This is an archive of the "memories" page spanning the dates:
October 27, 2002 - November 30, 2002
To return to the most current memories page please click on the memories button at the left.
November 30, 2002
Well lets see its now almost 3 months since ....
At first it was a constant thought in my mind .. and now as life goes on .. sometimes exactly that happens .. life goes on. A few day will go without me thinking about the tragedy. I assume to some besides the family this may be true ... yes the hurt is there but life goes on.
I was one of the very prolific posters in the early days .. getting most of my thoughts out quickly .. and now I just check in on the site every once in a while. I actually had expected the posts to trickle/stop but they continue .. a real tribute to J
Forgive me if this posting is more about me than JJ. But I think many of us are re-examining our lives in the wake of this event
I divide the loss of JJ into several categories .. The 3 main ones are...
Wanted to just share some of my thoughts/life changes since we lost JJ.
I just came back from a trip to the US for the first time in a few years. Originally we had decided that we were not going to "waste" our time in the US going from friend to friend just to sit and hang out, we wanted to have a more tangible experience. After JJ's death our attitude changed on this is seeing friends became so important to us. I realize now how precious they are and how friendship needs to be appreciated. A big part of our trip was to Baltimore where many people remember JJ and I as a team , it was hard/comforting seeing our former NCSYers/fellow advisors in the shadow. But I enjoyed spending time with them a bit more.
I find myself being much more philosophical about life these days especially about what I am accomplishing in my life. In the old days I used to make fun of the professional Shabbaton people (Lenny/JJ etc) who lived the Kiruv life while I joined them for a lot of those activities but also lived in the "Real world". A little burn-out and lot of cynicism, a family an Aliya dream etc. The Kiruv/Tikun Olam portion of my life either disappeared, or to be kinder went more to the micro (trying to make it here in Israel, dealing with family etc.).
Maybe it was JJ's death, maybe the high tech bust where now I am both
not doing enough to Klal Yisrael and not making ends meet here, probably
a little of both. But there is a strong voice telling me I need to be
working for Klal Yisrael. JJ and I had that same need/mission. As I look
back on it, he pretty much sacrificed his life (in terms of family, and
his own wants and needs not Chas Veshalom the accident) or better,
dedicated his life to it. I took the road more traveled. I wonder if the
If this was fiction, I would say I have quit my job and started doing Kiruv full time again. Well that is not true. I still have many obligations and obstacles, and I can't even swear I will ever return to what is my shared calling with JJ. But JJ's death woke me up to the Emet of what I can and should be doing. (of course B"H I have some other obligations family living in Israel etc. that pose significant challenges to this).
Lastly I wanted to share a very small way I changed my life in the wake of JJ's death, and it comes from something his father said in the hesped. He spoke about how saddened the cafeteria workers were to hear of his death because JJ always took time to speak to everyone. I lack the magic personality JJ had in being able to talk to everyone and really care. I am also so much more cynical/snobbish/arrogant that he never was .. but since I heard that I have made an effort to chat with the security guards who are posted around our office building. I notice how people (like I always did) look through these people as they are just part of the scenery. B'zchut JJ I have made this small change in my life.
Wishing everyone a Happy Chanukah,
"you think that's a menorah? This is a menorah!!" - JJ Greenberg .... M M M My Menorah ...
November 29, 2002
I was probably the least significan person in JJ's life, especially since my memories of JJ were during High School years. However, he was a very significant part of my life as well as so many others during that era. He was my first male best friend. Yes, all the girls loved him and after reading some of the writings honoring JJ, I realize I was not the only person he made feel special and unique. It was a special gift we all will miss. The first kippas (many many) and sweaters I made were for him...
I remember what a great hockey player he was and how he was so into sports.
I remember speaking to him till 3 am so many days when I needed a friend
to help lighten things up for me.. i remember hearing from the girls at
school how he had gotten angry and punched a hole in the wall of his school...I
remember people loving him and all claiming to be his best friend... I
remember he used to have a shake in his leg and always wore a red wrist
band..I remember how devoted he was to his mother and how proud he was
of his father...I remember his laugh and always loved his voice.. I remember
his braces....I remember his best friend ever, Richie Heisler, who truly
was his best friend...I remember his birthday was on October 31st...
