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Irving Greenberg

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Irving Greenberg

Irving Greenberg

Irving (Yitzchak) Greenberg (born 1933), also known as Yitz Greenberg, is a Modern Orthodox rabbi, Jewish-American scholar and author. He is known as a strong supporter of Israel[1] and a promoter of greater understanding between Judaism and Christianity.[2]

In 1953 Greenberg was ordained at Yeshiva Beis Yosef. He earned a PhD. from Harvard University and served as the Jewish chaplain of Brandeis University, the rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center, an associate professor of history at Yeshiva University, and as a founder, chairman, and professor in the department of Jewish studies of the City College of the City University of New York.[3] He has also served as the President of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. He is married to the Orthodox Jewish feminist writer Blu Greenberg.


Greenberg's thought involves a dynamic reading of current Jewish history through use of traditional Jewish categories of thought. He has written extensively about the Holocaust and about the historical and religious significance of the State of Israel.

His great teacher in Jewish Thought was Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. One of his major contributions has been as a teacher, and a whole generation of distinguished scholars, including Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and Michael Berenbaum consider him their mentor.

Greenberg's thought centers on the concept of 'Tikkun Olam' (repairing the world) of humanity working as Co-Creator with God in improving the world. He specifically sees the Jewish people's Covenant with God as enjoining them to set an example for the moral edification of mankind. Another crucial concept of his thought is the idea that the image of God in all humans implies that each person has "infinite value, equality, uniqueness."[4] According to Greenberg, among other things, this means that there is not one absolute truth or correct religion: "Part of every truth is the fact that an image of God is speaking it; that is to say, a being of infinite value, equality, and uniqueness is speaking it."[5]

Only part of his post-holocaust theology has been published.[6] Greenberg sees the Holocaust as a seminal event in Jewish history, which should be seen as the "breaking of the covenant" between God and the Jewish People. It is also latest stage in God's tzimtzum from the world. The Holocaust drives home the point that the fate of the world is in humanity's hands. If there can be such a strong evil in the world as manifest in the Holocaust, there can also be realized in the world the most incredible good.

In 2013, a website was created that hosts dozens of Greenberg's essays, monographs, and other creative output. It can be accessed here:


Because of his independent thinking Rabbi Greenberg has frequently met with harsh criticism from fellow Orthodox Rabbis. An initial strong supporter of the Israeli Gush Etzion settlement block, he later became critical of some aspects of Israeli policy.[7] Greenberg, however, continues to raise financial support for the Bat Ayin yeshiva, the dormitories of which are named for his late son, J.J.,[8] and which is operated by his nephew Rabbi Natan Greenberg.


  • Cloud of Smoke, Pillar of Fire: Judaism, Christianity, Modernity After the Holocaust (1976)
  • The Third Great Cycle of Jewish History (1981)
  • Voluntary Covenant (1982)
  • The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays (1988)
  • The Ethics of Jewish Power (1990)
  • Judaism and Christianity: Their Respective Roles in the Divine Strategy of Redemption (1996)
  • Covenantal Pluralism (1997)
  • Living in the Image of God: Jewish Teachings to Perfect the World (1998)
  • For the Sake of Heaven and Earth: The New Encounter Between Judaism and Christianity (2004)


  1. ^ Arnold Jacob Wolf, "The Revisionism of Irving Greenberg"
  2. ^ Carroll James, "In Appreciation of Irving Greenberg"
  3. ^ Beliefnet, "Rabbi Irving Greenberg: Beliefnet Columnist"
  4. ^ p.387, “Seeking the Religious Roots of Pluralism: In the Image of God and Covenant” in Journal of Ecumenical Studies 34:3 (Summer 1997).
  5. ^ p.390, ibid.
  6. ^ Wrestling with God, Oxford University Press 2007
  7. ^ "Rabbi Irving Greenberg". Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  8. ^ "JJ Greenberg Memorial Website". Retrieved 2009-07-14. 

External links

  • Rabbi Irving Greenberg - website
  • Articles by Yitz Greenberg on the Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner
  • "Irving Greenberg and a Jewish Dialectic of Hope" by Michael Oppenheim, from Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought, Vol. 49, No. 2
  • Lecture by Greenberg at Boston College
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