Ronald Greenwald

Ronald Greenwald

name = Ronald Greenwald
birth_date = birth date|1934|1|8|mf=y
nationality = USA

occupation = Negotiator and Educator

Rabbi Ronald Greenwald (born January 8, 1934) is an Orthodox Jewish rabbi who is a businessman and an educator.

Born in New York City, he has made a career of spy trading, international hostage mediation, and other forms of high stakes, high intrigue diplomacy. He served as presidential liaison of President Richard Nixon to the Jewish community during the Nixon administration. He serves as a community activist, chairs various civic boards, and directs a high school and a summer camp.

Involvement in notable release efforts

Rabbi Greenwald has been involved in scores of release efforts for various prisoners from around the world.

Natan Sharansky

In perhaps his highest profile case, Rabbi Greenwald worked closely with Representative Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) and East German lawyer Wolfgang Vogel to secure the release Soviet dissident and Refusenik Natan Sharansky from Soviet prison in the late 1970s. He made more than 25 trips across the "Iron Curtain" to East Germany as part of that effort. [New York Post article from June 16, 1978] The Rockland Journal News reported that Rabbi Greenwald was the "man behind the talks" that freed Sharansky. [Rockland Journal News, Feb. 11, 1986, front page (banner headline)]

Miron Marcus

In conjunction with Representative Gilman, Rabbi Greenwald negotiated the rescue a 24 year old Zimbabwe born Israeli citizen named Miron Marcus in 1978. Mr. Marcus was captured when an airplane piloted by his brother-in-law, Jackie Bloch, was forced to land in Mozambique, where Mr. Bloch was killed and Marcus taken hostage. Rabbi Greenwald, Congressman Gilman and others arranged for a complex swap that involved four countries (Mozambique, Israel, the United States and East Germany), convicted East German spy Robert Thompson and U.S. student Alan van Norman. [New York Post article from June 16, 1978]

Raul Granados

Granados was kidnapped by leftist guerillas in November, 1979 while at a soccer game in Guatemala City. Rabbi Greednwald, working again with Representative Gilman, helped broker the exchange of Mr. Granados in exchange for a ransom payment of $4,000,000. [New York Post article from Jan. 21, 1980]

Vladimir Raiz

Vladimir Raiz, a Soviet molecular biologist, had been denied permission to leave the former Soviet Union for 18 years before Greenwald entered the picture. According to Steve Lieberman in the Rockland Journal News, Greenwald secretly met with Raiz in Lithuania in 1989. Following negotiations with Soviet authorities, Raiz and his family were permitted to emigrate in 1990. [Rockland Journal News article from March 9, 1990]

habtai Kalmanovitch

Rabbi Greenwald was involved in the transfer of Shabtai Kalmanovitch from the USSR to Israel. However, in 1987 Kalmanovitch was arrested in Tel Aviv and charged with being a KGB spy and sentenced to nine years in prison in 1987 for spying for the Soviet Union. He was released from prison after five years and returned to to Russia.

Lori Berenson

In 1994, political activist and New York native Lori Berenson was arrested, tried and sentenced to life imprisonment for treason by a Peruvian military tribunal. She was accused of belonging to a Marxist rebel group and plotting to overthrow the Peruvian government. [ [ The Wall Street Journal Online - Citizen of the World ] ] Because of the shady circumstances surrounding her trial and her harsh sentence, Amnesty International, in 2003, referred to berenson as a "political prisoner." [ [ Amnesty International ] ]

With the support of President Bill Clinton. in 2000, Rabbi Greenwald led a delegation of American negotiators to Peru to press the Peruvian government to free Berenson or, at least, to grant her a new trial in a civilian court. [The Jewish Week, March 10, 2000] The effort succeeded and Berenson was afforded a new trial in civilian court. At her subsequent trial, Berenson was convicted again and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

Jonathan Pollard

Rabbi Greenwald has been involved in many of the attempts to gain clemecy for Jonathan Pollard by convincing the then serving President of the United States to pardon Pollard or to commute his sentence. Particularly noteworthy was his effort to set up a three way trade involving Israel, the United States and Russia. Under Greenwald's proposal, Israel would release Professor Marcus Klingberg, who was being held by Israel or suspected Russian spy Shabtai Kalmanowitch to Russia, the Russians would release Dimitri Federovich Polyakov (known to the FBI as "Top Hat") or Anatoly Filatov, who were both being held by Russia on suspicion of having spied for the United States, and the U.S. would pardon Pollard and allow him to move to Israel. Congressman Benjamin Gilman and Sam Nunn's former chief of staff, Jeff Smith (who would later become chief council for the CIA) were also involved in the proposed transaction.

