Isac Weinberger, one of those classic New York Jewish community characters who could be counted upon to show up at every major political event in the city, has passed away at the too-young age of 66.
A Satmar chasid, Weinberger’s job as a community affairs liaison was to attend Community Board meetings and act as a liaison between the commissioner and local neighborhoods. But when Jeff Weisenfeld, then an aide to Gov. George Pataki, filed a freedom of information request for Weinberger’s phone records in the mid-90s, it showed that he spent much of his day calling newspaper reporters and columnists (including this one). Born in Hungary and raised in Brooklyn’s Satmar community, he ran a printing business before entering civil service. (More about him here.)
His calls to reporters often began with a tidbit and then solicited one in return with his signature inquiry,“What’s the latest?” and he seemed to be highly regarded by both elected officials and the city’s press corps for his affable manner and willingness to help. He was partisan, though, as a die-hard Democrat who knocked on doors for the party in his youth and regularly attended the party’s conventions.
Though he relied on access, he was not afraid to confront politicians for what he saw as their mistakes. When Brooklyn Congressman Ed Towns once cast an unpopular vote on an Israel-related issue, Weinberger told him “I may be Satmar and anti-Israel, but your vote was anti-Semitic,” according to his close friend, Isaac Weinberger.
Weinberger collapsed while walking to shul four months ago and was at New York Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia since, never regaining consciousness. The cause of his illness was never determined, said Abraham. he leaves behind a dozen children and many grandchildren.
His passing represents another lost piece of the city’s Jewish fabric, like the closing of a shul or restaurant, that can never be replaced.