named after him, where the United States Holocaust Museum is located.


A medieval Christian legend, according to which Jews were punished for the death of Jesus by becoming homeless wanderers of the earth. The statelessness of Jews was seen as a validation of this belief. Once the State of Israel was born, the legend lost much of its validity.


See Israel, State of.

WARBURG, FELIX M. (1871-1937).

Banker, philanthropist, and communal leader. Born in Hamburg, Germany, to a noted banking family, Warburg settled in New York City in 1895, and joined one of the city’s leading brokerage firms. From the time of his arrival he took an active interest in local charities, especially those caring for immigrants. Concerned with education, he made important contributions to educational institutions, both general and Jewish. He served as chairman of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association in New York for many years, and was chairman of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee from its establishment in 1914 to 1932. In 1917, Warburg was instrumental in forming the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in New York. Although opposed to Jewish nationalism, he supported agencies concerned with the economic development of Jews in Palestine, and mobilized support for the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. As a non-Zionist, he participated in the Jewish Agency for Palestine and took part in the political struggle against British anti-Zionist policy. He was the son-in-law of Jacob H. Schiff.


The oldest records that mention the presence of Jews in Warsaw date to the 14th century, when this city was the capital of Mazovia, a principality later united with Poland. After 1453, Jews were known to have been banished by official decree. When Warsaw became the capital of the Polish Kingdom at the close of the 16th century, Jews were brought into the city by the senators and delegates to the Polish parlia_ment. In the 18th century, many Jews were permitted to settle in Warsaw on the condition that they pay a special tax. Two small Jewish towns were founded on the outskirts of Warsaw by the Poles Potocki and Sulkowski. However, the existence of these towns was challenged by the native Polish population, and they were destroyed in 1775. Jews finally received full permission to settle in Warsaw in 1788. They were not popularly accepted, however, and suffered intermittently from the hostile outbursts of their Christian compatriots. Nevertheless, Jews helped defend the city against the Russians in 1794 and organized a regiment of light cavalry. Three years later Jews were compelled to adopt surnames and pay a poll tax.

During the time of Napoleon, a Duchy of Warsaw was set up and chartered by a constitution that included full civil and political rights for Jews. In 1808, these rights were suspended by the Duke of Warsaw upon the instigation of antisemitic noblemen. In the course of the 19th century, Jews of Warsaw gradually received greater official acceptance. In 1863, many Jews participated in the Polish uprising against the Russians.

Pogroms drove thousands of Russian Jews to Warsaw at the close of the 19th century. At the same time, antisemitism in Poland, and especially in Warsaw, began to grow as the new Polish middle class found itself in competition with Jewish merchants and industrial workers. When the Russian government convened the Dumas, or legislatures, at the beginning of the 20th century, Jews of Warsaw supported liberal labor candidates in opposition to the reactionary and antisemitic candidates of the National Democratic Party. The resulting anti-Jewish agitation in Warsaw was great.

By the time of World War I, Warsaw had become a spiritual, economic, and political center for Jews of Eastern Europe. Jews had built a compact community, which included Orthodox, assimilationist, Zionist, and Bundist (socialist) sectors. When Poland received its independence in 1919, Warsaw contained the headquarters of all these Jewish “parties,” as well as commercial and cultural organizations, yeshivot, and seminaries. A flourishing and influential Jewish press had appeared: there were seven Yiddish daily newspapers and numerous periodicals. There were also two Jewish dailies in the Polish language and, intermittently, one in Hebrew. In addition, the Jewish community in Warsaw produced and supported numerous prosperous publishing houses, theaters, art exhibits, and professional organizations. In the political sphere, Jews of Warsaw saw many of their numbers elected to the Polish parliament. Nevertheless, antisemitism never completely abated, and economic discriminations against Jews continued to exist up to the outbreak of World War II.