Unfortunately for Pollard, the effort broke down when Yossi Ben Aharon, assistant to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir insisted on Israel negotiating directly with the Russians rather than through an intermediary such as Greenwald. The Israeli negotiating effort never gained traction, and Pollard remains in prison to this day.

Greenwald's and others' efforts to convince U.S. President Bill Clinton to commute Pollard's sentence were hampered in large part by a letter written to Clinton by Donald Rumsfeld and signed by seven former Secretaries of Defense, urging the President not to pardon Pollard. (See letter on right.)

Alfred Zehe

In 1983, Dr. Alfred Zehe, an East German scientist residing in Massachusetts, was arrested for conspiracy to violate U.S. espionage laws for allegedly handing secret "sonar plan" documents to East German operatives in Mexico. East German lawyer and spy trader Wolfgang Vogel was put in charge of the effort to free Zehe. He brought in Alan Dershowitz to oversee the legalities of the effort and Greenwald to act as a person liaison between him and Zehe.

Greenwald visited Zehe several times in prison. During this time, he learned that Zehe was being threatened with being brought to trial under espionage charges that carried the threat of many decades in prison while being cajoled to turn over to the CIA whatever information he had that might be helpful to that agency. Greenwald conveyed messages to Zehe from his family urging him to do whatever it took to allow himself to be released as soon as possible. Eventually, Zehe pled guilty and conducted a full debriefing in exchange for the promise of a light sentence. Shortly thereafter, he was released as part of the Natan Sharansky exchange with the U.S.S.R. [ [ Espionage ] ]

Media coverage

Jack Anderson, in the December 3, 1988 edition of the Washington Post, reported that Rabbi Greenwald was working on an effort to persuade U.S. authorities to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, who had been condemned to life imprisonment. Those efforts were unsuccessful, and Pollard remains in prison as of 2007. With regard to Pollard, Greenwald has commented "With the Pollard case there's not exactly anti-Semitism, but rather the issue of Israel and how the State Department looks at Jews and feels about Israel, and I believe there's a bias." [ [ Jewish News, Jewish Newspapers - ] ] Earlier, Anderson had insinuated in a previous column that Rabbi Greenwald had ties to the CIA, Mossad and KGB. [Washington Post Nov. 18, 1986, Page E19]

On February 3, 1986, the ABC Evening News with Peter Jennings credited Rabbi Greenwald with playing a role in the negotiations for the release of Sharansky and featured a video clip of Rabbi Greenwald expressing optimism that Sharansky would be released. [ [ USSR / Shcharansky ABC News broadcast from the Vanderbilt Television News Archive ] ]

His high-placed connections and adventures involving delicate international diplomacy have led to speculation (albeit groundless) about nefarious connections to legal and illegal organizations around the world. As of May, 2006, no fewer than 20 websites (mostly anti-Semitic sites) have alleged that Rabbi Greenwald has or had mafia connections.

On March 9, 1990, a Rockland Journal News headline called Rabbi Greenwald a “master of international negotiation” and credited him with playing prominent roles in the freeing of Sharansky, Marcus, Granados and several others. [Rockland Journal News article from March 9, 1990]

The USA Today also credited Greenwald for arranging the release of Sharansky and commented that his dealings with famed international mediators such as Wolfgang Vogel during various negotiations resembled a "spy novel." [USA Today, Feb. 12, 1986, Page 2A]

