Rabbi Eliezer Wenger, a noted author, educator and expert on Jewish law, passed away last week at the age of 62. Revered by students around the world and his pupils at Montreal’s Beth Rivkah Academy and Lubavitch School, he formulated a curriculum that has guided thousands in their daily lives, and served as the rabbi of the Oneg Shabbos synagogue.

According to Rabbi Yosef Minkowitz, principal of Beth Rivkah – where Wenger taught for more than two decades – the educator’s influence spread far beyond Montreal. Known for their methodical treatment of the legal minutiae governing holiday observances and their accompanying images and diagrams, Wenger’s volumes quickly became popular in schools throughout the Jewish world. They were reprinted dozens of times.

“He not only taught Jewish law at our school in a phenomenal way, he embodied Jewish law,” said Minkowitz. “He was a true role model for students: honest and patient.”


Wenger, whose students came from families of varying religious backgrounds, meticulously prepared his lessons so that they would be easy to grasp, explained the principal.

“He not only taught the material, but empowered the students to be able to learn it on their own,” said Minkowitz, “giving them the background and structure of the subjects.”

More recently, Wenger contributed detailed articles on Jewish practice to the Chabad.org Web site, and responded to many inquiries from users of the site.

Challenging the Students

Believing that empowering children through challenges was a vital part of education, Wenger also devised numerous contests for participants to learn key areas of Jewish law. Among his contributions is the national Brochos Bee, a children’s competition based upon the rules governing various blessings said before eating or drinking.

In keeping with a directive of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, for Jewish people everywhere to study the legal codes compiled by Maimonides, Wenger was among the architects of a national competition promoting such study.

“He was dedicated to Jewish education,” said Rabbi Shalom Ber Baumgarten of Tzivos Hashem, the Chabad-Lubavitch international children’s organization that hosted the Maimonides competitions. “He cared about the kids and dedicated great effort in creating a comprehensive curriculum for the competition.”

Rachel Steinhauser, a former student, agreed.

Among the traits cited by those who knew Rabbi Eliezer Wenger was his dedication to students.
Among the traits cited by those who knew Rabbi Eliezer Wenger was his dedication to students.

“Rabbi Wenger was a wonderful teacher, mentor and person,” she said. “He would never miss a class, and always arrived on time prepared to teach.”

Wenger’s students rallied behind him through the years in the search for a bone marrow donor and a cure for his long illness. But the educator directed his efforts, up until his last moments, to rallying behind them.

“When he could not regularly teach,” explained Minkowitz, “he substituted. And he dedicated almost two years to creating a full curriculum on Jewish law for all of the teachers.”

When he was released from the hospital for a few days last month, but was unable to make it to the school, he sent his daughter to pick up the student handouts he hadn’t yet completed.

“The girls need it,” he told her. “They need to take it home to study.”

“He was a mentor to all of us here,” said Dina Krasnanski, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Montreal. “He was a special person, who had all the time to answer any questions we had. I don’t know what we will do without him.”