At the time of the Nazi invasion in 1939, there were approximately 330,000 Jews in Warsaw, or 10 percent of the total Jewish population of Poland. By October 1940, the Germans had herded the entire Jewish population of Warsaw into a ghetto the size of about 100 square city blocks, surrounded by walls and barbed wire. Until July 1942, the Germans were content to make life difficult for Jews by keeping them on starvation rations and denying them medical care. Then the Nazis began systematically deporting Jews from the Warsaw ghetto; told that they were being taken to labor camps, Jews actually were sent to death camps where millions of Jews perished. In spring 1943, the leaders of the Jewish underground of Warsaw rose up against the Germans, much to the latter’s surprise. By April 1943, the Germans had ordered the complete evacuation of the ghetto. Only lightly armed, the remaining Jews of the ghetto put up a gallant struggle against the heavily armed Germans sent to destroy them. The Jewish resistance, led by the young commander-in-chief Mordecai Anielewicz fought to the last, until September 1943. Two uprising leaders who survived were Yitzhak Cukerman and Zivia Lubetkin, who settled in Israel.

The postwar period saw the return of a small number of Jews to Warsaw


Of the state‘s 32,000 Jews, 29,300 live in Seattle and about 1,000 in both Spokane and Tacoma. Jews first arrived in the 1850’s. In 1870, the state had its first Jewish governor, Edward S. Solomon. The Jewish community grew in Spokane and Tacoma in the late 19th century. Today, there are eight Reform and six Conservative congregations in the state.


German Jewish scientist. He did important research into immunity and in the field of bacteriology. In 1906, he found serodiagnosis in syphilis (the so-called “Wasserman Reaction”), a discovery which made him famous. Wasserman was much interested in Jewish affairs, and was president of the Jewish Academy of Science in Berlin.

WASSERMANN, JAKOB (1873-1934).

Novelist. A writer of international repute, he strove all his life to reconcile his Jewishness with his love for German culture. Opposed both to assimilation and to Jewish nationalism, he sought to fuse the two cultures. Disillusionment with his quest was expressed in My Way as a German and a Jew, written in 1921. His stories often deal with Jewish characters; his chief works are The Jews of Zirndorf, Casper Hauser, The Gooseman, and The Maurizius Case.

WEBER, MAX (1881-1961).

American artist. Born in Russia, his abstract style at first angered critics, but eventually he came to be recognized as one of America’s most vigorous artists. In 1954, he was elected to membership in the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Among contemporary American artists, none has struck his roots more deeply into the spiritual soil of Judaism than he. His best works are those which deal with Jewish topics. Favorite subjects are the Talmudists Weber saw in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn; he has painted them sitting around the table, using their eloquent hands to underline an argument. He often elongates and even distorts their faces and figures, to indicate the highest pitch of emotional and spiritual experience.


See Shavuot.

WEIL, SIMONE (1909-1943).

French philosopher. She lived a tormented life, experiencing the life of the hard-working poor in France and later in the U.S. She rejected Judaism but did not quite embrace Roman Catholicism, which appealed to her in theory but not in the example of the Church. Her search for God is articulated in her book Waiting for God.

WEILL, KURT (1900-1950).

German composer. His great success in pre-Nazi Germany was his music for Brecht’s Three Penny Opera. Fleeing the Nazis, he came to New York where he wrote scores for plays and films. He was also active in the Irgun‘s struggle for the birth of Israel.


See Sports.

WEIZMAN, EZER (1924-2005).

Israeli soldier and public servant. A native Israeli, he is a nephew of Chaim Weizmann. Known as the father of Israel’s Air Force, he served as chief of operations of the IDF’s general staff during the Six-Day War of 1967. He was Minister of Transport from 1969 to 1970 and was appointed Minister of Defense in 1977 in the Begin government. He played a key role in Israel’s negotiations with Egypt after Anwar Sadat’s visit to Israel in November 1977, and took part in the Camp David peace talks between Israel and Egypt. In 1993, Weizman was elected as the seventh president of the State of Israel, succeeding Chaim Herzog. He was reelected in 1998 and resigned in 2000.

WEIZMANN, CHAIM (1874-1952).

Scientist, Zionist statesman, first President of Israel. Born in Russia, he joined the Hibbat Zion movement. His twin passions for science and Zionism were all-absorbing. At 18, he went to Germany and studied at German and Swiss universities. While still young, he made an important discovery in the chemistry of dyes, and in 1904, he became instructor in chemistry at the University of Manchester in England. During World War I, Weizmann served as the head of the British Admiralty Laboratories and developed a process for manufacturing acetone out of starches, a vital link in the production of the explosives needed in the war effort. Lloyd George records in his memoirs that, when asked how the British government might repay him, Weizmann answered, “There is only one thing I want


Located in Rehovot, Israel, the Institute is a city of science with 19 departments, under five faculties: Mathematics; Physics; Chemistry; Biophysics-Biochemistry; Biology, devoted to fundamental research in the natural sciences related to human welfare. Its primary task is the discovery of knowledge and the training of new generations of scientists. It was first conceived in 1944 in honor of the 70th birthday of Chaim Weizmann.

