This is an archive of the "memories" page spanning the dates:
September 27, 2002 - October 5, 2002
To return to the most current memories page please click on the memories button at the left.
October 5, 2002
wrote this the day after Yom Kippur, with J.J. very much in my mind.
I would be happy to have it included on the website.
October 4, 2002
The obituaries have rightly stressed JJs incredible dedication to the world Jewish community. But in the conversations between those of us who grew up in Riverdale a few years behind him, there was another attribute that emerged universally from our shared memories. For the kids that we were, coming of age in the halls and on the grounds of the Riverdale Jewish Center, JJ was hands down the coolest guy we knew. We clamored around him when he showed up, pulling up the sleeve of his blazer to make sure his legendary sweatband was still in place, shaking his hand or giving him a high five, basically just interacting with him in any way we could. JJ was the best kind of cool; effortless and inclusive. It was a paradox, really, how someone could be so cool by radiating so much warmth. He always had a smile and a handshake for every one of us, and when he high-fived you and asked how you were doing, you felt elevated. Even the chip in his teeth was cool, an equilateral triangle punched into his two front teeth from a run-in with the corner of a table. We wanted to have teeth like that, we wanted to wear a sweatband forever. We wanted to be JJ. The children we were never could have articulated that it wasnt the sweatband, or the chipped teeth, or the athleticism, or the charisma, but the unique, modest and generous soul behind it all that drew us to him.
Our childhood heroes stay with us. And while JJ will be remembered for all of his contributions as an adult, theres a special place in which he will live on in the hearts and minds of the scores of us who were lucky enough to have been kids with him.
October 4, 2002
As everyone gathered in the Jewish Center this Simchat Torah JJ's presence was sorely missed. Where was that wide, warm and inviting smile? Where was the guy in the Russian coat? Where was that guy with the name tag? JJ has always been a presence on the Westside. He made everyone around him feel special and was always there giving his support and love. Through life, you are not always fortunate to meet a man such as JJ. I feel honored and privileged to have known JJ and although we did not spend a lot of time together, he has touched my life in a very meaningful way. JJ, the world has lost a tremendous asset. I will miss you!
October 4, 2002
I was teaching at Makor during the first weeks the place opened - which was a very exciting time. I had to rush to get there on time and when I arrived, slightly disheveled, JJ lead me up to the room for the class. I opened the door and there were only two people who showed up for the class, both who looked dissapointed. JJ quickly pulled me out in the hall and said "If I get five people will you teach the class?" I said 'sure', not knowing how he could bring in anyone else. Then JJ went downstairs and worked his magic -- he approached people reading magazines, drinking coffee, he gently asked them to just check it out for ten minutes - no obligation. Within a few minutes there were seven people in the room, and it was a very interesting cross-section of people and we had an engaging discussion on the varieties of Jewish affiliation. Even when it was all over, about an hour later, JJ came by to check in on me to see how it went.
JJ brought people together, and made folks like me feel valued. Zichrono l'vracha.
- Rabbi Daniel Brenner
This Story happened 14 years, to the day, before JJs death.
I was working at Bell Labs in NJ. JJ called me at about 1pm
JJ can be remembered for good for many things .. promptness was NOT one of them.
Several hours later .. no JJ. At about 8pm JJ shows up (remember, this is pre-cell phone days) I tell him he is crazy. The Concert Already Started I have no place to stay after the show ... I have trouble driving at night.
JJ says he'll drive me - I refuse... he insists .... We drive down to Philly.
We get there at about 10pm (the concert had already started but it was a festival show with several acts and Bruce was last.) JJ drives as close as they let us and says .. I'll meet you at this corner at midnight. I go in to the show (If I am correct I caught one song from Peter Gabriel, a few from Sting and Bruce's entire set) I make my way out after the show.. but of course now there are 80,000 people with me at that corner. Needless to say the police had closed off the road and you could not get in. I know nothing about Philly we have no way to call each other. This is about to become a disaster. 20 mins later ... he appears ...just drives right up. Street is still closed don't know how .. but he is there. Like its the most normal thing. Off we go.
What did he do those 2 hours? He has cousins in Philly so he took the opportunity to visit them. We end up sleeping in his cousins' house, and left early the next morning. I had to go to work and that night was Yom Kippur.
