JJ Greenberg
In memory of JJ Greenberg


A Lifesaver In Death

A Lifesaver in Death

October 21, 2002

A young Jewish philanthropist from Manhattan, killed in a traffic accident last month in Israel, lives on in the bodies of five people, including an Arab, who received his transplanted organs.

"Acts of generosity were part of his life," said Blu Greenberg of her son, J.J. Greenberg, 36.

"That's how he lived, and knowing his commitment to extending life is part of the comfort we take."

Jonathan "J.J." Greenberg, executive director of the Jewish Life Network, went to Israel Sept. 12.

The next morning, a Friday, he and his older brother, David, and a friend were bicycling to see his sister, Judith Goody, in northern Israel when J.J. was struck by a car near the town of Zichron Ya'akov.

J.J. was evacuated by helicopter to Tel Aviv's Ichilon Medical Center, but it was too late.

"The doctors said he was clinically dead," David Greenberg recalled.

Blu Greenberg, an Orthodox feminist, and her husband, Rabbi Irving Greenberg, former chairman of the council that governs the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, "knew that Jewish law permitted" organ donations.

"And we knew instantly this is what J.J. would want," she said.

His lung, two kidneys, his liver and a cornea were quickly transplanted in five patients, including Abed El-Salam Kaluti, a 51-year-old Palestinian from Jerusalem.

What would J.J. have thought about giving his liver to an Arab?

"He would only have been proud that in the Jewish state, you save lives without any political considerations," David Greenberg said.

Blu Greenberg keeps in contact with the recipients.

"They're all doing amazingly well," she said.

That may be due to J.J.'s good health.

He swam, played tennis and basketball, and skated in Central Park, not far from his West Side home.

His sister recalled how on Sept. 11, 2001, "when people were running from Ground Zero, he took his roller skates and immediately went downtown to help out in the rescue. He was extraordinarily generous."