This past week Rabbi Ronnie Greenwald passed away at the age of 82.
Outside Orthodox Jewish circles, most people have not heard of him, but he led an amazing life that was often as much cloak-and-dagger as being a community leader.
Greenwald worked tirelessly to free Jews who were in prison throughout the world. From Wikipedia, here are four of them:
But Greenwald was very busy besides flying all over the world to gain prisoner releases. He founded a girl's high school and a popular summer camp. He was involved in helping victims of sexual abuse in the community and he also founded a network of homes for mentally handicapped girls and women. He was the Jewish liaison for the Nixon administration and used that position to help get government aid for the Jewish poor.Natan SharanskyIn perhaps his highest profile case, Rabbi Greenwald worked closely with Representative Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) and East German lawyer Wolfgang Vogel to secure the release Soviet dissident and Refusenik Natan Sharansky from Soviet prison in the late 1970s. He made more than 25 trips across the "Iron Curtain" to East Germany as part of that effort. The Rockland Journal News reported that Rabbi Greenwald was the "man behind the talks" that freed Sharansky.
Miron MarkusIn conjunction with Representative Gilman, Rabbi Greenwald negotiated the rescue a 24-year-old Israeli citizen named Miron Markus in 1978 who was living in Zimbabwe. Markus was captured when an airplane piloted by his brother-in-law, Jackie Bloch, was forced to land in Mozambique, where Mr. Bloch was killed and Markus taken hostage. Rabbi Greenwald, Congressman Gilman and others arranged for a complex swap that involved four countries Mozambique, Israel, the UnS and East Germany, convicted East German spy Robert Thompson and U.S. student Alan van Norman.
Raul GranadosGranados was kidnapped by leftist guerillas in November, 1979 while at a soccer game in Guatemala City. Rabbi Greenwald, working again with Representative Gilman, helped broker the exchange of Mr. Granados in exchange for a ransom payment of $4,000,000.
Vladimir RaizVladimir Raiz, a Soviet molecular biologist, had been denied permission to leave the former Soviet Union for 18 years before Greenwald entered the picture. According to Steve Lieberman in the Rockland Journal News, Greenwald secretly met with Raiz in Lithuania in 1989. Following negotiations with Soviet authorities, Raiz and his family were permitted to emigrate in 1990.
I have heard him talk and it is hard to imagine such an unassuming man to be involved in such high-stakes international intrigues.
He will be sorely missed.
We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.