JJ Greenberg Memorial Award Essay: Adene Sacks

JJ Greenberg Memorial Award Essays
Adene Sacks2011 recipient

One of the benefits of time passing is the opportunity to reflect, contextualize and learn from past experience. That includes how often fleeting events and casual acquaintances expand in their import and impact. My connection with JJ Greenberg falls squarely in that category. Though our actual exchange was brief, his life continues to inspire me to think deeper about my own journey.

I met JJ in my first year out of college. I was new to the professional world and even newer to the Jewish world. My 23-year-old self marveled at his ability to integrate Judaism with an impressive professional acumen. It offered a connection to community, a pathway to Jewish learning and a legacy to emulate. He was the Jewish professional I aspired to be.

Over the next decade, as my professional and Jewish journey continued to intertwine, his legacy came into even sharper view. When I joined the Jim Joseph Foundation, I gained a greater appreciation for JJ. Beyond his footprint at the Steinhardt Foundation, JJ was renowned for his ability to approach ideas and people with openness and sincerity. He was connected people to one another and the Jewish communal enterprise. The day I received this award, I was overwhelmed that my Jewish and professional selves had acquired elements of the example he set in the Jewish philanthropic world.

Flash forward three years; my consulting work has taken me primarily outside the Jewish world. Most days, I am, as I was when I was 23, a stranger to the norms of the communities where I spend my days. Challenged again to bring my full self to the work that I do, I think of the story that more than one JJ Greenberg Memorial Award winner has told of the nametag JJ wore to invite conversation and requests for help on the streets of New York following 9/11.

From where I sit today, the fact that the full expression of his Jewish self included a global sphere of empathy and action is truly inspiring.

From a series of essays by past recipients of the JJ Greenberg Memorial Award.