If you knew JJ Greenberg, then you could talk unceasingly about his myriad contributions to Jewish life as executive director of the Steinhardt Foundation/Jewish Life Network, the role he played in creating Birthright Israel, the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, and the Jewish Early Childhood Education.
You could also talk about his infectious enthusiasm, his extreme devotion to his family and the Jewish people, those piercing green eyes and ready smile. And there was always a humility that belied all he accomplished. But it wasn’t an act. It was JJ. He was nothing if not genuine.
All of that compounded the tragedy of his death in 2002 after a traffic accident in Israel. He was just 36. His legacy opened a deep well of sorrow that inspired a group of his friends, his family and the Jewish Funders Network to establish the JJ Greenberg Memorial Award to honor foundation professionals 40 and under who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership in Jewish philanthropy. JJ served on the board of JFN and the organization greatly benefited from his passion and generosity of spirit.
This online booklet features essays from past recipients of the Award. Not all of them knew JJ, but all have found their work indelibly influenced by him. There is also a remembrance from JJ’s beloved parents, Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg and his wife Blu, who share memories and why the award serves as an appropriate memorial to him.
In a eulogy for JJ, his brother David said “You have pegged the bar for us extremely high, and we will struggle for the rest of our time here to match and to reach that bar.”
Indeed. But we can still take comfort in the accomplishments by the recipients of this award, who have carved their own paths and shown us why the future of Jewish philanthropy shines bright.
Just like JJ did. His memory is truly a blessing.
This week, as we lead up to the opening of the 2014 Jewish Funders Network Conference, eJP will be sharing online the series of essays by past Award recipients. A printed booklet of the essays will be distributed at the 2014 Award Ceremony.