Gabriel (“Gabi”) Weinreich passed away peacefully from natural causes on February 22, 2023 in Chelsea, Michigan at the age of 95. Born on February 12, 1928 into the vibrant, Yiddish-speaking culture of Vilna, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania), Gabi escaped with his mother Regina after the start of the Second World War. Forced to travel east, they crossed the Soviet Union, the Pacific Ocean, and the continental United States before being reunited in New York City with older brother Uriel and Gabi’s father, Yiddishist Max Weinreich. Gabi quickly learned English, and graduated from George Washington High School in Manhattan at age 16. Gabi enjoyed the family’s gift for language: in addition to being completely at home in English and Yiddish, as an adult he could converse in German, Russian, Polish, and French, and had reading knowledge of Hebrew, Latin, ancient Greek, Italian, and Aramaic.
After high school, Gabi studied physics at Columbia University, first as an undergraduate, then as a graduate student, obtaining his Ph.D. in 1953. He met his first wife Alisa (Lourie, d. 1970) in Los Angeles in 1948, and they wed in New York in 1951. After graduate school, Gabi worked at Bell Labs until 1960 when he joined the faculty in the Physics Department at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1971, he met and married his second wife, Gerane (Siemering, d. 2009), starting their blended family of five children.
Gabi enjoyed a lifelong passion for music. While still in high school, he studied composition with a former student of Rimsky-Korsakov. And for decades in Ann Arbor, Gabi hosted regular chamber music sessions, at which he loved to play the piano (he was largely self-taught) and the cello. He also enjoyed improvising at the piano, and accompanying himself on the songs of Tom Lehrer. Later in life, a brain operation left him partially paralyzed, after which he laboriously retaught himself the piano, and the music of Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, and especially J. S. Bach provided a comforting and healing focus for him in his final years.
In the mid 1970s, Gabi became interested in the physics of the piano and the violin, thus bringing together his passions for science and music. This work led to a long-term residency as a consultant at the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) in Paris, France and a visiting professorship at the University of Paris.
During this period, Gabi also began to study for the Episcopal priesthood, and was ordained in 1986. He served as Adjunct Minister for St. Clare’s Church in Ann Arbor from 1985 to 1990, and then as Rector at St. Stephen’s in Hamburg, Michigan from 1993 to 1996. Gabi was the author of several textbooks and a memoir, Confessions of a Jewish Priest (Pilgrim Press 2005), in which he explored the complexity of both his history and his faith. Gabi retired from the University of Michigan in 1995, and in 2005, Gabi and Gerane moved to Silver Maples in Chelsea, Michigan where they found a profoundly rewarding community that enriched them both until their deaths.
Gabi is survived by five children and stepchildren, Catherine Benamou, Marc Benamou (Raúl Ianes), Daniel Weinreich (Wendy Nelson), Rebecca Weinreich (Tara Rose Weinreich), and Natalie Benamou Scotti (Sergio Scotti); and by nine grandchildren, Thomas, Stephen, Shoshanah, and Ashira Weinreich, Thomas Wilson, Arianna and Valentina Scotti, and Aiyana and Emma Lao. He also cherished the more than 50 people he esteemed as “honorary children and grandchildren.” He will be dearly remembered by many as a pathbreaking physicist, an inspiring teacher and mentor, a talented amateur musician, a Yiddish speaker, a man of faith, and a loving husband, parent, uncle, grandparent, and friend.
The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Arbor Hospice, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, or Jewish Family Services. Funeral Services will take place at St. Clare’s Church in Ann Arbor on Saturday, April 1st at 2:30 p.m. Those unable to attend in person may find the Zoom link and service bulletin at www.saintclareschurch.org/worship the week prior to the service. There will also be a Memorial Celebration for sharing memories on Sunday, April 2nd at 1 p.m. in the Maples Room at Silver Maples retirement community in Chelsea. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information, including a Zoom link for those unable to attend. Finally, remembrances are being posted to a memorial website https://sites.google.com/view/celebrating-gabi/home.