Hilda Greenberg, 93, formerly of Wyncote, wife of the rabbi at Temple Sinai in Dresher, died Wednesday, Dec. 2, in a hospice in the Riverdale section of New York City.
As the rebbetzin, or partner, to Rabbi Sidney Greenberg, Mrs. Greenberg was an integral part of the life of the synagogue for 57 years.
She was loved and revered for the way in which she reached out to the congregation as it grew from a small group in West Oak Lane to a temple of 1,250 member families.
"She knew the details of their lives, when they needed a call or a note, and constantly entertained in her home," her family said in a tribute. "It was a great honor to be invited there for Sabbath dinner on Friday night."
Mrs. Greenberg was active in the Sisterhood and other synagogue groups, and rarely missed a meeting. In her role as the rabbi's partner, she often reminded him of things he had forgotten to say during services.
She made her point with hand gestures or by mouthing the words from her seat in the pews. "They were a true team," the family statement said.
Flossie Albert, a friend and Temple Sinai member, met Mrs. Greenberg when she was 8 and the rabbi's wife was 21.
"They were just a very unusual couple," Albert said. "She was the quintessential rebbetzin. Not only was she his wife, she was always by her husband's side as friend, helpmate, adviser, comforter, and quiet critic."
Mrs. Greenberg knew everyone in the congregation by name and inquired after the health of their families, Albert said.
"How's your mother, how's your uncle?" Mrs. Greenberg would ask, she said.
One afternoon a week, she sat down and wrote a note to anyone who was ill or facing difficulties. "She took the time," Albert said, to stay engaged with families on a very personal level, in a way that is rarely possible in the lives of rabbi's wives today.
Born Hilda Weiss in Brooklyn, Mrs. Greenberg studied for three years at Brooklyn College. She finished her bachelor's degree at Temple University.
The Greenbergs met at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where she was taking classes and he was studying to become a rabbi. Their first date came about when Rabbi Greenberg persuaded her to cut class and see the movie How Green Was My Valley.
They married in 1942 in Brooklyn and moved to Philadelphia, where they assumed the positions of rabbi and rebbetzin at Temple Sinai. Rabbi Greenberg was 25, Mrs. Greenberg was 20.
They served until 1999.
In January 1998, Shira Greenberg Ruskay, 52, one of the Greenbergs' three daughters, a special-education teacher, lawyer, and hospice social worker, died of cancer. As a result, the couple moved back to New York in November 2000 to be near family.
Though devastated, the Greenbergs were strong and resilient in the face of tragedy, the family said.
Rabbi Greenberg, who wrote a column for The Inquirer about religion and life, died in March 2003.
"Hilda was known in her later years for one thing - gratitude," her family said. "She never missed the opportunity to tell people how grateful she was for all the blessings in her life."
She is survived by two daughters, Reena Keren and Adena; nine grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.
Services were Thursday, Dec. 3, in New York.
Memorial donations may be made to AKIM, c/o the Rabbi Sidney and Hilda Greenberg Foundation, Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, 2100 Arch St., Philadelphia 19103. AKIM is an organization that cares for developmentally disabled children and adults in Israel.