November 12, 2002
I was overwhelmed by JJ's goodness. I know that must sound odd, but I had never met someone so pious until our paths crossed…and on the day it happened, I knew my life would be forever changed. We met on an El Al flight on my way home from Israel. We had both been on Birthright Israel - he as an observer, me as a participant. He wanted to know all about my trip and I'm sure he got more than he bargained for. I was so at ease in his presence that I didn't hesitate to let him read every word in my journal from the trip. In the baggage claim he found me and gave me an apple. He told me that I should eat it, that he hoped that I kept good health. The gesture was so corny yet so rich. I dislike apples, but I ate it anyway.
Since that day, I have written the equivalent of a short novel's length about JJ in my journals. For some reason, our interactions always led me to write. JJ is, by far, the most reoccurring character in my life's story. I never realize exactly how detailed my accounts of our conversations and adventures were until I read through them, uninterrupted, a few days after his passing. I am grateful that I was driven to record my experiences with him, and that he will be forever present in the books of my life.
JJ called me a few minutes before he boarded the plane to go to Israel in September. I didn't have time to talk, so he said he'd give me a call when he got back. I've read through all the memories posted to this site. Many people call attention to JJ's incredible gift for making time for everyone. Talk about having your priorities straight! JJ taught me that life is only as rich as the friendships you keep. JJ had so many. I wish I hadn't been so caught up in that moment when he called. I know if it had been me calling J, he would have made the time.
I don't know about you, but finding the right words to submit to this website has been one of the most difficult things I've ever done. Reading all of the eloquent, beautifully articulated accounts of your relationships with JJ has been calming and unnerving simultaneously. I'm having so much trouble summing up the value of JJ's input in my world. Rather than pick a few meaningful moments, I want to, instead, post a poem I wrote for JJ on September 10, 2002. I was looking back on fall of 2001, how fresh our friendship was and the pride I felt when I learned of JJ's participation in the efforts to pull New York City out of the rubble that was left after the WTC attack. This poem reflects the state of our friendship a year later, but carries an eerie resonance when put into the context of today. I planned to send it to him while he was away. Perhaps this website is now the most appropriate place for it to make a home.
I stepped out from your door and walked into this world-
We were spread out so thin,
And then we kept walking, I stepped apart from this cluttered scene,
Did you know that you'd find us here?
November 7, 2002
To the relatives and friends of JJ,
JJ was a dear friend to me since we were eight years old. Our parents were close friends. Our families used to meet at their home in Riverdale on several holidays (at the time, we lived in Toronto). We spent many times together. Although I had not seen JJ for so many years, I’ll always have fond memories of him and his family.
More than anything else, JJ’s friendship was one that I should have nurtured despite the distance between us. When I read through this website dedicated to JJ’s memory, I could easily recognise JJ. To me, he had the unusual trait of being extremely popular while remaining modest and sensitive to the feelings of others. His genuine kindness and sensitivity towards others were unusually developed even when were children. the following two stories are completely in line with what I have been reading on this website.
One Shabbat, when I was about fourteen, and a guest at the Greenberg home, a messenger came over with the sad news that the Rabbi of their Shul had passed away. Not knowing who the visitor was (he was approximately our age), and not hearing the actual news, I continued to behave in a light manner, which was obviously inappropriate. As oblivious as I was to the change in atmosphere, JJ was not. As soon as we were alone, JJ simply told me matter-of-factly that the visitor was the Rabbi’s grandson who had come to inform them that the Rabbi had passed away. My subsequent embarrassment over my shameful behavior was relieved by JJ’s delicate manner in making me aware of my poor judgement. How did he know – at age fourteen – to correct me in such a graceful manner? I know adults who have not learned this skill.
Another time, when we were about twelve, JJ, after being asked what he would like in return for the Afikoman, responded that he wanted everyone to have a happy Pessach. I was so impressed by his decency that I said to myself, "If JJ can do it so can I." I have been to many Seders since then, but have never come across such selfless behavior in a child. Where did he learn how to be so sweet? He must have had a great family.
