Jewish Sages of Today

Irving “Yitz” Greenberg

So what is the meaning of life?...The Jews faced that question and they concluded that life is a partnership between God and humanity. Life is making sense of this world and improving it and doing tikkun olam (repairing the world) in one’s own time.

Lecture and an online archive dedicated to Greenberg’s work

  1. The Renewal of the Covenant: Humanity Come of Age, video of lecture (1:13:08), March 31, 2010, The Tikvah Institute for Jewish Thought, Jewish Theological Seminary

    In this lecture, Greenberg speaks about creation, redemption, and God’s order for the universe. He reviews his past thoughts and focuses on the thesis of the book he is currently writing; for the universe to achieve perfection, which is God’s goal, God must pull back, self-limit (“tzimzum”) and give man more responsibility.


  2. Online archive dedicated to Greenberg’s work
    This website includes a large selection of Greenberg’s lectures (as audio files) as well as videos, testimonials, a representative sampling of his writing, and background about his career. The website, supported and developed by Targum Shlishi, is scheduled to launch in July 2012.

Greenberg has helped found and run several organizations that have made major contributions to the Jewish world

  1. Taglit—Birthright Israel

    In 2000, Greenberg helped forge a partnership of philanthropists, Jewish federations, and the government of Israel to create the Birthright program, offering a free, organized educational trip to Israel to qualifying American Jews between the ages of 18 to 26.

  2. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

    Greenberg served as chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum from 2000 to 2002. Dedicated in 1993, the museum was founded as a living memorial to the Holocaust, inspiring citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, promote human dignity, and prevent genocide.

  3. Jewish Life Network

    Greenberg served as president of the Jewish Life Network from 1997 to 2007. The goal of the Jewish Life Network, now called The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, is to strengthen and transform American Jewish life so that it may flourish in a fully integrated, free society. Its initiatives reach out to all Jews, with an emphasis on those who are on the margins of Jewish life.

  4. Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE)

    In 1997 Greenberg and philanthropist Michael Steinhardt (also profiled in Jewish Sages of Today) recruited a dozen philanthropists and organizations to launch PEJE, an institution dedicated to impacting the field of Jewish education.

  5. President’s Commission on the Holocaust

    Founded in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter, the President's Commission was charged with making recommendations for a suitable memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Greenberg was director in 1979 when the Commission submitted its report to the President, and continued in this role until 1980. Go here to read the Commission’s Report to the President, issued September, 27, 1979.

  6. The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL)

    Greenberg is president emeritus of CLAL, having served as its founding president from 1974 through 1997. CLAL, a leader in religious pluralism, is a leadership training institute, think tank, and resource center that links Jewish wisdom with innovative scholarship to deepen civic and spiritual participation in American life.

  7. Association for Jewish Studies (AJS)

    Founded in 1969, the primary mission of the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS) is to promote, facilitate, and improve teaching and research in Jewish Studies at colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning. Greenberg was a member of the founding group of AJS.

  8. Salantar Akiba Riverdale Academy (SAR)

    Greenberg was founder and initial dean (1967–68) of the SAR Academy in Riverdale, New York, a modern Orthodox yeshiva educating students from pre-school through high school.

  9. Riverdale Jewish Center

    Greenberg served as rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center Synagogue from 1965 to 1972.

  10. Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ)

    In 1964 Greenberg helped establish SSSJ, the first American national movement to free Russian Jews. In operation from 1964–1991, this organization helped generate the wave of international public pressure which ultimately forced open the gates of the Kremlin to mass emigration and the release of refuseniks and Prisoners of Conscience.

  11. Yavneh: The National Jewish Religious Students Association

    Greenberg helped establish Yavneh in 1960 as an independent, Orthodox, student-run collegiate organization. Widely credited with having a revolutionary impact on Orthodox Jewish life, Yavney was operational until 1981. It was committed to helping students on university campuses by focusing on Jewish education, Jewish observance, communication, Jewish unity, and community. This link is to the book The Greening of American Orthodox Judaism: Yavneh in the 1960s by Benny Kraut and Jonathan Sarna (Wayne State University Press, 2011)

Videos of interviews, academic positions

  1. “Interview with Rabbi Irving Greenberg,”

    Greenberg discusses Jewish-Christian relations, from St. Mark’s Church in Raleigh, NC, November 2010.
    (video, 7:30 min)

  2. “What Should We Be Celebrating?”

    Greenberg speaks about the “New Exodus” and the ethics of power from Makom’s film about Chag Ha’atzmaut, August 2007.
    (video, 9:40 min)


  3. Academic posts
    Greenberg spent a good deal of his career in academia, including at these universities:

  4. City College, City University of New York

    Greenberg was professor in the Department of Jewish Studies from 1972 to 1979 and served as chairman from 1972 to 1976.

  5. Yeshiva University

    Greenberg chaired the Department of History and served as associate professor from 1964 to 1972 and assistant professor from 1959 to 1964.