At the funeral Debra spoke about JJ reading the Times and sending people articles of interest. I did not remember it but right after, my wife reminded me. The last interaction I had with JJ was a few months before his death, we got an envelope with a clipped NY times article about Springsteen In the margin "Thought You'd enjoy reading this .. JJ"
Allen S. Krasna
October 4, 2002
To the entire Greenberg family and friends of JJ, especially those of us who shared a special year in Israel '83-'84 with JJ,
Although it is now 19 years since we all met in Eretz Yisrael for our "Freshman year in Israel" at Machon Gold and BMT, as well as other Yeshivot around the country, to me it feels like yesterday. None of us can forget meeting JJ for the first time with his warm smile, soft voice and of course his everpresent conversation piece, the sweatband. I had wondered if he was still wearing it, at that time it was about seven years, as I read in Debra's hespaid I found out the answer was Yes. Although I did not stay in touch regularly with JJ for the last fifteen years whenever I did see him it was as if no time had gone by. Whether it was seeing him rollerblading along Central Park each year at the Israel Day Parade or at a mutual friend's wedding. The sentiment I had was always the same, "Wow, some people never change, how REFRESHING!" The friendship formed so long ago always resurfaced. Upon hearing the news of his accident the years truly melted away. Many of us who knew him so well from "our year" called each other to say Tehillim, others that knew we knew him from "our year" also called to tell us the news. Needless to say it was heartbreaking.
As I shared memories of JJ with friends, the incredible thing is, the memories are all the same, whether you knew him when he was 17 or almost 37. He was truly a special and unique person. I of course took out my Israel album immediately and my pocket calendars from that year, through several later years, to truly relive the memories. Who can forget, Chol Hamoed Sukkot in Netanya, Good bye Party for Dov Begun, Yom HaAtzmaut Picnic in Gan Hapamon? I didn't need to be reminded that his birthday is Oct. 24, just around the corner, somehow I always remembered that it was that date.(Don't worry, Etan, I know yours is Oct. 21, same as Rebbeca Hankoff, also Z"L) When I took out the diaries I saw how many we had celebrated together. 1983, we had a party in Israel, 1984 a party in NY. JJ was one of three friends who took me out for my birthday during our year in Israel, Feb 84.(along with Debby C. and Jonny O.) Not only was he always there to have a good time with, but to be serious with as well. He knew when to have fun and make people laugh, but he also knew when you just needed to talk and have serious moments. Just saying his "nickname", JJ, forces your lips in to the shape of a smile. How many people have a name that causes that? I remember that all he wanted was for people to get along. He was a true "Rodeph Shalom". If he knew friends were upset with eachother, he did whatever he could to make peace between them. It was an incredible quality.
After visiting with the Greenberg family last night I still find it unbelievable. I too, brought pictures to share the memories and show how much he enjoyed life and how much we all enjoyed being with him. I honestly don't think he ever spoke ill of anyone. I remember if ever someone said anything negative about another he would give this look, somewhere between a grin and a smirk and tilt his head sideways, as if to say, "you're better than that, it's not important." I believe these are qualities that have stayed with all of us who knew him and will continue to be an example for us to follow. He was just that kind of person, he left a lasting impression on you. Actually, his passing during the Yamim Noraim is a true testament to those qualities. Firstly, we all know it is a zchus to leave this earth on shabbos the holiest day of the week, but I believe leaving us Erev Yom Kippur is the true zchus. For someone who spent his life's work on Tikun Olam, he continues to do so in his death. During Aseres Ymai Teshuva literally hundreds of people were davening extra intensely for this person and concentrating specifically on how short life really is and how we can and should better ourselves. It is only fitting that JJ did that for us. It is also ironic, that an accident such as this, that could have happened anywhere in the world, happened specifically in Eretz Yisroel. Again, I believe, a message to all of us, during a time when people are afraid to be in Israel for reasons of terrorism, that we can never be afraid to be there, it is our country to enjoy to the fullest, as he did, and that anything can happen, anywhere, it is all in G-d's hands. I know these are heavy thoughts that will always be with me, (JJ would have really appreciated that!) as I am sure they will be with all who knew him. I know he will be sorely missed by those on a daily basis, but for those of us who shared one special year together, which equaled a lifetime, who waited for that chance encounter each year, for a "Blast from the Past", there will be no substitute.
May we be zoche to come together for simachot.
Naomi Skolnick Kaszovitz
October 3, 2002
Shalom! My name is Alexander Koyfman. I am a Director of The Schusterman Jewish Renaissance Fellows project in Jerusalem. I know JJ already for seven years and remember him as a very kind, happy and inspiring person. I remember this special, enthusiastic light in his eyes when he was telling me about his projects and ideas. I remember his help and support in developing of Hillel centers in the Former Soviet Union at the very first years of its activity. Students in Ukraine still keeping and using a Jewish music CD collection he sent as a gift to my native Hillel center in Kiev. For me this music always will be connected to JJ. I will always remember him...
In my photo-archives I found two photos of JJ. These photos were taken in Kiev in September 1997 during the International Hillel Mission in the Former Soviet Union. People on the photos are: JJ, me and Dasha Privalko from Kiev Hillel center.
Thank you for everything you are doing to remember JJ.