JJ’s ability to set an example for others to follow – without a trace of superiority, to "walk with kings [yet not] lose the common touch," is the rare mark of a true leader. Since learning that JJ grew up to be great person that I knew as a child, I have found myself asking, "What would JJ do in this situation." Perhaps that is because I have only now begun to realize that the best way to live a rewarding life is by emulating moral giants like JJ.
Needless to say, these are only two stories of many that have meant so much to me.
May his soul be bound with eternal life.
November 7, 2002
he always came back to gloucester.
to all the good friends and relatives of jj I send you greetings and
gloucester, stalwart and serene blessed with beauty but tinged with despair having sent 10,000 sons to the great salt sea, and their fates. we know sadness here, it's etched a smooth deep groove in the harbor's granite arms and now again between the vast ocean and overburdened sky - tears fall. one drop of sea water is the whole of it, the whole of it one drop.
I never saw jj outside of gloucester. never knew his dealings in the wider world never saw him with a tie or in a formal setting. what i know of him are hot summer days and cool summer evenings. me back from a fishing trip of many days him in a crisp white shirt on a friday evening.
If the world were populated by people like our friend what possibilities it would hold. folks would take the time to get to know you, people would hold to their strong beliefs yet never press them on you, friends would love your children as they loved their own and respect would rule all of the days we are heir to.
the Greenbergs have walked with giants and are themselves of such mettle but here where the land stops and the water rises up - you must understand, they were simply the people down the street. in the 70's as i'm remembering him now jj was friendly, a nod, a wave, a smile, a few kind words. but as years passed the words grew longer, the nods more knowing, the smile broader, and a funny thing happened we became friends. not buddies, not pals but simply people who looked forward to seeing one another for a few short weeks when the earth returned to a former position around the good sun.
no there's not enough jewish fishermen in gloucester to make a minion but that's okay because on friday nights the Greenbergs would take in reluctants and backsliders to join in welcoming saturday. there jj would be bathed in the fading summer light and in his family's love. each child got a kiss and a whisper. we learned many things that were never taught only shown. how remarkable - saturday liberating? the Greenbergs made it so. but jj - jj knew where all the lines were the ones that marked the boundaries of faith and observance and he could rollerblade to the very edge stop on dime and make you smile as he came to rest well within the letter and the spirit.
jj was a hugger, i am not, but with jj you hugged. jj was a devout person i am not but with jj you felt cleansed of spirit, jj was genuine and without pretense, with jj you aspired. they say that children make you better than you really are, that is, they bring out the better nature of you and jj had that ability, that quality, to bring out people's better nature. he was the master of the human touch and how many he did touch even with his final breaths we will never know.
we told our 5 year old about him the other day. we were trying to protect our boy. let him be a kid a little longer. he loved jj big time and now he knows the rest as well. and so we brought him to a small gathering in gloucester down where the tide rises up to a granite bluff. it was a sunny windy day an open reach to the north and Maine beyond with the surf fetching up nearby. we stood and talked about our friend planted a weeping cherry tree in a neighbor's yard ate some food and went home. still he remains foremost in our daily thoughts.
the last time i saw him he gave me and my boy a lift back home - we'd come by bus to visit with him. he beeped the horn as we passed the little hospital where his brother was born. he was like that.
i gave him a book which he returned by mail before going overseas. he said he looked forward to seeing us soon.
he always came back to gloucester.
November 7, 2002
To JJ's friends and family:
I only knew JJ only for a very short while. He was my instructor at Makor. When I decided to take the JUST DO IT class I was nervous about it...I hadn't taken any sort of class since college, never spoke Hebrew and I was unsure of what to expect. Once I arrived at Makor, made it up to the 3rd floor, saw JJ, I was immediately relieved.
The first thing JJ did was take pictures of all of us. He said that it helped him keep everyone's name straight. For our convenience he wore a nifty name tag. (Little did I know this was his trademark!) Throughout the duration of the class he was encouraging, patient, funny, and especially quirky. I loved his mess of papers that he carried around, the little snippets of information from his past (how he learned Russian) and the roller-skating stories! I remember speaking to him after class one time and I honestly cannot remember what we were taking about. I can only remember how he looked at me when I spoke. I felt as though I was the only person in the world for that moment.
He was a unique soul and I sincerely regret that I will not have the chance to get to know him better.
