Hundreds mourn New York Jewish activist JJ Greenberg, 37
Hundreds of mourners gathered in Jerusalem yesterday afternoon at the funeral of New Yorker JJ Greenberg, 37, the son of prominent American Jewish leaders Rabbi Irving (Yitz) and Blu Greenberg. JJ himself was an activist in Jewish outreach known for his magical smile, his Rollerblades, and his zany, generous and humble nature.
JJ, who lived in Manhattan but was visiting two of his four siblings and their children here, was hit by a car Friday morning while riding a bicycle with his brother David and a friend at Binyamina Junction, near Zichron Yaakov. He was flown by helicopter to Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital in critical condition and pronounced dead the following morning, said a family friend.
JJ's parents and siblings flew to Israel right after Yom Kippur and came straight to the funeral, which his family decided to conduct in Israel because of JJ's love for the country. Deputy Foreign Minister Rabbi Michael Melchior and Rabbi David Hartman of the Hartman Institute were among those in attendance.
JJ was the child of two well-known liberal Orthodox leaders from Riverdale, New York. His mother is the co-founder and first president of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist alliance. 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 president emeritus of CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, which deals with adult Jewish education and intra-Jewish dialogue. He is currently president of the Jewish Life Network, whose mission is to create new initiatives to enrich American Jewish life, including Birthright Israel and Makor, a Jewish cultural center geared toward young people in New York.
JJ worked closely with his father in the Jewish Life Network and was in charge of running Makor. JJ had also been involved in bringing Judaism to Jewish public school students and volunteering on behalf of Jews with terminal illnesses.
"He lived by the values Abba [Dad] had always taught us - work for tikkun olam [fixing the world] and see tzelem elokim [God's image] in everybody," said his sister Deborah between tears.
JJ brought the same excitement and love to his personal life as he did to his work. He was a handsome athlete who loved to Rollerblade with his tzitzit [ritual fringes] flying out, a dedicated environmentalist who used paper napkins twice, a doting uncle who pasted a baby picture of his first niece onto his watch, a pursuer of justice who wouldn't even stand for cheating at Monopoly, an individualist who was always the one with the crazy shtick at people's weddings, and a humble giver who donated 40 percent of his money to charity and ran to Ground Zero to help the emergency workers.
The family is following JJ's express wishes and donating five of his organs for transplant.