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Boruch Dayan Ha’emes: Rabbi Akiva Greenberg, OBM

With sadness we inform you of the passing, on Shabbos, of Rabbi Akiva Greenberg of Crown Heights. Rabbi Greenberg was a professor of Speech and sociology in Touro College for several decades, and was much beloved by his many students. He merited personal attention from the Rebbe and other Gedolei Yisrael of the previous generation.

Rabbi Greenberg was also a beloved camp director in many cities in the U.S.

From the very beginning of the Baal Teshuvah movement until his last days, he inspired hundreds to find their home with Torah and mitzvos.

He Left a family of ten children and over one hundred grandchildren and great-grandchildren, many of whom are involved in the Rebbe’s shlichus all over the world.

He is survived by his children, Yiabdlu Lechaim Tovim: Mrs. Shifra Goldstein – Spain, Mrs. Chaya Yakobovitch – Tzfas, Mrs. Malka Touger – Jerusalem, Mrs. Tema Shapiro – Israel, Pinchos Greenberg – Crown Heights, R’ Avrohom Leib Greenberg – Cleveland, Mrs. Tzippora Vogel – Crown Heights, R’ Yisroel Greenberg – Crown Heights, Mrs. Miriam Kalmanson – France and Mendy Greenberg – New Haven.

The Levaya will take place on Sunday, passing by 770 at about 3:30 PM, and from there it will go to Eretz Yisroel for burial.


  • 1. Shimon Blumenfeld wrote:

    Rabbi Greenberg was the most compassionate teacher I’ve had in my 43 years. He taught me at Yeshiva Chanoch Lenaar and has touched the lives of many of my friends from school even 25 years later. I believe that he was a tzadik. He only did what was best for his talmidim and never looked down on them for their short falls. He had a heart of gold. I thank Rabbi Bryski for hiring Rabbi Greenberg and uplifting all of us.

  • 2. Gedalya wrote:

    And let us all note his crowning achievement – composing Big Gedalya Goomber, most beloved of camp oldies.

  • 3. DaasTorah wrote:

    I had Prof Greenberg as a professor for several classes while at Touro. He was an excellent instructor and rebbe. I will miss him very much. Future generations of students will lose the excellent opportunity of studying under him. ZT”L.

  • 5. Sima Leah wrote:

    An insprational teacher. Will never forget his visits at ILTSP. Glad to know his daughters Malka and Tziporah. May we only have good news to share, and be separated no longer from our loved ones.

  • 7. BDE wrote:

    BDE. I remember taking his Yiddish class at Hadar HaTorah many years ago and seeing him at the Ascent Center in Tzfas. He was always such a warm person.

  • 8. His song? wrote:

    Was he the composer of the famous camp song “I’m big Gedalya Goomber…”?

    Can someone very this?

    Thank you.

  • 10. meir rhodes wrote:

    akiva greenberg was responsibe for mekarving many crown heights personalities, most noticeable reb meir abaserria , simcha gotlieb, rabbi y. tilles of sfat and many others. he left behind many students , family and friends.

  • 12. Brocha K. wrote:

    he was my teacher in Touro. We all loved his class. He was the professor with the cane and the cute pipe. I didn’t even know he was sick. He just taught me last year!

  • 13. Yakov L. wrote:

    Rabbi Greenberg, you were my favorite teacher in Hadar Hatorah. I sing all the niggunim you so warmly taught us at my shabbas table. You will always be remembered.

  • 14. previous student wrote:

    This is so hard to believe! He just taught me recently and was an incredible professor. He knew his course material quite well-as the class was on sociology of the aging. He was a very patient and special person. I was lucky to have him as a professor : )

  • 15. mendy hecht wrote:

    and what about all those lubavitchers that he was mekarev to the Rebbe and the Rebbe said about him that he was mekarev kamo vekamo le avenu shebashomayim!

