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Biographical/Historical Information

Born in Lissa (now Leszno, Poland) on May 24, 1873, Leo Baeck studied at the Universities of Breslau and Berlin, the Juedisch-theologisches Seminar, Breslau, and the Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin. He received his doctorate in 1895 and rabbinical ordination in 1897, serving as a rabbi in Oppeln, Duesseldorf, and Berlin. He also lectured at the Hochschule and from 1933 to 1942 served as president of the Reichsvertretung der deutschen Juden. Baeck was deported to Theresienstadt in 1943 and emigrated to Great Britain in 1945, where he became chairman of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and first president of the Leo Baeck Institute. He died in London on November 1, 1956.

Erna Weill née Helft was born in 1904 in Frankfurt am Main. She studied sculpture with Helene von Beckerath, a student of August Rodin, at the University of Frankfurt. She married the chemist Ernst Weill, and the couple had two children: Peter Weill, born in 1926, followed two years later by Ruth Weill. The family fled Germany in 1936 for Switzerland, and immigrated to the United States in 1937. Erna Weill stayed in the New York City area, where she worked as a sculptor and art teacher. Next to busts of various famous people, her sculptures were connected to the American Civil Rights Movement and the world of Judaism. In addition to working as an art teacher in public schools, she also had her own art school where she applied progressive teaching methods. Erna Weill died in 1996.

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Weill, Erna: Head of Leo Baeck, Leo Baeck Institute, 77.5.