Thursday, October 8, 2009 - 1:00pm - 3:00pm
During Sukkot, SSA students joined Rabbi Astor in the planting of a willow tree in memory of Rabbi Isadore Greengrass. How appropriate this memorial is. Until he was not well enough to make the trip, Rabbi Greengrass traveled to New York every year just after Yom Kippur to scour the streets of Brooklyn for the various elements of the Lulav-palm, myrtle and willow. He would return to New London with his bundles and lovingly put them together for us. For Hoshana Rabba, which falls at the end of Sukkot, he needed many more willow branches. His neighbors must have wondered what happened to their willow trees!
Rabbi Greengrass was a local legend. For over a generation he served communities all over this region including Hebron, New London and Westerly, Rhode Island as an educator and a spiritual leader. Schechter students from earlier years remember him for leading tefillot. Students never knew when he might call on them to sight read a prayer or even a passage from the Torah. He would tell them, “Try, I will help you. You can do it.” And with his help, they usually did. Rabbi Greengrass encouraged students to participate in their congregations and to have meaningful holiday observances. Students also remember Rabbi Greengrass for carrying candies in his pocket which he distributed at his whim, even walking into a classroom while class was in session.
For the past several years Rabbi Greengrass gave a signed copy of his autobiography, Judaism is Indestructible, to our graduating 6th grade students. He would then discuss his experiences in the Holocaust and how it affected the way he chose to lead his life. He talked to them about the importance of survival and making an impact with your life. He was the face of the Holocaust for our students. He made it a reality, not merely stories from a movie or a book. He was willing to respond to all their questions--there was nothing too sensitive, too personal, or too uncomfortable. Our students learned from him the importance of his struggle to survive and, in turn, the importance of putting effort into how you choose to live your life.
Rabbi Greengrass can not be replaced. It is our responsibility to make sure his legacy is not forgotten. Having a willow tree planted on Beth El property would have made him very happy