When Prof. Solomon (Sol) Green turned 99 last month, Rabbi Barry Eisenberg and his friends at Migdal Hashoshanim synagogue in Jerusalem presented him with a gift — a donation of 100 trees to the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), which were planted in a Jerusalem forest in his name.
It was an apt gift for a man who had dedicated his life to Israel and founded social work departments at two universities, nurturing a younger generation through education.
According to the certificate presented to Green in a Zoom ceremony attended by friends from around the world, “The Torah compares Man to a tree. In the same way a tree shelters and nurtures, so is Man capable of doing the same. Sol and his beloved wife Julia have devoted their lives to sheltering and nurturing others.”
Over his long life, Green has called three continents home. He was born in 1921 in Odessa, Ukraine, to a poor family with nine children. The clan moved to the United States four years later. His father ran a small grocery store and worked other odd jobs to support his brood.
Following a four-year stint in the United States Army during World War II which took him from the East Coast to Europe, Japan, and back again, Green studied social work at university in Cleveland, Ohio, before embarking on his career there.
“I grew up in a family where people counted very much,” Green told The Times of Israel when asked why he chose social work.
After marrying his late wife and best friend, Julia, Green moved to New York City, where he founded the school of social work at Yeshiva University. He was later appointed dean of the school. Green said that marrying his wife was the most meaningful decision he had made in his life and that he misses her to this day.
Moving to Israel was the couple’s long-term dream.
“We all talked about Eretz Yisrael,” he said, using the biblical term for the Land of Israel. “[I] always wanted to go to Israel but I couldn’t afford it, until finally we decided we had to go anyway.”
In 1967 Green and his wife came to Israel, where he founded the school of social work at Bar-Ilan University. The couple and their two children, Natan and Ezra, spent summers in Canada, where Green managed a summer camp for Jewish youth in Montreal. Later on, Green spent a year in Melbourne, Australia, teaching social work at the University of Melbourne.
In 1990 he and his wife finally immigrated to Israel. In the 20 years since his retirement, Green has done extensive volunteer work, including in the Museum of Israel and the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. He currently resides in Jerusalem.
As for big plans for the future, Green stays true to his nurturing self.
“I would like to stay alive a year or two so that I can get to know my grandchildren better,” he told The Times of Israel wryly. “I enjoy watching people grow up.”