Shep Englander — Federation Journal
Meet Gary Greenberg: Federation President-Elect Hopes to Contribute to Community
At the Annual Meeting on May 16, Federation President Tedd Friedman will pass the gavel to Gary Greenberg and install him as the next President. Greenberg is an attorney with Jackson Lewis and has been a leader in the Jewish community for many years, including serving as President of the Jewish Community Relations Council and on the Federation board. Greenberg is one of this year’s Annual Campaign co-chairs. He and his wife, Linda, are members of Rockdale Temple and Congregation Beth Adam.
Friedman recently sat down with Greenberg to talk about his vision for Jewish Cincinnati.
Q: Gary, you were one of the architects of the Cincinnati 2020 vision. Eight years ago, we worked with many other community members to articulate what challenges Jewish Cincinnati faced and how we wanted our community to look in 2020. What have been our greatest accomplishments as a community since 2010? And what must we do in the next ten years to continue to grow?
A: I am reluctant to characterize any part of what we have accomplished as “the greatest.” We have developed lay and professional leaders, engaged with Israel
in myriad ways, advocated for justice and peaceful co-existence, assisted the poor, elderly, unemployed and bereft, improved security for our community and institutions, professionalized our “back office” operations, and helped to attract and retain young Jews and their families. In my view, all of this is work of the greatest value.
Looking forward, in order to sustain our momentum, we must diversify and expand our sources of funding. We are fortunate to have a Jewish Foundation that is devoted to our community’s well-being, and generous donors that step up year after year. But even with all of these resources, we do not meet all of our community’s needs. And replacing the “donor churn” becomes more challenging with each passing year. Finally, our community must be prepared to weather the next economic downturn, whenever that might occur.
Q: While this is your first term as Federation President, you have served in that role for our Jewish Community Relations Council. How did that prepare you to take on this leadership position with the Jewish Federation?
A: I learned that leadership of a communal organization requires equal parts patience for open discussion and a firm resolve to move the agenda forward.
Q: Tell us about your role as a Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion trustee and how that connects with your position on Israel.
A: Israel is a democracy and its citizens freely worship as they choose, including Christians, Muslims, Druze, B’hai, and even Conservative and Reform Jews! Last Fall, the Hebrew Union College Jerusalem Campus ordained our 100th, 101st and 102nd Israeli Reform rabbis, all of whom may serve or form congregations unmolested (although not funded) by the State. The featured speaker at the ordination was the Mayor of Tel Aviv, who said (translated) “Reform Judaism is Tel Aviv Judaism”. The Orthodox Rabbinate’s monopoly on marriage and family law for Jewish citizens will end if and when Israeli voters make that a priority. Constructive engagement by North American Jews on this issue, especially personal and financial support for Israeli organizations doing this work, can help make that happen. I see this as the mirror image of the work we do to protect the religious liberty of Orthodox and other observant Jews here in the United States. Disengagement from Israel by North American Jews over this issue would be a victory for the status quo, and profoundly sad.
Q: Now back to the beginning. You grew up in Cincinnati but spent a great deal of time in Northern Kentucky, where your parents ran a furniture store. How did they influence the person you are today?
A: My parents set an example of how to live a good and decent life. They were partners in everything they did, at home and at work. They worked long, hard hours, but they were there for family. They treated everyone they employed and did business with as they wished to be treated, with respect. They made sure that my sister and I received a well-rounded education that included Jewish as well as secular schooling. And they did not neglect my practical education. From the age of 16 to 22, I worked at the store after school, weekends, and summers, loading and unloading trucks, delivering furniture to customers’ homes and businesses, and doing anything else I was told to do. While I went on to earn a professional degree and work in a comfortable office, I don’t consider what I do now to be any more or less valuable than what I did then. All honest work is worthy of respect.
Q: Your wife, Linda, is a passionate supporter of the Arts in Cincinnati. Is that something you enjoy together?
A: Yes,1,000 percent! Linda is on three arts boards, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Cincinnati Ballet, and the Memorial Hall Society. We have been moved, entertained and enlightened by first-rate professional theater at Playhouse for decades. The Ballet is a more recent interest; at first I was indifferent, but I soon came to enjoy it, especially the more contemporary pieces. And the music series sponsored by the Memorial Hall Society has included some of our favorite country, bluegrass, and Americana musicians. Cincinnati has an incredible amount of high quality arts and entertainment, local and touring. Aside from the inherent value, our arts and entertainment is a tremendous driver of economic development here, both directly through employment and ticket sales and indirectly by helping to attract and retain talented and productive individuals. And what’s good for our region’s economy is good for our region’s Jewish community.
Q: Like me, you have two sons. What is your relationship with them like, and how have they shaped your view of what it means to be a father and leader in our community?
A: My wife and our family are what is most important in my life. We have the great good fortune that our two sons, daughter-in-law, and grandson are here in Cincinnati. That’s something that we appreciate every day. We also appreciate the fact that while both are busy getting their careers off the ground, they are finding time to volunteer for worthy causes that interest them. We’re very proud of them.
Q: You have had a year to prepare to become the next Federation President. What are you most looking forward to when your term begins in May?
A: The more time that I spend with our lay and professional leaders, the more impressed I become. I am most looking forward to working with and learning from these talented people, and I hope to contribute my share to what we can collectively achieve for the community.
Thanks for caring about our community and what we do.
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