Beit Hillel founder Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth dies at 50

"A brilliant scholar who connected Torah and action, love and awe… who worked with all his might to endear the Torah to Israeli society."

Beit Hillel founder Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth (photo credit: screenshot)
Beit Hillel founder Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth
(photo credit: screenshot)
Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth, the founder and former head of the liberal religious-Zionist Beit Hillel organization, passed away on Friday at the age of just 50 after a long illness.
Neuwirth established Beit Hillel in 2012 with several other figures as an association of moderate religious-Zionist leaders who could connect with the broader Israeli society, and under his leadership championed a tolerant and less severe approach to the different challenges faced by the Jewish state in its interaction with Judaism and Jewish law.
The Beit Hillel organization issued a statement following Neuwirth’s passing, describing him as “both a communal rabbi and a talmid hacham (bright student) – a Torah scholar of both Jewish thought and law,” and someone who could bring ideas to fruition.
“He was blessed with a great ability to build interpersonal connections, and to motivate people to act and to volunteer… Rav Ronen dreamed dreams and also knew how to implement them on the ground,” said the organization.
“Meeting with Rav Ronen was always an encounter with pleasantness and attentiveness, alongside action, momentum, vision, and initiative.
“His loss will be felt in all areas of our activity. He leaves us with his vision – to be, truly and without compromise, as he was – attentive Torah leaders. We are mourning and full of sadness; we join the sadness of his family.”
In 2015, Neuwirth left Beit Hillel and in 2016 set up a new organization, V’Ahavata, specifically to generate societal solidarity in Israel between the religious and secular communities.
He also served as the rabbi of the Ohel Ari synagogue in Ra’anana for eight years from 2008 to 2016.
And in 2016, he published his second book The Narrow Halakhic Bridge – A Vision of Jewish Law in the Post-Modern Age, which explored both the rigid and flexible components of the Jewish law, analyzed the process of determining such law, and looked at how modern rabbinic scholars can use halachic tools to solve modern problems facing Judaism and the Jewish people.
Neuwirth was a much loved figure in the religious-Zionist community and numerous tributes were made to him and his achievements upon news of his untimely death.
Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical association of religious-Zionist rabbis, mourned Neuwirth’s passing, calling him a “special figure” and a brilliant Torah scholar.
“At the height of his power, a special and loving figure has departed from us,” said Stav.
“A brilliant scholar who connected Torah and action, love and awe. He was one of the founders of the extensive activities of the Tzohar organization and worked with all his might to endear the Torah to Israeli society. His death leaves us all a huge void.”
Yamina chairman MK Naftali Bennett also paid tribute to Neuwirth, saying that he had devoted his life to the Jewish people, and described him as “an intellectual, a man of vision and deed who worked all his life to connect the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora to Jewish heritage and tradition.”