Most 14 year old boys cannot wait to go home and start playing their video games. Jonathan Greenstein — president and expert-in-charge at J. Greenstein & Company, Inc.– took a strong liking to a different passion at the age of 14. After being thrown out of Yeshiva his freshman year of high school, and sent to public school, he took an afternoon job working at an antique Judaica store where he developed a love for Judaica and a knack for finding pieces of emotional and monetary value.
Mr. Greenstein, now 50 years old, has taken his teenage hobby and elevated it from collecting and selling on a small scale to now owning the only the only auction house dedicated solely to Jewish religious ritual art. He also owns Mercy Home Care, which provides health care products to hundreds of thousands of people, has two real estate investment firms, and is heavily involved in pro-Israel activities.
Mr. Greenstein has no plans of retiring to Florida quite yet. On February 11, 2017 J. Greenstein & Co. will host an opening reception for ‘Passage to Israel,’ a photography exhibition that explores the layered, soulful beauty of the land of Israel. The exhibition, which will feature 23 photos that he chose out of a book of 200, will be shown in his Long Island gallery through March 8.
Helping to pay off tuition bills for his three children is only one benefit of the exhibit. The real pay off for Mr. Greenstein is for viewers to see the Jewish presence and connection to Israel throughout history.
The connection of Jewish people to their homeland is the heartbeat that drove Mr. Greenstein to host this exhibit. Greenstein, himself, didn’t get to visit the country until he was 40 years old but he describes that first visit as the ‘highest ten days’ of his life in Israel, crying the moment the plane touched down at Ben-Gurion airport. While many might think he was just a Birthright participant, his first experience in Israel was as a father of a boy about to become a man.
Recalling the experience, Mr. Greenstein said: “I am in Los Angeles several times a year. The six hour flight is torture for someone with ADHD. I was afraid to sit on a plane. For my oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah my wife and I decided to do it. When we touched down at Ben Gurion I just started crying. My father and grandfathers never made it to Israel. I fell in love with the land, the people, the essence. It was the highest ten days of my life. I have gone back approximately 18 times (since then). It’s the land of our history, the living torah. For a Carlebach hippie Ba’al Teshuva like myself, it had a special meaning.”
His sense for Jewish pride and love for Israel that runs deep into Jewish collective DNA can be felt in his exhibit. When asked which piece from the exhibit was his favorite, Mr. Greenstein said: “So many of them are aesthetically pleasing, so many are incredibly artsy and so many of them fill me with Jewish pride. If I had to choose one, it would be Soldier Praying by Laura Ben-David. It epitomizes what I would do if I could turn back the clock and start over again.”
Although Mr. Greenstein wishes he could rewind time, his vision of the exhibit shows forward thinking. “Jewish refugees aligned with the Jewish population in 1948 and took a strip of desert and turned it into a thriving world class country that leads the world in technology, medicine, food production, desalination, science etc. This was done with the blood, tears, sweat, and laughter of the Jewish condition. I would love the country to continue to grow in economic development, military strength as well as achieve peace with the Palestinian presence in Judea and Samaria,” said Mr. Greenstein.
However, the auctioneer is cautious about thinking too forward. Commenting on the possibility of a “Passage to Israel” 100th anniversary in 2048, Mr. Greenstein said: “Who can think so far in advance. I’m trying to figure out what I’m eating for dinner.”
You can check out “Passage to Israel” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/236764953439851/
or Online @ www.jgreenstein.com/
and in person on February 11, 2017 from 7:30-11pm at J. Greenstein and Co. @ 417 Central Ave, Cedarhurst, New York 11516