JJ Greenberg
In memory of JJ Greenberg


Jonathan Joseph "J.J." Greenberg

Jonathan Joseph "J.J." Greenberg

October 24, 2002

Jonathan Joseph "J.J." Greenberg, son of Rabbi Irving "Yitz" Greenberg and Author Blu Greenberg of Riverdale, N.Y. and Gloucester, died on Saturday, Sept. 14, in Jerusalem after his bicycle was struck by a truck.

"J.J." as he was known, was with his brother, David and a friend on their way to visit his sister, Goody, when he was hit by an unlicensed truck driver who ran a red light. He died the next day. He was 36. The funeral, held in Israel was attended by a thousand mourners.

"J.J." was the executive director of the New York-based Jewish Life Network since its inception in 1995, where he helped develop such landmark programs as birthright Israel, the Makor Center, the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, Synagogue Transformation and Renewal (STAR), and the Jewish Early Childhood Education Partnership. Colleagues praised Mr. Greenberg as much for his celestial soul as for his love of life.

His mother is the co-founder and first president of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance and the author of several books including, "On Judaism and Feminism," How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household" and "Black Bread." His father, an Orthodox rabbi, is the former chairman of the U.S.

Holocaust Memorial Council, which runs the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and the founding presidents emeritus of CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. He is currently president of the Jewish Life Network.

Rabbi Greenberg and his son, "could establish friendships with philanthropists and with every maintenance worker at Malcor. He was interested in people, he wanted to hear their stories." "And despite paying this ultimate cost," said Rabbi Greenberg, "every single day with "J.J." was an indescribable blessing."

"J.J.'s" shy humor led him to after-hour stints with the Schlock Rock Band of parodists, a rousing Elvis impersonation and presenting himself as the inventor of the "phoneless cord," or the "Sach-Watch," with his oldest niece's Sacha's face in lieu of the clock's...

In the spirit of generosity, five of Mr. Greenberg's organs were donated. The transplants included a Palestinian from Jerusalem who received one of his lungs and said, "I know I was born again...now I thank the Greenbergs for every breath I take." "J.J.'s" corneas were transplanted into an 18-year-old man.

Upon meeting the recipient, "J.J.'s" sister, Deborah told him that now he must look at the world through "J.J.'s" eyes -- and see the best in everyone and appreciate and take care of the earth. "The donation can't bring back our son and we can't get over what happened. We are a devastated family" Rabbi Greenberg was quoted as saying by the Maariv Daily. "But, on the other hand, there is a feeling of happiness, and we feel that Jonathan will continue to contribute to the lives of others."

"J.J." spent every summer in Gloucester since he was a young boy and visited at every opportunity during the year. He had a strong love for the ocean, for the sunsets over Ipswich Bay, swimming off the rocks in front of his family home in Lanesville and Good Harbor Beach. When in Gloucester, he could be found playing tennis, rollerblading, driving around Cape Ann in a vintage convertible or talking on the phone continuously from his elaborate headset. His deep friendships with people spanned generations and were ageless.

He loved children and the love was reciprocal. This summer for example, he played baseball with a young neighbor, read to a small friend, learned to ride a unicycle at the instigation of a 10-year-old boy and brought gifts to neighborhood children. For 27 years he wore a sweatband on his wrist that his mother purchased for each of her children at Tuck's in Rockport, successfully proving to his siblings that he could wear the sweatband longer than they would.

His time in Gloucester had a life long influence on him and he had a life long influence on the many strong friendships he made on Cape Ann.

"J.J's" warmth, vision, humor, smile and gentle but magnetic personality embraced all who met and knew him. He loved life and had a reverence for it. He will be profoundly missed. He would have been 37 on Oct. 24.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by his grandmother, Sylvia Genauer; his brother, Moshe and his wife, Abby, his brother David and his wife, Mindy; his sister, Deborah and her husband, Jonathan David, his sister, Goody and her husband, Eric Weil. He is also survived by his adored 14 nieces and nephews, Joseph, Elliot, Jacob, Emily, Eran, Yael, Noam, Ariel, Nathaniel, Sacha, Keren, Itai, Eran and Sarah Rose.

Local friends are gathering on Sunday, Oct. 27, at 1 p.m. on the rocks in front of the Greenberg's Lanesville home on Norseman Avenue to share their fond memories.

A web site devoted to "J.J.'s" life can be found at www.jjgreenberg.org.