Interview with Solly Greenstein

In tribute to Solly Greenstein who passed away in 2011, we would like to re-publish the interview with him after receiving his JCC Award in 2010.


As mentioned in the previous ‘Shifra Says’ I have brought you a story from one of our most senior Chairperson’s and JCC Committee members, volunteer extraordinaire and gentle soul, Solly Greenstein. At the 2010 AGM of Jewish Care Cape, Solly Greenstein was one of two recipients of the Eliot Osrin Award for outstanding community service.

In speaking to some of his friends and colleagues recently, I asked them what were some of Solly’s most endearing qualities. Unanimously they replied and agreed on the following qualities; Solly has a wonderful sense of humour and enjoys telling jokes. He loves speaking and giving speeches and is eloquent and articulate. He has been dedicated and committed to Glendale for over 40 years and feels Glendale in his heart. Solly loves Art and Artworks and has a special collection himself. Solly is a jovial person and has made many a resident at Glendale feel listened to and esteemed since he has consistently been ‘there’ as a volunteer from 1966.

I had the opportunity of interviewing Solly at the end of last year in his home in Fresnaye. I asked him a couple of questions and these are a shortened version of his responses.

What does the award mean to you?

A multitude of thoughts come to me – did not expect it – Never considered myself as ever having done something special. After 43 years it became something natural like brushing teeth, i.e. community work.

What made you want to do community work?

Solly tells the story that he had just got married, the first chairman of Glendale, Kenny Lipman (an old school friend) asked him to accompany him to Glendale. When he arrived, it was a quiet Sunday, he was struck by seeing little children of ages two and three (beautiful children) who were bedridden, this sight motivated him to do something to help. “When you see a child of 1 month old who is severely disabled your heart has to respond”. Solly became passionate about his involvement in Glendale once he had children of his own. Solly joined the Glendale committee 6 months after that first impressionable and heartfelt visit.

Solly emphasised throughout the interview that he felt strongly that you have to give something of yourself, back to society, especially as he had been fortunate in relation to himself and his family.

Glendale became an integral part of his life and who he was and he iterated this by saying: “Great love from little friendship grows”.

Solly stressed that for him it has been an important value that one must not judge people. Solly loved being at Glendale, loved the people there, enjoyed sitting and speaking to all the residents and giving them caring and proper attention as befits all people no matter their abilities.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

Solly quickly reminds me, in his down to earth way, that Glendale was one of the first community outlets that de-stigmatised mental/intellectual/physical disabilities in the Jewish community.

Solly remembers that in those days many parents in communities across the board locked up their disabled children and they were treated as 2nd class citizens.

Pointedly Solly accentuates that ‘one must always treat all people with respect and dignity, irrespective of wealth and intellect, our biggest mistake in life is to compare for example; ‘this is sweet because that is sour’, “by the same token if you compare the people at Glendale than they are handicapped, but if you compare ME with Einstein than I am handicapped”.

Lastly Solly pondered for awhile and then expressed that he would love there to be more compassion towards the have-nots in our community and, ‘I want everybody at Glendale to feel happy’. ‘I am grateful to my wife children and grandchildren and all I ask is for my grandchildren to be well, I have had it all.

Currently Solly is laid up in hospital and we at Jewish Care Cape are wishing him everything of the best, and thanking him with gratitude for all he has contributed to the community in his life-span.

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