Relevance of Science Research. Engaged in some several hundred research projects, Weizmann Institute scientists are studying the elements which constitute the life forces of humans, animals, and their environs to fathom how they function, and thereby to learn how birth, congenital defects, disease, aging can be controlled, and how the energies of the earth, of the ocean tides, and the atmosphere can be deflected from destruction and harnessed for humankind’s welfare.

Status of Institute. It is in the forefront of research in the life sciences (cell biology, experimental biology, biological ultrastructure, biodynamics, biophysics, genetics, plant genetics, chemical immunology, biochemistry, polymer research), in physics, in chemistry, and in mathematics. It has become an important scientific resource, not only for Israel, but for the world.

Contributions to the State of Israel. Institute scientists are principal advisors to the Israeli government on science, new resources, water economy, industry, education, population of and development of the desert, agriculture, new food potentials, mineral exploitation, and the like.

Aid to Science Education. The Weizmann Institute is serving the educational and scientific manpower needs of Israel on two levels: the graduate student through the Feinberg Graduate School, and the high school student through its Science Teaching Department.

The Feinberg Graduate School is a multidisciplinary school for the training of independent researchers both in the natural sciences and in modern science technology. It is accredited as an American school abroad by charter from the New York State University Regents. In 1968, the Institute set up a Science Teaching Department, the first of its kind in Israel.

As a further stimulus to science learning, the Institute sponsors an Annual Science Fair, a Mathematics Olympiad, science clubs, special courses for gifted children, and a Summer Science Youth Camp.

In May 1973, a Weizmann Institute scientist, Professor Ephraim Katchalsky-Katzir, world renowned authority on protein research, was inaugurated as the fourth President of Israel. Founder and head of the Institute‘s Biophysics Department for 25 years, President Katzir continued his research while in office.

The Weizmann Institute has been ranked by Nobel Laureate Dr. Arthur Kornberg as among the top ten research institutes in the world.

When the U.S. government decided to launch an international project to map and decipher the human genome, i.e., to read all the 3 billion “letters” making up the DNA in our bodies. The Israeli center of this gigantic endeavor was established at the Weizmann Institute. In the year 2000, the entire draft of the human genome was completed, and since then scientists have been busy identifying and deciphering the information encoded in individual genes. At the Weizmann Institute, scientists have, for example, discovered and deciphered genes involved in causing heart attacks, a particular type of leukemia, a type of muscular degeneration and others.

WERFEL, FRANZ (1890-1945).

One of leading poets of the German expressionist movement. Born in Prague, Werfel was one of the most versatile writers in the German language before World War II. He wrote plays which attracted international attention, including Jacobowski and the Colonel, later made into a movie with Danny Kaye, titled “The Colonel and I;” his novels included The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, an epic story of the genocide committed by the Turks against the Armenians.


Area west of the Jordan river, part of Palestine. Assigned in 1947 by the United Nations as a separate Arab state, it was annexed by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1948 and occupied by Israel in 1967. It is the biblical land of Judea and Samaria.


Of the state‘s 2,300 Jews, 950 live in Charleston, 300 in Huntington, and 300 in Wheeling. Jewish life in the state began in the 1840’s. The first congregation was organized in Wheeling in 1849. An influx of Jewish settlers arrived after 1880. Jews in the state have engaged in commerce and in the milling, pottery, and tobacco industries. There are three Reform and two Conservative congregations in the state.


Last relic of the western defense wall of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. The Western Wall is holy to Jews, who have prayed and wept over its stones since the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. almost continuously, except during periods when this was prohibited on pain of death. Since the fall of the Old City of Jerusalem to the Arab forces of Jordan in 1948, it had been inaccessible to Jews. On June 7, 1967, during the Six-Day War, the Israeli Army recaptured the Old City of Jerusalem, and since then Jews have had free access to the Wall. Since then, it has been officially referred to as the Western Wall, or in Hebrew, Kotel Ma’aravi. Shortly after the area was liberated, the Government of Israel started extensive archaeological excavations in the vicinity of the Wall. The Wall is about 54 feet high and 85 feet long, and has about 24 layers of immense uncut gray stones. This section of the wall belongs to the Second Temple, however, buried beneath the surface are almost as many layers of stones which are the remains of the First Temple. Prayers are recited at the Wall day and night, but pilgrimages usually take place on Tisha B’av, the anniversary of the razing of the temple.

