What Judaism Means to Me
Gertrude Weil, 1879 - 1971
Weil's commitment to social justice was strongly rooted in her concept of Judaism. She often commented that her religion taught that "justice, mercy, goodness were not to be held in a vacuum, but practiced in our daily lives." Believing Judaism to be "a religion of this world," one that emphasizes the "expression of righteousness in the here and now," she argued that "every...act should be an expression of the God, or goodness, in us." Her work for social reform emerged out of this long Jewish tradition of tikkun olam and prophetic justice.
For decades, Weil was a mainstay of Jewish life in Goldsboro. She taught Sunday School, conducted adult Bible study groups and presided over the Temple Sisterhood. Once, local officials had to reveal that she was the recipient of the town's distinguished citizen's award in order to convince her to attend the ceremonial dinner, held on a Friday evening when she would normally have been at services. As she grew older, Weil became increasingly serious in her own study of Jewish history and religion.
Unlike most Southern Reform Jews, Weil, her mother, and her siblings were strong Zionists. Henrietta Szold, Hadassah's founder, was a personal friend of Mina Weil; Gertrude and Mina were founding members of Goldsboro's Hadassah chapter and Gertrude served as president of both the local and regional groups. She also presided over the North Carolina Association of Jewish Women, sat on the board of the North Carolina Home for the Jewish Aged, worked for the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, and helped to raise money for numerous Jewish charities. In the 1930s and 1940s, she and her mother devoted much time and effort to rescuing Jewish refugees from persecution in Europe. In her widespread Jewish activities, Weil demonstrated the same energy and active commitment as she did in her work in the broader community.
- Quotations from Gertrude Weil, "Talk at Beth Or Temple, Sisterhood Sabbath," May 12, 1944, in Gertrude Weil Papers at the North Carolina Office of Archives and History.
- Additional information from Mrs. N.A. Edwards, "In Love with Life," draft of article for American Jewish Times, October 1956, in the North Carolina Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Elna C.G. Grissom, "Jewish Relief and Other Philanthropies of the Weil Family of Goldsboro, North Carolina, 1935-1945," M.A. thesis, Wake Forest University, 1984.