Weingreen, Jacob (1908–95), Hebrew scholar, was born 21 January 1908 in Manchester, England, son of Isidore Weingreen, salesman (born in Krakow, Poland, later residing in Manchester, Belfast, Dublin, and New York) and Sarah Weingreen (née Axelrad), seamstress, born in Jassy-Eastorn, Rumania. Jacob (‘Jack’) was the youngest of a family of two sons and two daughters. Without the benefit of formal secondary schooling, he entered TCD in 1926, graduating with a first-class moderatorship, a moderatorship prize, and large gold medal in 1929. In 1931 he was awarded a Ph.D. for a thesis on ancient Hebrew education.
Weingreen was appointed a lecturer in Hebrew in 1930, becoming in 1931 assistant to the professor of Hebrew (R. M. Gwynn), whom he succeeded in the Erasmus Smith chair of Hebrew in 1937. He retired in 1978. Apart from a short period in 1933 as assistant to E. L. Sukenik, professor of archaeology in the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, a period in 1946 on relief work in Germany, and a year (1974–5) as visiting fellow at the Oxford Centre for Post-Graduate Hebrew Studies, Weingreen spent his whole career in TCD. Throughout this time he was noted, despite his traumatic experiences in the immediate postwar period (see below), for his gentleness and good humour, his tolerance and patience, and his deep commitment to fundamental humanistic values. Esteemed by his colleagues, he was also much appreciated as an imaginative and sympathetic teacher by generations of undergraduates.
Weingreen's contribution was significant in academic, collegiate, national, and international terms. His fame as a grammarian was founded on his Practical grammar for classical Hebrew, first published in 1939 and still in worldwide use, a work that well reflects his skill and sensitivity as a teacher. More advanced students were well served by his Classical Hebrew composition (1957) and his Introduction to the critical study of the text of the Hebrew Bible (1982). Very much at home in the text of the Hebrew Bible and also in the later Jewish commentators, Weingreen, in the course of several shorter linguistic and historical studies, demonstrated the strong elements of continuity which bound the Hebrew Bible into an ongoing tradition of what were understood as rabbinic modes of interpretation; these studies were subsequently published as From Bible to Mishna (1976).
Weingreen's teaching in TCD also expressed his devotion to Palestinian archaeology. Having participated, in 1933, in the excavation of Samaria, he maintained his contacts with archaeologists, including Kathleen Kenyon, and created a valuable collection of archaeological artifacts. These were displayed, from 1957 onwards, in the Museum of Biblical Antiquities. In 1977 the museum was renamed (by the board of TCD) ‘The Weingreen Museum of Biblical Antiquities’.
Outside the college, Weingreen served on the academic council of the Irish School of Ecumenics (1971–4), and was a trustee of the Chester Beatty Library and Gallery of Oriental Art (1969–89) and a governor of the Irish Times Trust (1974–94). Internationally, he was president of the Society for Old Testament Study (1961), a member of the Council of the World Union of Jewish Studies (from 1969), and president of the British Association of Jewish Studies (1977). The significance of his contribution in so many areas was recognised by his election as a fellow of TCD in 1958 and a member of the RIA in 1962.
Weingreen married (1934) Bertha Grevler, second child of Benjamin Grevler, Kohen and Talmudic scholar and businessman, and Kale Kirson. In 1945 Bertha, who was trained in teacher training, in social work, and as an auxiliary nurse, worked with the Jewish Relief Unit in Belgium, Holland, and Germany. She was joined, in work at Bergen-Belsen, by her husband as director of education for displaced persons. Bertha served, during 1946–7, as chief welfare officer for all Jewish displaced persons in the whole of the British zone in Germany, holding the rank of lieutenant-colonel. There were no children of the marriage.
Weingreen died in Dublin on 11 April 1995. A portrait by Eileen Roe hangs in the Weingreen Museum of Biblical Antiquities in TCD.