Rabbi Moshe Weiss was a self-described “rabbipreneur” and inventor. He gained some fame when he appeared on the reality TV show “Shark Tank” in 2013, but his lasting impact was on Jewish education in the Twin Cities.
Weiss, who lived in St. Louis Park, died on Aug. 28 from heart complications. He was 41.
Weiss invented the SoundBender, a mechanical sound amplifier that clipped over the rear-mounted speaker of an iPad and directed the sound toward users instead of away from them.
Weiss had some initial sales success and had completed several rounds of crowdsourced Kickstarter fundraising. Then he took to the reality TV show to raise more money to expand the business.
His enthusiastic presentation drew the admiration of the “Shark Tank” panelists and ultimately a deal to exchange 40 percent of his company, Simply Amazinc LLC, to entrepreneur Daymond John for $54,000.
John, in a note of condolence posted on Facebook, called Weiss’ death “heartbreaking news.”
“He was a man that would bring energy and joy to any room he entered,” John wrote. “He would make you smile no matter what was going on in your life. Rabbi Moshe will truly be missed. RIP my friend.”
Weiss proved to be personable and entertaining and made other media appearances. In a brief follow-up, the program showed Weiss meeting with John in his New York offices describing next steps for the company.
Dan Mishek, a managing director and co-owner of the custom manufacturing company VistaTek in Stillwater, helped Weiss manufacture the SoundBender device. “He definitely inspired other inventors and put crowdfunding and entrepreneurship at the forefront in the Twin Cities,” Mishek said. “He was so energetic and outspoken about following your dreams and passions. He had such a contagious personality — that’s why people were drawn to him.”
Shaina Weiss, Moshe’s sister, said her brother wasn’t done with the SoundBender device. He had put it on the back burner to devote more time to his family and his passion for education. “He was a very devoted father, and a really great brother and awesome uncle,” said Weiss.
Weiss earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and teaching from Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad/West Coast Talmudical Seminary and earned his rabbinical ordination from the Rabbinical College of Montreal in Canada. In 2002, he earned a master’s degree in special education from the University of St. Thomas.
Weiss used his educational and entrepreneurial skills as a co-founder of Yeshiva High School of the Twin Cities in Cottage Grove, an Orthodox Jewish boarding school for boys. The school was aimed at students who may have been lost in the education shuffle at other schools and drew students from around the country.
The school opened in 2006 and grew quickly from 18 students to 40. Applications to the school exceeded available spots, but mortgage payments eventually proved too expensive despite fundraising efforts by Weiss and others. The school closed in 2011.
Weiss taught continuously at various Jewish schools in the Twin Cities, the last several years at the Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School. Helen Siegel, former principal at Heilicher, knew Weiss for the last 15 years and called him a consummate educator.
“He was so passionate about making a difference in the lives of kids,” Siegel said. “He worked with those kids who didn’t learn in conventional ways.”
Weiss is survived by his mother, who lives in California, three children, 10 brothers and four sisters.
Services have been held.