His name had been on the roster for so long, it took a double-take to realize that it wasn’t among the list of Community Board 1 members announced by Borough President Eric Adams last week.
For the first time in more than four decades, Rabbi Joseph Weber, a member of the CB 1 Land Use Committee, and its First Vice Chairman for the past 25, would not be a member of the board.
In tribute to his dedication to the community, current and former board members, elected officials and residents joined Weber and his family at 211 Ainslie Street, home to CB 1’s monthly meetings, to celebrate a lifetime of community service and to acknowledge the near impossibility of filling the hole left by his departure.
Accolades were nearly universal for Weber’s commitment to the entire community.
“Rabbi Weber represented the diverse community, as a whole, with its different interests, desires and objectives,” said Rabbi David Niederman, Executive Director of United Jewish Organizations (UJO). “He was a unifying force that helped keep us together as a community and to make the right choices [for the whole community].”
Others noted his dependability. “When Rabbi Weber gave you his word; that was something you took to the bank!” said former District Leader Steve Cohn.
A Holocaust survivor, Weber was born in Hungary and deported to Austria by the Nazis. Following the war, he returned to Hungary, where seeing no future under the new Communist regime, escaped to Belgium and attended seminary headed by the Grand Rabbi of Pupa. The seminary was later transplanted to the United States, where the Grand Rabbi recognizing Weber’s leadership capabilities, appointed him Assistant to the Rabbi.
While serving at the school, Weber took an interest in assisting the broader Williamsburg. He became Vice President of the UJO (and was instrumental in bringing Niederman in to lead the organization 25 years ago) and a member of CB 1 after being appointed by then-Councilmember Abe Gerges 41 years ago.
Among his many accomplishments, he successfully helped residents and their families find housing, a task made more challenging by the economic development of Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
For Weber, like most public servants, community service meant time away from his family. Weber was surrounded by his children at the ceremony, who heaped bittersweet praise on him for imbuing in them an understanding of the importance of helping others and serving one’s community, but noted how the amount of time he gave to his neighbors left little time for them on many evenings.
It was that sacrifice that made last week’s tribute, hosted by CB 1 Chair Dealice Fuller and District Manager Gerry Esposito, all the more fitting.
“The Community Board is not one of the most glamorous avenues of public service…but it is the fabric of our city and our city’s civic engagement,” said Councilmember Steve Levin. “It’s one thing to volunteer for a few years, but it’s something else entirely to volunteer for 40 years on a Community Board. That shows true dedication to the community.”
In his typical fashion, Weber eschewed individual credit, thanking his colleagues for “successfully leading to great accomplishments for our community. I want to thank each and every one of you, whose dedication to the community is what makes this city a great place to live, work and enjoy.”
Despite no longer serving in an official capacity, those attending the tribute left no doubt that Weber would remain in high demand. “Even though he’s leaving the board, I will continue to call upon him for his help, guidance and expertise,” said Esposito.