WIESEL, ELIE (1928-2016).

Novelist and journalist. Born in Sighet, Transylvania, now part of Romania, but controlled by Hungary during most of World War II.  Raised in a Hasidic environment, he was deported by the Nazis and was in the death camps of Birkenau-Auschwitz, Buna, and Buchenwald. For several years following World War II he lived in Paris; later, he settled in New York. His novels, which he originally wrote in French and which were subsequently translated into English, brought him fame not only as a writer on Jewish themes, but also as a major French novelist. Most of his novels are concerned with the Holocaust. Among his best-known works are Night, The Town Beyond the Wall, The Gates of the Forest, Legends of Our Time, The Jews of Silence (an eyewitness report of the plight of Soviet Jewry), A Beggar in Jerusalem, One Generation After, and Souls on Fire. Wiesel played a major role in bringing the Holocaust to the conscience of the world, not only as a novelist but also as an active spokesman for Holocaust survivors. He also spoke out effectively on other issues, both Jewish and general, and in 1986, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition for his advocacy.

WIESENTHAL, SIMON (1908-2005).

A Holocaust survivor, Wiesenthal settled in Vienna, Austria after the war, where he opened a Jewish Historical Documentation Center, dedicated to hunting Nazi war criminals. Over the years, his center has played a major role in bringing Nazi criminals to justice. An eloquent writer about his experiences, his books include The Murderers Among Us and The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness.

WINCHELL, WALTER (1897-1972).

American journalist. His gossip columns and radio and television programs had a large audience beginning in 1929, making him one of the most influential media personalities in the country.


Wingate is renowned as the creator of the long-range penetration tactics by which his Burma campaign (1943-44) saved India from the Japanese in World War II. Earlier, in 1941, he used similar tactics to drive the Italians out of Abyssinia and restore Haile Selassie to his throne in Addis Ababa. But it was in Palestine that Wingate achieved his early fame. Under his training, special night squads broke the grip of the Arab terror in 1938. And, throughout his later career, his heart was set on returning to the Holy Land. The deeply idealistic and fiercely individualist personality of Orde Charles Wingate, a non-Jew, was shaped by the twin influences of the Bible and of military service. He came to Palestine in 1936 as an intelligence officer to the British Forces stationed there. His lifelong absorption in the Bible made Wingate feel at home in the Holy Land. He traveled to all the Holy Places, learned Hebrew, sought out Jews in Haifa where he was stationed, and got to know the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and the young halutzim in the kibbutzim.

The Arab terror that had broken out in 1936 was aided by German and Italian subsidies and was making life difficult in Palestine. Arab guerrillas infiltrated from Syria, Lebanon, and Transjordan. They attacked settlements and road traffic, and instigated the local Arabs to join them in looting, killing, and sabotaging the oil pipelines that led from Iraq to the British-controlled refineries in Haifa. Wingate found that the British police and troops were ineffectual in controlling the situation because of their tradition-bound methods, and because of the prevailing anti-Zionist policy. The British administration drove the Jewish self-defense militia underground and actually arrested those caught defending Jewish settlements with arms.

Wingate obtained official permission to investigate the ways and methods of Arab infiltrators; unofficially, he got assistance from members of the Haganah in carrying out this task. His report to General Wavell included a plan for wiping out the Arab terrorists and a request for permission to carry it out. Despite considerable official opposition, Wingate was granted permission and set up headquar
ters at En Harod, a kibbutz in the shadow of Mount Gilboa. In the same countryside where Gideon had chosen his warriors, Wingate chose and trained his special night squads. They were composed mainly of 400 selected members of the kibbutzim, including Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon, with about 200 equally handpicked British soldiers. Within three months, Wingate had a highly trained commando force. These he led in swift nightly attacks on Arab rebel centers and points of infiltration. In six months, the back of the Arab terror was broken. Wingate‘s achievement brought him the Distinguished Service Order but the intense dislike of the local anti-Jewish British officials.