October 3, 2002
My first memory of JJ is seeing his smiling face waiting for us to get off the bus for sophomore seminar. JJ immediately bonded with our group from Ramaz. He continued his relationship with us throughout our highschool years. I will never forget JJ's unique ability to make everyone feel special. Growing up on the Upper Westside and attending Lincoln square Synagogue I saw JJ often. JJ was always there to lend his friends Brian Thau and David Winter a hand in ensuring the success of the Youth Deprtment and it's activities at LSS in the late 80's. Although I had not seen or spoken to JJ in the last 61/2 years since my husband Josh and I moved to Dayton, Ohio I was well ware of his impact in the field of Jewish communal Service. My condolences go out to the entire Greenberg family and to all of JJ's friends and collegues. He will truely be missed.
Deva Schlass Zwelling
October 3, 2002
I first met J.J. when he, my brother, and the rest of the B.M.T crew returned from their year in Israel in 1984. I remember having such fun hanging out with him and the rest of that gang, even when I was in the back seat of his car on a 4 hour tailgating drive back from Atlantic City, debating who was the scarier driver- he or Barry Weiss (I think Barry won hands down).
He always had a smile on his face, whether he was rollerskating (rollerblading was for wimps) against traffic in the Israel Day Parade (I knew it was him from half a mile away -- who else could it be?) or dressing up in his Purim Elvis costume (who else could prompt the rabbi of the Jewish Center to stroll up to the pulpit and announce: "The king has left the building!").
He was a truly wonderful person: sweet, sincere, modest, and friendly to everyone he met. Audi, my wife, knew him for only a couple of years, but echoes my sentiments about him. We miss him every day.
October 2, 2002
JJ is in the Shlock Rock Hall of fame as you know. We have updated the information there and we would love you to link to it for people to see! The link is http://www.shlockrock.com/main.php?pg=jjgreenberg
We all miss him so much!
Gilly, Lenny, Ayelet and Tamar Solomon
October 2, 2002
I only have a few thoughts to share - so much has been said so eloquently already - but here goes.
I saw JJ this past Pesach in Miami. I think we probably hadn't spoken in fifteen years. It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this that it took all of two minutes for us to reconnect. I wish I could say we talked for hours. The truth is we talked for about fifteen minutes, but man was it great to see him. JJ has that effect on people. He's a positive force, plain and simple; he was a positive force in his youth, he was a positive force in his adult life, and he remains a positive force in the lives of all those who knew him, met him, or talked to him - even for fifteen minutes. He's even brought together his friends from BMT, 90 or so people inspired by his memory.
When the guys from Miami showed up at BMT, we were outsiders. JJ was always on the inside; who would shut out a guy with a smile like that? JJ didn't care where I came from or that I was a "New Guy". I didn't have to prove anything to him. I was a 16-yr-old kid away from home for the first time. JJ was a nice guy from the start and - looking back - I think I relied on his humanity more than I realized.
As I scanned through the list of names on the BMT contact list compiled so diligently by Etan and others, the memories come flooding back. This was a pretty cool crew. I've always been proud to have been a part of it and taking note of the limudai kodesh being done in JJ's memory, I'm prouder still.
May we all continue to learn from the example set by our friend, JJ, and may we serve his memory for years to come.
October 2, 2002
October 2, 2002
This story although the first I am writing for JJ's Web site is chronologically the last.
JJ had a tradition when he came to Israel that when he would visit Lenny Solomon (Shlock Rock) and me (we are next door neighbors) he would bring our kids Beanie babies as presents. He had a paper list he kept with him which listed which kid got which doll and what kind of dolls they like, so he would not repeat and would also buy their favorites.
At the unveiling, JJ's Parent's gave Lenny the 5 dolls that were sitting in JJ's suitcase. We had not yet seen him this trip, but the gifts were there and waiting.
October 2, 2002
I got to know JJ during my two years as a JCSC fellow for Hillel in Milwaukee. I met him during our training at the Leaders' Assembly and then again at the Professional Staff conference. By Staff Conference the following year, I knew JJ pretty well. We'd had some great conversations (as fellow RK's - rabbis' kids- we'd had plenty in common) and he was helping me make a choice as to what I would do after my fellowship ended.
I remember vividly the last conversation I had with JJ face to face. I stood with him in the lobby of the Doral Forrestal conference center in Princeton NJ and he was talking to me about the possibilities that existed in the world of Jewish education. I was torn between continuing in the world of Jewish Ed. and moving into something secular, but JJ just listened, smiled, and gave me this look like he knew that I'd end up a Jewish educator no matter what I was saying at the time. Then, he pulled out one of his business cards and handed it to me. He told me to keep in touch and to make sure that I told him where I ended up going. But that's just the kind of person JJ was. He cared so much and so genuinely about the people around him.
