This is an archive of the "memories" page spanning the dates:

March 1, 2003 - June 11, 2003

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June 11, 2003

I have been wanting to write for many months, but have hesitated until now, largely because this will likely be a very unusual post. You see, I never knew J.J. Greenberg, never even met him once or spoke to him. It was after his untimely and tragic death that he influenced me.

I have been a fan of Blu Greenberg for a long time and have read her books How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household and On Women and Judaism. Like many people, I got a kick out of her anecdotes about J.J. in the former book, as well as a general feeling of warmth and affection for her other children and family. I felt such a connection with them, as one often does with really good writing, that I felt sad and pained when I read about J.J.'s death.

Since that time, I have looked at the website regularly, and have read all the posts, as well as the moving and eloquent eulogies, and I have also looked at all of the links. It has almost made me feel like I knew J.J. to read all about him and his passions, quirks, and ways. And he has helped me, even though no longer on this earth.

His love of Israel and the way people described it convinced me to take a trip to Israel for the first time, which I have wanted to do for years, and I have booked it for this summer. I am really looking forward to it.

J.J.'s "friendly but relentless" commitment to recycling touched me deeply. Though I have been environmentally concerned and aware for years, I began taking more actions in this area. I make sure to take paper that has some writing on it and use it for scrap paper; am certain to bind newspapers with twine so that they get properly recycled where I live; and always take the caps off bottles before recycling them. These are minor things done one by one, but major things when they add up.

I joined the Halachic Organ Donor Society and notified relatives that I had done so. Had it not been for a link on your website, I would not have even heard of that.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I have consciously combined fun and zest with halacha, as J.J. was so well known for doing. I am not "frum", not even Modern Orthodox, but I have become increasingly more observant, and have studied a great deal in the past year and a half, and continue to do so. His passion for fun and Judaism was palpable and contagious, and again, I never even had the pleasure of meeting him or talking to him -- this was all through people who shared on the website, and from links.

I thought that it would bring some more joy and meaning to the hearts of J.J.'s wonderful family to know that he truly has had a positive impact and influence on people now, even from beyond this earth. I wish his family continued healing.

Best,

Ellen Rosenfeld

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June 5, 2003

I was first introduced to J.J. at one of the many "Let My People Go" rallies back in 1985. I was a JPSY kid marching with the many hundreds of students rallying for the freedom of the Russian Refusniks. The minute I met J.J. I was hooked on all things Jewish! He was cool, because he was different; like a beautiful bird that you can only catch a glimpse of before it flies away. He set the trends and how we tried to immitate him: the long trench coat, the sweat pants/sneakers, the polo shirts (layered), the headband (we used to gang up on him (lovingly) and try to remove it, but to no avail he defended his headband like a secret treasure), and he was always ahead of the pack. Whether it was a JPSY shabbaton, an event like "Beatles Laser Rock" (he sang along in the sweetest voice -- I had a mad crush on him -- like all the other girls), or just hanging out in J2 after the Israeli Day Parade, where he famously rollerbladed backwards, J.J. was always interested in how I was doing (as if I was the only one that mattered), and concerned about my progress in school. It was always the best feeling to see J.J. by an event, because we knew we were going to have real "ruach" and "simcha" -- because that's what J.J. brought with him and shared it with everyone. His happiness and excitement was contagious, and yet he was serious about making us appreciate a real "frum" environment. During a summer with JPSY in Eretz Yisroel (Michelle & Michael & suprise guests), I decided along with my JPSY mentors that it was time for me to switch into Yeshiva when I came back to New York. J.J. was thrilled, supportive and encouraging. When I wanted to go on a special tour of the concentartion camps along with a select group of students, I knew I could not afford the trip. I called J.J. and told him how much this tour meant to me, and the financial dilemma I faced. He told me, "I will take care of the money for this trip, but promise me that you will tell everyone that you meet about all that you saw. We can never forget." I kept my promise! J.J. always called to check-up on me and I called him often to see how he was doing, but somehow 16 years have elpased, and yet I feel like I just lost my best friend. I know he was niftar in September, but I just found out listening to Zev Brenner Saturday night that at the Salute to Israel Parade there will be Rollerbladers skating in the memory of J.J. Greenberg........I immediately shreiked in horror and cried and cried and cried..................I loved him truly for he had a real neshama of gold, always making us losers feel good, giving us strength to carry on, grow up and become something he would be proud of. I adored his company, his delicious smile, and sea-foam eyes. His warmth carressed me for days after seeing him. He gave without asking for anything in return except to "thine ownself be true". I learned what integrity and honesty really is, what "You can count on me" really means, and how to live as a proud Jew. He taught me that being Jewish and being normal is synonomous! I will miss him, and I have a hole in my heart that can't be patched because a little piece of me has departed from this world, just like the way a beautiful birds just flies away never to return.