Moreover, the Palestine administration did not like to see military skills developed in Jews, and shortly after his success in 1938, Wingate was recalled to London.

Wingate‘s brilliant contributions to Allied victories in World War II ended tragically while he was touring his forward bases in the Burma jungle. During a severe storm, his plane crashed against a Mountainside and Wingate died at age 41. In Israel, Wingate has become a legend. He is remembered gratefully in many ways. A Wingate Forest was planted near En Harod on the southern slopes of Mt. Gilboa. A school for physical training has been named for him, and Yemin Orde, a Youth Aliyah village on the slopes of his well-loved Carmel, was established as a living memorial to him.


See Stage and Screen.


See Stage and Screen.


Of the 35,000 Jews in the state, 29,000 live in Milwaukee and 4,500 in Madison. Jewish peddlers and traders first arrived in the state in 1792, but the first community was organized in Milwaukee in 1836, where a congregation was formed in 1847. By that time an influx of German Jews arrived in the state, and Jewish merchants began to reach such towns as Madison, La Crosse, Green Bay, Racine, and Fond du Lac. The Jewish population further grew at the turn of the century with the arrival of East European Jews. There are nine Reform and Seven Conservative congregations in the state. The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle is published in Milwaukee.


Main organizer of the Reform movement in the U.S. Rabbi Wise left his native Bohemia in 1846 and came to the U.S., where he took an Orthodox pulpit and began to reform the service. In 1854, he settled in Cincinnati where he proceeded to lay the groundwork for Reform Judaism in the U.S. He founded an English weekly called The American Israelite, the oldest Anglo-Jewish newspaper in the U.S. In 1873, he organized the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the organization of Reform congregation in the U.S., and two years later the Hebrew Union College, the Reform rabbinical seminary, the oldest rabbinical seminary in the U.S. In 1889, he organized the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the organization of American Reform rabbis. These accomplishments not only ensured the vigorous growth of the Reform movement, but also served as a model for organized Jewish life in the U.S., emulated by other religious movements and by social and cultural organizations.

Rabbi, author, and Zionist leader. Born in Budapest and brought to the U.S. as an infant, Stephen Wise was educated in New York City, where he studied at City College and Columbia University and prepared privately for the rabbinate. He took his first pulpit at 19, and from 1900 to 1906 served in Portland, Oregon. In 1907, Wise returned to New York and founded the Free Synagogue, which he led to the end of his life. Fifteen years later he established the Jewish Institute of Religion, a rabbinical seminary dedicated to the an> liberal ideals Wise embodied as rabbi and citizen. In 1950 this institution merged with the Hebrew Union College.

Wise‘s brilliant gifts as orator and administrator early gained him a distinguished position in the two areas that were to preoccupy him throughout his career: social reform and Zionist affairs. While still in Portland, he spoke out on behalf of labor reform. Later, he became a prominent advocate of civil rights, labor legislation, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program. An early Zionist, he was a founder of the Federation of American Zionists in 1898, the year of the second Zionist Congress. During the half-century that followed, he worked passionately within the community to gain adherents for the movement. But Zionism was only one facet of Wise‘s concern with Jewish life. To provide democratic representation for American Jewry as a body, he joined with Justice Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter in found_ing the American Jewish Congress in 1917, whose interests, as well as those of Zionism, he represented at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919. In 1936, to provide an agency for contact between Jewish communities the world over, he organized the World Jewish Congress. During World War II, Wise made many attempts to influence President Roosevelt to do more to help rescue European Jews from the Nazis, but found out that the war effort precluded such action.


Women’s International Zionist Organization, founded in 1920. Wizo developed from the Federation of Women Zionists in Great Britain in 1920 as a welfare organization for the care of women and children in Eretz Israel. With headquarters in Tel Aviv, it has branches in 54 countries with a total membership of about 220,000. Some 13,000 children are in the care of 197 Wizo child welfare institutions in Israel, ranging from homes for babies through preschool day centers to clubs and playgrounds for schoolchildren. In the field of education, Wizo maintains six agricultural and vocational training schools in Israel with a total of 3,000 pupils. The services for women and families maintained by Wizo in Israel number 260 and range from mending and sewing courses to a mobile library. Wizo activity in Israel is not centralized but covers social services for women and children from the cradle to the grave, in the whole area from Dan to Elat, wherever there are underprivileged in need of help.