With love and support nothing is imposible for Barbara Greenberg
by Lisa Pressman
Barbara Greenberg has encountered many different challenges in her life, but she has always faced them with a positive outlook and the loving support of her family. Barbara sees these challenges as learning experiences that have guided her throughout her life from Brooklyn, New York, throughout the U.S., and finally to her warm apartment with three rescued cats and a dog who love and support each other. Love and support are guiding lights for Barbara.
As a young child, Barbara faced obstacles that should have been unsurmountable. “I was not healthy when I was born. I had a significant birth defect in which my face and my ears did not develop. As a very young child I was in and out of the hospital constantly. I was severely hard of hearing and had difficulty speaking.” Barbara’s parents did not allow her to give into her handicaps. “They held me to the same expectation of any other child.” It was the love and support of her parents and grandparents that enabled her to be successful through years and years of surgeries and speech therapy.
When Barbara entered the second grade her reading level was not tested as other students were. Her mother found out. The teacher said that because of her hearing loss she assumed that she could not learn to read so of course she would not be tested. “My mother hit the roof because I was already reading above grade level.” Barbara has never been one to be held back from achieving her goals, even as a child. In Junior High she took up the violin and was fully supported by her family and teachers. By her teens, Barbara’s surgeries paid off and she was able to hear near normal levels and this enabled her to continue and flourish as a musician. She entered the New England Conservatory of Music and fulfilled her dream of being an orchestral violinist and teacher. When in later years her hearing again began to fail, this was just another challenge for Barbara to confront. What does a passionate violinist and teacher do, why of course, get a degree in Mathematics, and a Masters in Business Administration, enter the world of financial operations and eventually a project manager for the State of Arizona.
You may wonder how Israel became a part of Barbara’s fascinating life? It all started after college when she came to Israel for a year, to play in an orchestra in the Galilee. She had a fabulous time and fell in love with Israel, her first love. She also met her American husband in the orchestra. They married but divorced after a number of years. Later, as a single mother she raised two wonderful sons who now live in Washington, D.C. and Boston. But Barbara never forgot Israel. Her youngest son came to Israel for a Masters in Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University. “I came to visit while he was in graduate school here and realized that I never should have left. Israel has a certain feel to it and if it is something you are tuned into you can feel it.” Her sons were very supportive of her move and several years later Barbara made Aliyah, in 2014.
Barbara is part of the spiritual backbone of Kehillat Netzach Israel Ashkelon as a Board Member, Chair of the Prayer Committee, Ritual Leader (Gabbai) and of course her beloved Torah reading. Barbara didn’t come to Jewish ritual from an early age but she embraced it in later years with an absolute passion. It began at the Conservative Synagogue in Providence, Rhode Island, when parents were asked to read Torah in celebration of their child’s commencement of Torah study in religious school. Barbara read from Miketz. She was “terrified.” “I can’t tell you how much I practiced.” But due to the wonderful support of the Ritual Director, Mr. Edward Adler, she was successful. “They asked me to read a lot after that.” Mr. Adler was one of the “most beloved influences of my life,” and not only for Barbara. When her children commenced their Bar Mitzvah studies with Mr. Adler, they discovered the power of learning with this special Holocaust survivor. He had a warmth and strength that helped her kids truly understand the importance of ritual and doing things “the right way.” “To influence children in that way, in this day and age, is very special…. I love the way my children grew up. They grew up in the synagogue under the influence of Rabbis and Cantors who were a wonderful influence on kids, and it was a great help to us all.”
So what was the power of Torah for Barbara? “The power for me? Remember, I had trained as a musician and the trope opens up the meaning of the text in a very special way. Also, as I’ve learned, there is no shortcut in reading Torah, you have to practice and the experience of sitting with the text and chanting it over and over again means you start to see things and understand things about the text that you might not otherwise. That is why I want to encourage as many people as I can to try some Torah reading. It’s a great experience.”
For Barbara, “Learning is a lifelong thing and you can take on challenges at any point in your life. One must appreciate the opportunities that they have.” Barbara has certainly met her challenges and forged her life with love and support. “Israel is a deeply special place. There is the goodness that I see every day here.” Barbara grew up in a loving and supportive family and she has found that same sense of community here in Israel.