Sheldon Greenberger spent years searching for a menorah.
Not just any menorah, but a specific one: purchased by his grandfather in honor of Greenberger’s late father.
Greenberger’s search spanned about 35 years and four generations of his family, but thanks to help from extended family members and a local rabbi, the menorah was eventually recovered and restored.
Greenberger was born in Cleveland, and lived in the area until he was 37. Greenberger’s father, Leonard, passed away in 1959 at age 44. Greenberger’s grandfather, Henry, purchased and donated a menorah in Leonard’s honor to B’nai Jeshurun Congregation-Temple on the Heights on Mayfield Road.
When Leonard Greenberger passed away, the Temple on the Heights’ Gottfried Chapel was new, and Sheldon Greenberger said the menorah was about halfway up the wall, near the front of the chapel on the right side. Below the menorah was a plaque that indictaed it was purchased by Henry Greenberger in honor of his late son, Leonard. Sheldon Greenberger married his wife, Judie, in Gottfried Chapel and the menorah was next to the altar for the ceremony.
In the 1980s, the building was sold and the congregation moved to its current location on Fairmount Boulevard in Pepper Pike.
“That’s when it went missing,” Greenberger said. “The new temple was quite a bit smaller than the old temple and they just didn’t have room when they moved. They had a storage area or an attic for stuff they didn’t want to throw out but didn’t have room to put (those items).”
Greenberger moved from the Cleveland area, first to Florida, then to Raleigh, N.C., and eventually to Austin, Texas. He dropped his search after a few years, but when he would return to the Cleveland area to visit family and friends, he would stop by the synagogue and inquire about the menorah.
“I went there four or five times,” Greenberger said. “I would go talk to people there, explain the situation. They were always nice. But I made a fundamental error. What I should have done was write a letter to the rabbi.”
Greenberger said the thought never crossed his mind when visiting to ask for the rabbi or to write to the rabbi, and by the time he moved to North Carolina, he admitted he kind of just forgot about the menorah.
“I figured I gave it my best shot,” he said.
But it wasn’t the end of Greenberger’s quest. He said he volunteers at one of the Jewish Community Centers in the Austin area, and asked the director of the center if he knew who the rabbi was at B’nai Jeshurun Congregation. The director didn’t, but the two looked up Rabbi Stephen Weiss and wrote a letter to him regarding the menorah.
“God bless him,” Greenberger said. “He got back to me within a day or two. He called me, introduced himself, and said ‘If (the menorah) is here, we’ll find it.’ He then asked me if I knew anyone in the congregation, and said ‘We have a Robert Greenberger who is on the board of trustees.’”
Unfortunately, Greenberger didn’t realize Robert Greenberger was his cousin.
“It didn’t resonate with me,” Greenberger said, laughing. “I always knew him as Bobby or Bob. Weiss immediately called Bob and (Bob said) ‘I’ll find it.’”
Robert Greenberger, who lives in the area, said he remembered the menorah once Weiss explained the situation to him.
“Both of us used to stare at (the menorah), counting down the clock, waiting for services to end,” Robert Greenberger said. “The temple stores lots of things from its old synagogue, we met there and went through one of the storage rooms and it was sitting right there on the floor.”
Robert Greenberger said he and his brother, Paul, found the menorah and then gave it to Sheldon’s sister, Ellen, who lives in Lyndhurst.
Sheldon Greenberger said his sister took the menorah to be restored because it had frayed wiring from years in storage.
In June, the restored menorah was presented to Sheldon’s eldest son, Leonard, who is named after Sheldon’s father. The menorah is displayed in Leonard Greenberger’s home in Washington, D.C.
Sheldon Greenberger said he hasn’t been in the area to thank Weiss in person for his help, but he did call and leave a message thanking him. He also said he was very grateful for the assistance of his cousin, Robert.
“If it hadn’t been for (Rabbi Weiss) or my cousin Bob, the menorah would still be lost,” Sheldon Greenberger said.
Robert Greenberger said he was happy to help and reconnect with family members.
“We’re still relatives and we’re still in Cleveland,” he said.