November 3, 2002
Dear Rabbi Greenberg, Blu, Moshe, David, Deborah & Goody,
So many of the postings on this site speak to me: as someone who first looked up to JJ, zichrono l'bracha, from the vantage point of a youngster roaming the halls of the RJC; what it meant to be enveloped by the warmth and friendship of the Greenberg family; the genuine joy and closeness one felt as an old "friend of JJ" whenever bumping into him - at the Israel Day Parade, walking the streets of Jerusalem, when visiting our respective families in Riverdale for the hagim, and so many other times.
At the shiva in Jerusalem I mentioned a story to Rabbi Greenberg, who asked me to write it down as a memory for the family. Here goes:
The background is that the Ferzigers sat one row in front of the Greenbergs for many, many years of yamim noraim tefilot at the Hashkama Minyan in the RJC. The Greenbergs were, of course, our minyan's kohanim and we always always wished the family well upon their ascent and thanked them with a "yasher koach Kohen" upon their return. JJ and I seemed to develop a routine whereby, as he passed by on the way up to duchen, I would whisper "Hey, JJ, have us in mind. The Ferzigers - 4515 Greystone." He would smile and nod. On the way back JJ would make sure to tell me, "Had you in mind - Ferziger Family - all 7 of you - 4515 Greystone. You're covered. Don't worry." Year after year, this was our inside joke.
Last year I saw JJ in Bet Shemesh after his performance with Lenny and Shlock Rock at the annual Sukkot concert. We had not seen each other for a couple of years - but he was as warm and friendly as ever. He asked all about my children and how we were handling aliya. Then he said "y'know Ari, after all these years, I can't get up to duchen without thinking 'Ferzigers - 4515 Greystone'."
Thanks for having us in mind JJ. All of us in Klal Yisrael. May you be a melitz yosher.
With sadness, love and in friendship,
November 1, 2002
JJ taught me Hebrew last year at the Makor Center. I was very nervous about trying to learn a new language, but JJ made this challenge remarkably enjoyable. His enthsiasm, patience and exuberent manner put the fears of my classmates and me to rest. I have so often thought and spoken of the way in which he concluded our class with such thoughtfulness and fun. Now I wish I had emailed him the letter that I had drafted to him in my mind on the subway, to thank him for the gift of his energy, to tell him that I will always remember that class, and most certainly will associate serveral hebrew letters with his jokes.
JJ created a graduation ceremony at the conclusion of our class which says so much about the kind of person he was - funny, generous, eager to laugh and to make people laugh. He told us we could bring significant others, so I brought my partner who grew up in Jerusalem, the reason I wanted to learn Hebrew. She was particularly eager to meet my teacher about whom I spoke so often, and whom she thanked for my desire to practice and do my homework several times over. We both marvelled at the HILARIOUS speech he brought to us from George Bush, the tiny tape recorder that blasted the Israeli Philharmonic and the Aleph Bet Gimmel of Michael Jackson. JJ brought a camera and he then sent us all encouraging cards with the photos of us receiving our certificates from him - all this for a 6 weeks crash course!
I have just lost someone in my family and am feeling my way through the incredibly complex maze of grief. It is unpredictable and sometimes so lonely because the path you tread is through your own memories. I feel very much for the family and friends of JJ. The cathartic comings-together are also so important. Thank you to those who provided this wonderful website to honour a very special person that I really didn't know very well at all, but who affected me nonetheless.
October 29, 2002
It is strange because I never once called JJ on the phone, nor did he
October 28, 2002
To JJ's family and friends,
October 27, 2002
This past Thursday, 24th October, was the first time in over 20 years
that I did not speak with JJ on his birthday. I find myself composing
messages to this site every day in my mind because there is so much to
say -- and because JJ is always in my thoughts. What is so special is
that my seven year old daughter, Tyler, mentions him to me almost every
day. My kids loved JJ and saw him every time we visited NY. For ten years
JJ has promised to visit us for a Shabbat in London and this past June
surprised us by picking a weekend to come. He had to negotiate with my
mom over the dates and really made a special effort to get on a plane
for two days just to be with us for Shabbat. It was a great visit and
I am so grateful that we had that special time with him alone.
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