Weinberg Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Weinberg Surname Meaning

When Jewish people were obligated to take surnames in the early 19th century, they often chose ornamental names.

The prefix Wein- meaning “wine” and the suffix -stein meaning “mountain,” were often used in these Jewish ornamental names. Sometimes Weinberg was not the actual surname back home and was simply chosen on arrival.

Weinberg Surname Resources on The Internet

Weinberg Surname Ancestry

  • from Jewish emigrants
  • to America and South Africa

Weinbergs emigrated to America from a number of countries, but in greatest numbers from Germany, Russia, and Poland.  These countries were the main countries of Jewish settlement and Yiddish culture in central and eastern Europe in the 19th century.

The Weinberg name became particularly prominent in Jewish circles in the areas known as Dolyna in Ukraine and Dolina in Galicia. The name was invariably Jewish in America but not necessarily.

America.  Benedict Weinberg came to Charleston, South Carolina from Westphalia in 1830 at the age of thirty.  “His reminiscences of his early life often afforded much entertainment.  In 1814 when but fourteen years of age, he joined the Prussian army and was at the Battle of Waterloo.  He would often relate details of that hard fought battle.  He was also a schoolmate of Emperor William I.”

He lived on in America to the age of ninety one.

East Coast.  The peak years for Weinberg immigration were from 1890 to 1910.  They came mainly to the cities of the East.  Among these Weinbergs were:

  • Sidney Weinberg who was born to a poor Jewish family in Brooklyn in 1891.  He started at the bottom at Goldman Sachs and rose to the top.  Two of his sons and one of his grandsons also held high positions at Goldman Sachs.
  • Louis and Henry Weinberg who came to Boston from Russia around the year 1892.  Their grandson Michael, who changed his name to Wynn in the 1940’s, ran a string of bingo parlors in East Coast cities; while his son Steve Wynn became a big hotel operator in Las Vegas.
  • Morris and Celia Weinberg who arrived from Russia in 1893 and settled in Chicago.
  • another Morris Weinberg, also from Russia, who came via Glasgow in 1906 and settled in Brooklyn.  He was by trade a shoemaker.
  • and Harry Weinberg who came from Hungary as a young boy with his family to Baltimore in 1912.  He was a canny investor during the Depression, buying up under-valued assets, and later set up with his wife the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

Two brothers – Louis and Jack Weinberg – started Oxxford Clothes in Chicago in 1916.  They made handmade suits for the discerning gentleman.  Jack’s son Judd joined the business in the 1940’s and then went on to market pinball machines around the world.

Elsewhere.  Weinbergs have been in Galveston, Texas since at least 1860.  Otto Weinberg and his family died in the Galveston flood of 1900.  In 1904 Fritz Weinberg bought the Rosehill farm near Houston.  It is now run by the sixth generation of Weinbergs.

Bernhard and Mollie Weinberg came to the small town of Whitewater, Wisconsin from Ukraine in the early 1900’s.  They started a scrap yard there on land by Cravath lake.  The family retained the land until the 1970’s when it was converted into the town’s Lakefront Park.

South Africa.  Eli Weinberg had come to South Africa from Latvia in 1929.  He and his wife Violet and daughter Sheila were activists during the anti-apartheid years.  They were arrested, interrogated, and often imprisoned in the 1960’s.  Fearing for their lives Eli and Violet later sought refuge in Tanzania.  Eli died there.  Violet was finally able to return to South Africa in 1990.   

Another Weinberg from Latvia became one of South Africa’s top insurance salesmen in the years prior to World War Two.  Son Mark Weinberg made his fortune in life insurance in England.

Weinberg Surname Miscellany

Weinberg as an Ornamental Name.  Weinberg contains two elements, the prefix Wein- meaning “wine” and the suffix -stein meaning “mountain,” used frequently in the ornamental names that Jewish people created when they were required to produce a surname.   Sometimes these names were chosen at Ellis Island or at another entry point to the United States on arrival.

Wein- -berg
Weinberg (wine mountain) Goldberg (gold mountain)
Weinstein (wine stone) Greenberg (green mountain)
Weintraub (wine grape) Rosenberg (rose mountain)
Weinberg (wine mountain)

Weinberg Origins.  Weinbergs immigrated to America from a number of countries.  The table below shows the numbers counted and from whence they came.

Country Numbers Percent
Germany   202    50
Russia   121    30
Poland    32     9
Elsewhere    45    11

Jack Weinberg in Chicago.  Judd Weinberg told of his father Jack’s boyhood in Chicago:

“His own father had died when he was six months old.  Jack’s mother Jennie became a peddler who carried her wares in a pack on her back. They lived in one room and Jennie stoked the fire every morning so their clothes would thaw out.”

Jack was able to attend the Jewish Training School on Chicago’s West Side, a school founded by earlier descendants of immigrants. With the skills obtained there and in subsequent jobs, Jack and his brother Louis founded Oxxford Clothes in 1916.

Sidney Weinberg at Goldman Sachs.  Sidney Weinberg was born in 1891, one of eleven children of Pincus Weinberg, a struggling Polish-born liquor wholesaler and bootlegger in Brooklyn.  He was short, a “Kewpie doll,” as the New Yorker writer E. J. Kahn described him, “in constant danger of being swallowed whole by executive-size chairs.”  He pronounced his name “Wine-boig.”  He left school at fifteen. 

