Herbert M. Weiss, an attorney who practiced law for more than 70 years, most recently at Burns & Levinson LLP, and called Mount Vernon Street home, died on Tuesday, Oct. 27. He was 92.
Born on Jan. 18, 1928 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Mr. Weiss was the middle of three children born to Aaron and Theresa Weiss. He earned an undergraduate degree in 1949 from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., and would go onto graduate from Harvard Law School in 1952.
Upon earning his law degree, Mr. Weiss went to work for Friedman & Atherton, a Boston law firm, before returning to his hometown of Wilkes-Barre to work for the family business, Triangle Shoe Company.
In 1959, Mr. Weiss returned to the Boston area and settled in Newton when he assumed the role of attorney and vice president of Kennedy’s Department Store. He would then serve as an attorney at Burns & Levinson for around 30 years, practicing corporate law with a special expertise in retail commercial leasing.
Mr. Weiss was also the founding counsel who incorporated the nonprofit American Jewish World Service (AJWS), serving as a founding board member of the organization and as its first secretary and a board member from 1985 to 2010. He was also a founding member of the Newton Community Development Foundation (NCDF), and a dedicated supporter of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, as well as the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union. Additionally, he served as a board member and counsel of Harvard Musical Association, and was also involved in peace activities through the Congregational Church in Newton in the 1960s.
In addition, Mr. Weiss served for several decades as an elected member of the Ward 5 Democratic Committee, and was also a candidate for the Massachusetts House of Representatives seat to represent Beacon Hill/Back Bay in 1980.
Stephen Olesky, a longtime Boston attorney who was a Beacon Hill resident and activist from 1968 to 1985 before moving to Brookline, met Mr. Weiss during the latter’s bid for state rep 40 years ago.
At that time, Mr. Weiss asked Olesky to endorse his candidacy, and while Olesky declined because he was already supporting another candidate in the race, it was also the beginning of a close and long-lasting friendship between the two men.
“I’ll always remember how committed Herb was locally and internationally, ” Olesky said. “He led by what he did, and not just what he said…including [traveling as an ambassador of AJWS] to Mozambique and elsewhere to deliver hope and tangible supplies to struggling nations.”
Moreover, Mr. Weiss “was passionate about social justice work and encouraged the rest of us to do the same, Olesky said, and had “a great commitment to Beacon Hill and the world beyond Beacon Hill.”
State Rep. Jay Livingstone said, “Herb was an incredibly influential activist who had a profound impact on local politics and I’ll miss him greatly.”
Rob Whitney, chair of the Beacon Hill Civic Association, served alongside Mr. Weiss on the Ward 5 Democratic Committee and recalls them holding signs to support their candidates outside the State House one Election Day. When it started to rain, Whitney asked Mr. Weiss if he thought they should call it a day and head home, but Mr. Weiss insisted on staying put and told Whitney: “If we stay holding signs in the pouring rain, then the voters will think that we REALLY must love our candidates, and that will make them want to vote even MORE for our candidates!”
Whitney was persuaded by Mr. Weiss’ rationale and stayed with him in the pouring rain, holding signs until the polls closed that night.
Mr. Weiss is survived by his wife of 40 years, Eleanore (Wolf) Weiss, and by his children Dr. Jonathan Weiss, Rabbi Elisabeth Stern and her husband, Rabbi Keith Stern, Dr. Noah Weiss and his wife, Caryn Weiss, and Anne Weiss and her husband, Dr. David Cash; and stepchildren Wendy Berenson, Cathy Seligson, Patricia Berenson, and Dana Berenson, as well as 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Mr. Weiss was predeceased by his brother, Norman Weiss, and he is survived by his sister, Nancy Klein, as well as his first wife and lifetime friend, Marjory (Popky) Blacher.
Funeral services for Mr. Weiss were private due to the ongoing public-health crisis, but can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVXf7xBjzxE.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to American Jewish World Service, 10495 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025, www.ajws.org or Congregation Eitz Chayim, 136 Magazine St., Cambridge, MA 02139, www.eitz.org.