Reuben Greenberg
Charleston, South Carolina

Bill Aron describes his experience meeting Reuben Greenberg:

Reuben Greenberg was one of the most interesting men that I met on a trip… throughout my [time] in the South. At the time, when I went to Charleston, and met with him, he was the police chief of the city, which I believe, he may have been the first African American police chief in the city but I’m not sure of that. That would have to be checked in the history books. [Transcriber’s note: that is correct.] But, um, he was also a Civil War buff. So he dressed up in his uniform – Northern uniform – and went out to this site where there were cannonballs. It was a memorial. And we did a lot of photographs. Then we went to his office and we photographed there. And he happened to be Jewish. And I said, I asked him, how he came to be Jewish.

And he said he was born Reuben Green and he knew that somewhere in his ancestry there had been a Jewish person but didn’t really know the history of it. He went to school in Berkley, California, at the time of the free speech movement, and at that time, the nascent civil rights movement. And he noticed that at all the meetings, there were quite a few Anglo-Jewish people present and active in the movement. And he wondered what it was about Jews that made them take up a cause that wasn’t their own. There happened to be a rabbi there and he began talking to the rabbi, and they became friends and he began studying with the rabbi, learned more about his family history that there had been somebody Jewish and decided that he would convent. He converted to Judaism and changed his name from Green to Greenberg. And eventually… he belonged in Charleston to the Conservative synagogue there. So I said, well, that’s the perfect place to photograph you. So we went and set up as though it were a prayer service and, that’s the image that made it into the book.