Photograph courtesy Temple Israel
Let me tell you, putting together the “Who’s Who” section of our annual City Guide is a grueling process. It begins with staff meetings to determine just which Memphians deserve such recognition, and those discussions can sometimes get a bit, uh, animated — ending with loud arguments, punches thrown, cheap liquor bottles hurled.
After things have settled down and we've made the final selection of 100 or so people, though, the next step is to write or update the various bios. We glean the needed information and photos from various sources, then turn it over to a grizzled veteran of our staff to compile all of these bits and pieces into one article. That grizzled fellow would be ME.
Employing a decidedly low-tech system of colored markers, I compile the various bits and pieces into one long printed-out file and then oh-so-carefully indicate the production status of each “Who’s Who” bio in this logical fashion: “CONTACTED FOR INFORMATION” or “NOT UPDATED” or “UPDATED” and then the all-important “READY.” Ready for publication, that is. And it’s not a computer coding system. I actually scribble all this on the actual hard copies.
This system, crude as it may seem, has worked pretty well over the years, and for 2012 I'm proud to report it was 99 percent correct. Just one problem. When you are writing about 100 or so people, a 1 percent error rate means you have one person's bio completely wrong.
And so it was this year with Rabbi Micah Greenstein.
We didn’t learn the error of our ways until thousands of copies of the City Guide had been printed and mailed to subscribers across the nation, or distributed to newsstands around town. And even then, how did we find out we had made a mistake? Did we get a letter beginning, “Hey, you IDIOTS!” or an email with the subject line: “How could you BE so stupid?”
No, because Rabbi Micah Greenstein, as anyone can tell you, is a class act and one of the nicest fellows you could ever meet. Instead, he sent me a polite email saying, “By the way, here is an updated version of my bio for your files, for future use.” Now this confused me. Why would we need an updated version, I thought, when we had just printed an updated version in our City Guide?
Ah, then the full extent of our stupidity — no, make that my stupidity — became clear. For reasons that remain a mystery, we ran — without changing a single word — Greenstein’s “Who’s Who” bio from last year. And looking through my carefully printed-out files, I noticed with some consternation that every time I encountered his bio, I had written “READY” on it. Even though Greenstein had emailed me a brand-new bio well in advance of our deadline, I somehow managed to overlook it completely, and continued to write “READY” on every version we saw, all the way to the printer.
I can’t explain how this happened. I'd like to think it had something to do with the poor quality of the colored markers we used this year. Yes, that’s it!
All we can do at this stage is to apologize to Rabbi Micah Greenstein, the members of Temple Israel, and our readers. And run the corrected current version of his Who’s Who bio here.
And to attone for our mistake, I have sentenced myself to an indefinite period of community service — working for low wages for a monthly city magazine. It's a rather severe punishment, believe me.
Here's what we should have published in our 2012 City Guide:
Senior rabbi of Temple Israel, Tennessee’s oldest and largest synagogue. Two-time president of the Memphis Ministers Association and longtime board member of the National Civil Rights Museum. Greenstein was named in 2012 among the “Top 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America” by Newsweek. The only rabbi selected as principal speaker for Major State Day at the Washington National Cathedral and the first rabbi to preach at the Calvary Lenten Series, Greenstein has served on a dozen boards including United Way, St. Mary’s Episcopal School, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He received the 2011 Humanitarian of the Year award from the Memphis City Council and the 2012 President’s Humanitarian Award by the Memphis Theological Seminary, where Greenstein teaches area ministers. A Memphian since 1991, Greenstein is a leader in Clergy for Equitable Education, uniting religious leaders across theological lines to support public education for all children in Shelby County. Internationally, he led the city’s first interfaith religious leaders mission to Israel and is deeply involved with Harpswell – the path-breaking educational model for young women, empowering a new generation of female leaders from Cambodia to Memphis. Before entering rabbinical school, Greenstein was named a Cornell University National Scholar and a Kennedy Fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.