He had scars on his back from knife fights in his preteen days when he was selling evening newspapers on the street.  At sixteen, he made a visit to Wall Street, keeping an eye out for a “nice-looking, tall building,” as he later recalled.  He picked 43 Exchange Place where he started at the top floor and worked his way down, asking at every office:“ Want a boy?” 

By the end of the day, he had reached the third-floor offices of a small brokerage house.  There were no openings.  He returned to the brokerage house the next morning.  He lied that he was told to come back and bluffed himself into a job assisting the janitor for three dollars a week.  That small brokerage house was Goldman Sachs.

The grandson of the firm’s founder, Paul Sachs, liked him and installed him in the mailroom. which Weinberg reorganized.  After that his promotion within the firm was inexorable.  He became a partner in 1927 and head of the company in 1930, saving it from bankruptcy, and held that position until his death in 1969.

Harry Weinberg’s Rise.  Harry Weinberg’s father Joseph had come to Baltimore and sent for his family to join him there in 1912.  One of Harry’s earliest ventures was selling souvenirs for celebrations at the end of World War One.  Growing up in a poor section of Baltimore, he had dropped out of school in the sixth grade to help in his father’s auto repair shop.

He sold newspapers on the street and during the Depression bought up dilapidated properties in Baltimore.  He then renovated and sold them on.  With the profits he bought bus companies in Baltimore, New York, and Hawaii.  By the time of his death in 1990, this tempestuous, highly opinionated immigrant had become Hawaii’s biggest landowner and left $900 million in a charitable trust, one of the largest in the United States.

Weinberg’s Rosehill Farm in Texas.  The Weinberg family has owned the land since 1904 and has been farming the same land since 1882 when Friedrich and Louise Treseler moved to Rosehill from Galveston.  Their son Fritz bought the farm in 1904.

Friz’s grandson Marvin Weinberg began running the farm in 1946 and he and his wife Margaret still own the farm today.  The farm is now run by their son, Marvin “Bud” Weinberg.  It is especially known for its tomatoes.  At the beginning of the summer they will pick 1,000 pounds of tomatoes every day.  They also grow and sell potatoes, squash, cucumbers, eggplants, cantaloupes and watermelons.  The produce is sold in their own market, in a large farmer’s market in Houston, and to local restaurants.

Katie Weinberg, a senior at the Texas A&M University, represents the family’s sixth generation of local farmers.

Reader Feedback – Weinbergs in Wisconsin.  I am the grandchild of Bernard and Mollie Weinberg. They came separately from Russia near Kiev and left behind two brothers.  We do not know if they survived the Holocaust and no contact has been made about them.

I am in possession of their immigration papers and several other legal documents. How did you find my grandparents? I have been tracing family genealogy for years.

Bernis Kretchmar (bernis@aol.com).

Mark Weinberg’s Journey from South Africa to England.  Mark Weinberg’s childhood was blighted by the death of his Latvian-born father, an insurance salesman in Johannesburg, when he was two.

Initially Mark showed no desire to follow his father and he read law at Witwatersrand University – being part of a close, liberal group there that included Joel Joffe, Nelson Mandela’s barrister.  But it was the time of Sharpeville and not a good time to be practicing law in South Africa.  He like a number of his contemporaries decided to leave.

In London Mark remembered his insurance roots and started Abbey Life insurance in 1961 on a tiny budget with three of his South African lawyer friends.  He then built up two more insurance companies, Hambro Life and Allied Dunbar, and became closely identified with the brash new hard-sell and aggressive marketing techniques that grew his companies and made him wealthy.

Weinberg Names

  • Noah Weinberg who died in 2009 was a Jewish rabbi and father of today’s baal teshuva movement.
  • Sidney Weinberg was the long-time leader of Goldman Sachs, nicknamed “Mr. Wall Street” by the New York Times.
  • Mark Weinberg from South Africa has been a leader in the life insurance industry in England.
  • Max Weinberg is an American drummer and band leader who has played with Bruce Springsteen and on the Tonight TV show.

Weinberg Numbers Today

  • 300 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 5,000 in America (most numerous in New York)

Weinberg and Like Jewish Surnames

The Jews were banned from England in 1290 and did not return there until the 1650’s, sometimes in the form of Portuguese traders.  They were to make their mark as merchants and financers in London and many families prospered.  There was another larger Jewish influx in the late 1800’s.

In America the early settlement of Sephardic Jews was in Charleston, South Carolina.  In the 19th century Ashkenazi Jews started to arrive from Germany.  Later came a larger immigration from a wider Jewish diaspora.  Between 1880 and 1910 it is estimated that around two million Yiddish-speaking Jews, escaping discrimination and pogroms, arrived from the Russian empire and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Some Jewish surnames reflect ancient Biblical names, such as Cohen and Levy.  Some have come from early place-names where Jews resided, such as Dreyfus (from Trier), Halpern (from Heilbronn) and Shapiro (from Speyer).  Many more surnames came about when Ashkenazi Jews were compelled by Governments to adopt them in the early 1800’s.  The names chosen at that time were often ornamental ones – Bernstein or Goldberg or Rosenthal for example.  Then the name could change on arrival in America at Ellis Island.  And finally anti-Semitism perceived could cause further changes to conceal Jewishness.

Here are the stories of some of the Jewish surnames that you can check out here.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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