  • 17. Shumbee wrote:

    Rabbi Akivah’s Melovoh Malkahs remembered for a life time, candle light only at 604 .
    The Stories, The songs “Eliyohu Hanovei ” The most remembered story remenbered is about Yud Kei Vov Kei – An Arabian Gentile doctor has discovered these 4 secrete letters by fasting and praying .
    we have it as a gift , use it !
    Reb Akivah brought to chabad Reb Avrohom Freidlander of Kiryat malachei and other chosuveh Toronto students
    Hamokom Yinacheim Eschem bisoich Shaarei tzion v’yerusholim
    only simchas

  • 18. Moshe Chaim Gress wrote:

    Shumbee — I don’t know that story. Would you tell it to me?

  • 19. Moshe Chaim Gress wrote:

    Akiva was our much beloved Grandfather-Rebbe here in Safed. He brought the Kossov niggun back to Kossov (mixed with a Chabad niggun at the end) and made Kossov the most popular shul in eretz Israel for a decade.
    His stories awed many of us — the classics and the tales of which he witnessed. I illustrated a few, but held back publication for fear of embarrassing him. Who can forget his Malave Malkas, with his tales “Melancholy Soup” and “Ben Gurion’s Teeth?”
    He has more than 100 offspring by blood; and 100 times that were the rest of his children, whom he loved…and loved him back.

  • 20. Milhouse wrote:

    #9, #15, Gedaliah Goomba was composed by Rabbi Yosaif Silverman of Toronto, who passed away a long time ago, and as far as I know was not a Lubavitcher.

    He also wrote “Definitely, Absolutely, Positively, No!”

  • 21. Gedalya wrote:

    Milhouse, you are in error. What is true is that it wasn’t written under auspices of Lubavitch camp, rather for Camp Agudah in Detroit.

  • 22. Yaacov Magalnic wrote:

    to #9, yes he was and I was there in Gan Israel , Swan Lake when he taught it.
    Amazing man.

  • 23. Such a terrible loss wrote:

    Akiva was one of a kind. What a loss to the family and all of us Balei Teshuvos! I am glad to know some of his wonderful children.

  • 24. BDE wrote:

    I remember being a little child standing with my father when he would chat with you outside NCFJE I would stand next to you and I loved the smell of your pipe and I would love when I saw you, you would smile at me.

  • 26. Moshe Chaim Gress wrote:

    Excuse me — but Akiva was NOT a Lubuvitcher, though he had a long-term relationship with the Rebbe.
    He was an eclectic Viznitzer.
    Akiva Greenberg’s burial will be in Vishnitz cemetery in Bnai Brak tomorrow pm; for those who would like to be present.

  • 27. I I admire rabbi G. wrote:

    Rabbi akiva G.left such a deep impact on me .at the livaya,my emotions were very soon as I got home I had a little “ farbrengen” with rabbi Greenberg
    I sang niggunim with him on the Internet clips posted. And I could feel his presence

  • 28. May he have Aliyahs ad Ain Sof! wrote:

    He was a HUGE Tzaddik, no doubt about it :)
    Boruch Dayan Hoemes, Zechuso Yogein Aleinu veal Kol Yisroel.

  • 29. Milhouse wrote:

    #28, Rabbi Silverman certainly took credit for it, and in 1969 (i.e. many years after it was written) he recorded it and registered a copyright for it. You can find it by searching the copyright office’s records.

  • 31. menachem wrote:

    Hamakom Yenachem Eschem Besoch She’ar Aveilei Tzion VeYerushalayim

  • 32. Keep singing in shomayim wrote:

    Amazing how iggunim effect our soul. Look on Torah Cafe to see some clippings of Rabbi Akiva in action about thirty years ago. Keep singing with your children, it will keep them in yiddishkeit. Thank you Rabbi Greenberg, you may not be here physically, but your definitely here in spirit!

  • 33. Relative wrote:

    Rabbi silverman joined rabbi greenberg in composing the song, no contradictions. It happened in toronto.

  • 34. BT wrote:

    Yes, he was part of the Binghamton macrobiotic chevreh (early 1970s), & assisted the collective in becoming frum.