JJ was a true mentsch in every sense of the word and I was deeply saddened to learn of his passing. Although I only knew him for a brief time, I feel truly blessed to have had him be a part of my life. I pray that the Greenberg family knows no more suffering and that JJ's spirit lives on in those of us whose lives he impacted every day.
October 2, 2002
JJ came to the High School for the Humanities in New York City where I was the faculty advisor for Jewish Public School Youth (JPSY). The year was about 1986-87, so that would make him somewhere around 22 at the time. JJ came every Wednesday bearing sweets and a musician or two to add to the ambience of the Jewish kids who would come there to "hang out" and to just feel very comfortable in their Jewishness. JJ's smile and stories were infectious, and he certainly helped our little JPSY chapter thrive.
Years later, in entirely different circumstances, when JJ would catch sight of me, or I ov him, he would come bounding up to me, giving me a great handshake and a hug. It seems to me that once you were on JJ's radar, he never let you go - never forgot you, always treated you as if he had just seen you yesterday. And that Russian Army coat of his...One day, after a pro-Israel demonstration in the Madison Square Garden, I spotted his coat, and curiously looked for the face atop the coat. Sure enough, it was JJ, laughing and enjoying the outrageous fun of wearing the coat of our enemies. It was his special thing to recognize the irony and ultimate humor of a Jew wearing the garb of our adversary.
I'll miss seeing him and his bottomless fount of caring and humor. He was rare, kind, and a very, very sweet neshama. May his memory be for a blessing to his family, friends and all who knew him.
October 1, 2002
I wrote a piece on JJ that is up on the www.sparkpfs.org
website, in the "featured guest" section/ In Remembrance.
October 1, 2002
When we think of JJ, don't we all picture him smiling? His wide grin
literally lit up the room and made you, the friend, feel like a million
bucks. That was the kind of love and friendship he spread to everyone
October 1, 2002
I'm still in disbelief. And simultaneously sad to be writing this memory note.
My memories of JJ are limited to a few poignant but pivotal incidences in my life.
First, JJ- I have your book on Barcelona, still with your scribbled notes in the margin and hostel recommendations. Thank you for taking time to go through the map with me and outlining the 'must see Gaudi + Rambla adventures.' It was your advice that made my trip a phenomenal experience. I intend to safeguard this book unless there is someone out there who feels they want it.
To add, JJ, I shared in your love and passion for working with the community and outreach programs. Your contagious spirit and energy welcomed me and many others into the doors of Makor, heritage programs, and the community at large.
JJ, may you be at rest and at peace.
September 27, 2002
To Whom it May Concern,
I worked with JJ in the office at 6 East 39th. I work for the Foundation for Jewish Camping, a separate entity from the Jewish Life Network. JJ opened the Jewish Life Network to include us in the JLN family. As a result, I got to know and love JJ on a day to day basis, was at basically every conference on the "circuit" with him and would often compete with him on who could stay later in the office.
As a kindred spirit and music lover like me, he'd incessently try and convince me to bring my guitar into the office to play at program meetings! One time he succeeded - on Purim. After that, he'd buzz me in my office over the phones just to check if I brought my guitar in. He'd borrow it in the office and shut his door to practice!!
I am deeply saddened and miss his constant presence in my life. Not knowing how to release my feelings, I sat down in my apartment and wrote a song about JJ. I cried as I was writing it, I cried when I played it for the folks here in the office at our impromptu in-house memorial service. But, the song's not sad, and I think that JJ would've loved that this was the way I expressed how I felt about him.
I think, as you read the lyrics, you'll find a piece of the JJ you knew!
Please share this with anyone you wish...if you ever want to hear how it goes, let me know.
His memory IS a blessing!
Program Officer Foundation for Jewish Camping
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined." - Thoreau
September 27, 2002
I am still heartbroken about the news, but you asked for JJ stories so here goes...
Let me preface this by saying that while we grew up in different households it seems that the families were a pretty cohesive group who knew each other extremely well, and while we have all gone our separate ways, we all seem to have that familiarity that comes with good, long-lasting, friendships.
In 1983, after spending three years in college in Boston, I moved back to NY and attended City College.
For some unknown reason during the years 1984, 85 and 86,I always managed to come by your parents house between Yom Kippur and Succot, for one reason or another. On these three occasions, I ended up helping JJ build your parents Succah. This was an unforgettable, all afternoon experience. Whether it be dueling (or javelining) bamboo poles, or lofting the remaining branches of the schach (sp?), from the far side of the yard, we had a ball.
Since making aliyah in 1986, I remember those three Succot very fondly to the extent that Succot ,ever since, has always reminded me of JJ. Even this year, on the eve of Rosh Hashana, as I contemplated extending our own Succah, JJ came to mind and, as usual, brought a smile to my face.
I am sure that I will always be reminded and continue to think of JJ whenever Succot comes around.
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