WEIDNER, PAULUS (c. 1525–1585), physician and rector of Vienna University. Born in Udine, Italy, as Asher Judah b. Nathan Ashkenazi (the physician and diplomat Solomon *Ashkenazi was his brother), he studied medicine at Padua and was invited by the estates of Carinthia to practice there, in a province where Jews were not allowed to reside. After a period of spiritual struggle he embraced Christianity in Vienna in 1558. His first book, Loca praecipua fidei christianae (1559), was an attempt to persuade the Jews of the truth of Christianity; the work showed his mastery of Hebrew and Christian sources. Weidner enjoyed the substantial patronage of the Austrian emperors, whom he served as physician. On March 13, 1560, *Ferdinand I, after repeatedly postponing the expulsion of Bohemian Jewry, ordered all its Hebrew books to be brought to Vienna; they were checked by Weidner, who found no fault in them and had them returned. A year later the Jews of Prague were forced to listen to a series of conversionary sermons preached by him. Weidner's last published work was Sententiae Hebraicae (1563), a collection of proverbs, mainly from Pirkei *Avot, in Hebrew, German, and Latin. After his conversion he was accepted by the University of Vienna, where he became dean of the faculty of medicine six times and thrice rector of the university. The title "von Billerburg" was granted him in 1582.
P.J. Diamant, Paulus Weidner von Billerburg 1525–1585 (1933; repr. from: Mitteilungen des Vereines fuer Geschichte der Stadt Wien, 13/14, 1933).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.