I love you J.J. Greenberg

Atara Schachter with five kids + 1 husband, 16 years later
a/k/a Lisa Rothkoff (the Co-Op City JPSY)

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March 17, 2003

Norah Jones' arrival as a new star in the firmament of pop music blazed forth for all to see on Monday night, February 24, 2003. (See attached story). For JJ Greenberg friends, there is a human interest story behind the news.

MAKOR played a crucial role in catapulting Norah Jones' career. MAKOR is the cutting edge music performance space designed to reach out to Jews in their 20's and 30's. It was conceived of and created by Michael Steinhardt, David Gedzelman and JJ Greenberg. As executive director of the Jewish Life Network, JJ played a major role in developing the program.

At MAKOR, Norah Jones developed her act, honed her style and learned to interact with the public. Norah was reunited with her father, Ravi Shankar, for the first time after a long period of neglect and alienation when he came to see her perform at MAKOR.

One of JJ's key roles in MAKOR was to scout new acts and help decide which performers should be promoted as important new rising talents that would attract the Jewish crowd MAKOR sought to reach. JJ loved contemporary music. In fact, when he was in his teens and early twenties, he toyed with the idea of trying to become a producer of music records and concerts. Even after he set aside that idea, he kept up with everything new in the music world.

JJ caught Norah Jones' act early and immediately recognized her unusual talent and promise. He encouraged her as he enthusiastically recruited the leadership of MAKOR to feature her. JJ invited many individuals to hear and appreciate her very special program and style. MAKOR eventually signed her to a regular Wednesday night gig. After JJ's death, we found among his memorabilia, a photograph of Norah autographed and signed by her "To JJ, my first fan."

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March 16, 2003

JJ bought a pretty nice road bike back in 2002. I remember that he had received it on the day that I arrived in New York for a visit. It was the object of my affection and I had the best time admiring each and every piece of it. As a road cyclist/racer on a tight budget, I couldn't help but be a little envious of his brand new components and frame. He was so excited to own the bike. And I find it totally ironic, at times, that his tragic death happened while he was on a bicycle. I ride my bike every single morning, religiously. I put myself at risk in traffic on a daily basis...but I guess all it takes is one awful stroke of luck...

I took nearly most of September and half of October off of cycling, as I couldn't ride without getting physically ill from the grief. But since then, I've gotten back in the saddle and have gingerly jumped into the racing season out here on the West coast. It's been a tough season so far, full of grueling paces and a few minor crashes. But today, tragedy struck again.

On the 6 month (American calendar) anniversary of JJ's death, I have lost yet another friend in a car on bike collision. His name was Garret and he was killed today in a race. He was 22 years old. As I sat on the mountain with my two teammates, waiting for the Sherrif to give us word on whether we could sit with his body, all I could do was pray that JJ was there to welcome Garret into the place where those who die too young and with too much life to live go...

Over time, we have become a community of friends, family, and "acquaintances" who have been deeply affected by JJ. Because the wounds left from JJ's death are hardly near healed, this reinjury is that much more sombering and intense. I didn't know who else to share this with beside you. Most of us drive cars - let's continue to be very aware of those on the road who are on two wheels and are so vulnerable.

Rachael Petru

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March 7, 2003

I believe that by the true meaning of the word, JJ and I would have been considered "acquaintances." However, I truly believe that JJ did not understand the definition of that word for it seemed to me that everyone he came to know was embraced by him as "friend."

I was fortunate enough to meet JJ as a member of one of the first softball teams run by Makor (back then the Partnership for Jewish Life). I joined the team on my own, hoping to make some friends along the way. I must admit - we were a motley crew and we lacked athleticism! But all the while we tried our best to compete against corporate teams who took the games very seriously. That being said, we took a whipping quite often. But what I found most interesting was when I watched all of my teammates and saw how each one handled the losses. Some got angry, some got upset. Some just wanted to give up (and go grab a beer!).

And then there was JJ. To call him an inspiration is an understatement. Clearly not the most athletic of the bunch, JJ gave his all on the field. But more importantly, he slowly wove himself into the different personalities on the team and became the "glue." When we were losing, JJ helped cool the heated and console the defeated and distressed. And he did it all with his special smile and his carefully chosen words.

Honestly, I found it all quite amazing. So much so that he left an impression on me that lasted well beyond that summer. And when I heard of his passing I was not at all shocked at how much it affected me. I only knew JJ for a short time, but that's all it took for me to be inspired by his kindness and compassion and his desire to give.

To quote a famous New York Yankee:

"You give 100 percent in the first half of the game, and if that isn't enough in the second half you give what's left." - Yogi Berra

JJ gave 100% - all of the time. For that and a thousand other reasons, we'll miss him.

Scott Heifetz

 
 

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