    Akiva told me more than once about meeting Meir Abehsera for the first time. Supposedly, they met on the subway (another time Akiva said that they met outside an office that Meir was visiting), & they got to talking & Akiva was impressed by Meir’s health etc. & expressed interest in learning more about macrobiotics. At which point Meir expressed interest in learning more about Yiddishkeit. So the arrangement was made for Akiva to come up as a madrich ruchni in Yiddishkeit for the commune, & in that way he could learn about macrobiotic too. His nigunim he sang was certainly a highlight of my childhood.

    They said, that Akiva was on a musical scholarship to Julliard as a teenager, when he somehow came in contact with the Vizhnitzer Rebbe of Monsey, & identified with Vizhnitz for a while.

    After BInghamton, he went to Carlebach’s Moshav Modi’in, where he was official Rav (until the early 1980s?) since Shlomo was away for extended periods of time. Until this day, some of the more chasidish member of the moshav (e.g. Schwartz, Silver), view Akiva as their mentor – perhaps even more than Shlomo.

    His wife A“H was from the old time Yerushalmi eiyshes chayils, who would never stop mumbling tehilim throughout the day. (BTW, she wouldn’t tolerate the ”mixed dancing” on the moshav, & would try to pull the women’s hands away from the men’s in the dancing circle.)

    Yehi Zichroi Boruch.

  • 35. Mervin F. Verbit wrote:

    One of the nicest things that happened to me when I joined the Touro faculty was that I got to know Professor Akiva Greenberg. Whenever I met with him, I came away feeling better–with more understanding, a deeper perspective, a stronger appreciation of the possibilities of human goodness, and a sense of confidence and joy. On the one hand, I hated to bother Akiva and take his time from the teaching that he loved, but on the other hand I wanted to explore ideas with him and to hear his wisdom on the issues that confront us. His smile, his courage, and his unfailing willingness to help were, literally, inspiring. As everyone knows, Akiva would make superhuman efforts to be in class, and when he taught he made events, ideas, and people come alive. As chair of his department, I had the privilege to observe Akiva teach. He was dealing that day with one of the founding thinkers of sociology, and, although I long knew that theorist’s work, Akiva added to my appreciation. He gave the theorist a personality, infused his life with depth, and showed how his thought developed. Akiva gave his students a personal introduction to a thinker long gone, and his students responded by engaging, through Akiva, that thinker. It was a brilliant display of good teaching, and the respect and concern of teacher and students for each other was obvious.

    The world is poorer now than it was a few days ago. It has lost a thinker, a scholar, a teacher, a mentor, a mentsch. Rabbi Professor Akiva Greenberg was a blessing to those who crossed his path. He will be missed. May his memory continue to be a blessing.

    Moshe (Mervin) Verbit

  • 36. So Special wrote:

    Over twenty years ago, Rabbi Greenberg worked at the Ivy League program, a summer program of Hadar HaTorah. He played an integral part in mekaroving my husband who loved him so dearly. My husband still sings his niggunim to our children. We have a few wonderful pictures too from that amazing summer. He was sweetness and kindness personified.
    Moshiach now!!!!!

  • 37. zG wrote:

    A Great Man, Teacher and Mentor.
    Was a Savlan, and tolerated different people and various Viewpoints & Derachim in Avodas Hashem. I miss all those rides i used to give him from Touro to his home. I would always find an excuse to drive him home even if i wasn’t taking classes with him that night. I simply enjoyed his brilliance, company, foresight and of course his… witty remarks. Every ride was another fulfilling lesson of history and Derech Eretz. He was definitely a very sweet fellow. And Funny Too! YEHI ZICHRO BARUCH!

  • 38. Rabbi Akiva-s daughter wrote:

    I am his daughter, and my daughter, his grandaughter wrote: My Zeidy passed away and perhaps, people out of the family circle would find it strage that I am humming a tune instead of crying – with his singing he bestowed us – true life.

  • 39. Natan Shlomo Valadez (Ben Peril) wrote:

    Boruch HaDayanEmet
    I loved Rav Greenberg like a father. He was my first and Primary Rebbe in America. He poskened for me and guided me through difficult times. He is the reason why for 20 years I have been Frum since the age of 15.
    I love you Rav.


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