I have to admit I wasn’t always best older brother when George and I were kids. I thought that he was smarter then me and cuter than me. And I knew for sure our parents loved him more. Because I was so jealous of him I was really mean to him. For example, since I was taller and stronger than he, I would often punch him. Once I found my own path in life and felt good about myself I was no longer jealous of George and I could appreciate all of his wonderful qualities. But don’t worry George got back at me. Every so often as adults he would say “Do you remember punching me like this? And then he would smack me in the arm knowing full well would never retaliate.
As we grew older we grew closer. We shared some special times together. He was at my house sleeping the morning of Kol Nidre when I told my son Ami to wake up Uncle George because Emma was having a baby! I had the honor to officiate at George and Merrie’s wedding. At Asaf’s bar mitzvah we named Tova
As I matured, my jealousy of him turned into admiration. I admired the way he and Merrie built a strong, warm, and loving family. He would do anything for his family. Merrie was the love of his life. She is the rock of the family. Merrie not only took excellent care of my brother during his entire illness, she continues to care for Hannah with her medical needs as well as supporting Tova to reach her goals as a normal teenager
He was the best father Hannah and Tova could have asked for. He helped them find their own passion in life whether it was American Jewish history and kabala or the theater. He was so proud of them for their individual accomplishments. He wrote in Facebook: “As my older daughter Hannah Greene reminded me, she begins her fourth year in graduate studies. She too I love very much. She does not know her own strength, physically, morally and spiritually. She too is the real thing.” At Tova’s bat mitzvah he told the entire congregation “It is this light that I see in you which makes Tova Tova, makes you good. I’ve seen this light in you since the moment of your birth. I see the light of my grandmother Gertie in you, whose Yiddish name was Gittle, which also means good. You have her strength and goodness. You have her sense of being fearlessly fair. You have her joy in living. You have a sense of care.”
He shared with them his passion for reading and music. He threw his whole soul into his music. After he discovered Andy Statman’s mandolin music, he bought a mandolin to learn how to play and then even have one made especially for him. The family would take the most amazing vacations together going to a jazz festival or bluegrass Festival and visiting different authors home. I heard his daughters comfort their father in the hospital by thanking him for nurturing them and sharing his passions with them. Although George won’t be able to attend Tova’s high school graduation, I know that he was pleased, happy, and comforted to know that she has been accepted at Sarah Lawrence as an incoming freshman.
George was a good brother to have. He indeed was smarter than me. He was really a brilliant man. He had a deep love of learning and want to learn as much as he ever could and as long as he could. He was wonderfully curious and paid a great attention to detail. There was hardly a subject matter he wasn’t familiar with. As the best man at my wedding, he gave a philosophical toast based on Jerusalem (Revelation) and Athens (Western rational philosophy). I don’t think too many people understood what he was saying. I thought he was just given me travel advice so the following year when we took our honeymoon Judy and I went to Jerusalem and Athens.
One of the first things he would ask me when we got together was “what am I reading?” You can see on his bookshelf some the books I recommended and you certainly can see some the books on my bookshelf that he recommended to me. He introduced me to the Todo Institute and Naikan. I’ve used Naikan with my congregation, with brides and grooms, and introduced it to my colleagues.
He was a good uncle to my four boys and now their wives.
I’ve always admired George’s passion for social justice. I recommend going back to his Facebook page and see how many issues he passionately wrote about like healthcare, reducing gun violence, and the redistribution of wealth from the middle class and the poor to very rich. He truly wanted to make America greater by advocating that our country become a more compassionate, fairer, and just society.
He not only talked the talk but walked the walk. I introduced him to Danny Siegel’s tzedakkah work and by the end the directors of The Good People fund knew me as George Greene’s brother From Danny he learned about Songs for Love an organization that creates free, personalized, original songs to uplift children and teens currently facing tough medical, physical, or emotional challenges. So for his 50th birthday he commissioned a song for an ailing child. His family recorded this song and sent it along. Instead of presents he asked for a donation went to support this wonderful tzadakkah. His daughters told me it discreetly he would buy food and given it to a hungry street person in order not to embarrass him. He helped found his synagogue’s Israel action committee and social action committee. He started many drives food, clothing, and more to be delivered to the needy amongst us.
I admired George’s passion for Israel. He couldn’t visit Israel as often as I did, but he worked tirelessly on behalf of the Jewish state. He collected wedding dresses for the Rabanit Bracha Karpach as well as school supplies toiletries baby clothse and baby supplies to be sent to those in needy in Israel whether they be Israeli soldiers or poor families.
Today is the first day of Hanukkah. There is a disagreement between the school of Hillel and the school of Shammai. The school of Shammai taught than the first day of Hanukkah you light all eight candles. Each day you diminish the light by removing one candle. The school of Hillel disagreed and said each day you add light by adding one candle. Of course we follow the teachings of the school of Hillel by adding light each day of the holiday.
The world is a darker place because my brother no longer walks amongst us. Hanukkah’s root meaning in English is dedication. If we rededicate ourselves to those things that George held dear, our families, social justice, and Israel we can make this world a little bit brighter. If George inspires us to unleash the hidden light within us why then he hasn’t truly died but will be an everlasting good influence upon us, our children, and our grandchildren.
There is my hope and prayer, and let us say amen.