Television Interviews Regarding the New Square Pardon Affair

Following the pardon by President Bill Clinton of several convicted members of the New Square hassidic community, Rabbi Greenwald was interviewed by several media outlets regarding his opinion and even his role in the affair. The fact that Greenwald had ties to the New Square community, was a former business associate of Marc Rich, another person pardoned by Clinton at the end of his term and had been questioned by the FBI during its investigation into the pardons, made his opinions regarding the incident highly sought after by media outlets. On March 12, 2001, on The Edge, Paula Zahn conducted a 10 minute interview with Greenwald. He also appeared on The O'Reilly Factor on October 10, 2002, when he was cross examined by host Bill O'Reilly for several minutes regarding the affair. In both interviews, Greenwald conceded that the New Square community probably voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in her race against Rick Lazio for U.S. Senate in 2000 with some expectation that some consideration be given to pardoning the members of the New Square community. However, he steadfastly maintained that that there had been no quid pro quo or agreement to exchange votes for a pardon.

Lithuanian Torah Scrolls Incident

thumb|left|Ronald_Greenwald_meeting_with_the_President_of_Lithuania,_Algirdas Brazouskas] In September 1997, during a visit of scores of rabbis and other Orthodox Jews to Lithuania to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of the great Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer of Vilnius) ["Back to the Future," "Jewish Seintinel", October 10-16,1997, Page 17] , Rabbi Greenwald personally successfully negotiated with the Lithuanian government to allow the burial of several desecrated Torah scrolls. The scrolls were among hundreds of Torah scrolls that had been disgraced by the Nazis and/or the Lithuanians during World War II. With the negotiated help of the government, Rabbi Greenwald and others located over three hundred scrolls, including some that were being held in the basement of a church. They were able to salvage most of the scrolls for further use. The scrolls that could not be salvaged were buried in an elaborate ceremony attended by visiting Orthodox Jews from around the World and Lithuanian officials ["Burial of Holocaust Torah Remnants in Vilna," "Jewish Press", October 3,1997] .

The day prior to the "funeral," Rabbi Greenwald was invited to (and did) address the Lithuanian Parliament.

Other activities


Rabbi Greenwald had a variety of unusual ties to South Africa in the Apartheid era. He was the diplomatic representative of the African Bantustan of Bophuthatswana in the United States, when that "homeland" lacked international recognition. [Washington Post Nov. 18, 1986, Page E19 ]

chools and camps

When not engaged in high stakes international diplomacy, Rabbi Greenwald operates Camp Sternberg, a summer camp in the Catskill Mountains [ [ Camp Sternberg & Anna Heller ] ] and runs Monsey Academy for Girls, a private high school in Rockland County, New York, of which he was the founder. [ [ Neve Yerushalayim Jewish Educational Network ] ] On November 26, 2006, a groundbreaking ceremony was organized and held by Rabbi Greenwald in New Hempstead, New York to celebrate the commencement of a multi-million dollar construction project that will, when completed, result in a new campus for that school that will feature detached dormitories, modern classrooms and extensive athletic facilities.

Involvement with charitable organizations

Rabbi Greenwald has served as chairman of the board of the Women’s League in Rockland County (which creates and oversees adult group homes in that county) and of the Borough Park, Brooklyn branch of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (JBFCS). He also serves on the Board of Governors of the Orthodox Union and formerly served as Vice President of that organization. [ [ Contact and Feedback ] ]

Rabbi Greenwald and the Prince of Italy

Rabbi Greenwald has worked with Prince Emanuele Filiberto of Italy in a variety of capacities. In January 2007, the two met in New York to discuss, among other things, a billion dollar Las Vegas hotel construction project being worked on by the "Made in Italy Group." (Both men serve the project in various capacities.) During the meeting, Prince Filiberto expressed regret for his great-grandfather Victor Emmanuel III's cooperation (albeit limited) with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in their campaign of aggressive war and genocide against the Jews. He further reiterated his prior condemnation of those actions and expressed optimism regarding the present and future of Italian-Jewish relations. [Jewish Tribune, January 19-25, 2007, pages 3,39]

Other positions

Rabbi Greenwald has also held positions as:
*Executive Director of Yeshiva Toras Emes in Brooklyn, New York
*Director of the Jewish election campaign of former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller
*Chaplain of the New York State Police
*Director of the Jewish presidential campaign of Richard Nixon


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