10 years after Sbarro bombing
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10 years after Sbarro bombing

Victim's husband turns horror into way to promote kindness around the world

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Shoshana Greenbaum was killed in the Sbarro suicide bombing 10 years ago. Courtesy New Jersey Jewish News

Ten years ago this Tuesday – on Aug. 9, 2001 – a suicide bomber detonated explosives in the Sbarro pizzeria and restaurant in Jerusalem. Among the 15 dead and almost 75 wounded was a 31-year-old Passaic woman, Shoshana Greenbaum.

“We are taking a tragic situation and using it to make the world better,” her husband Shmuel told The Jewish Standard as he prepared to mark the 10th anniversary of her death.

The couple were married for 15 months, and were expecting their first child when the terrorist struck.

Shoshana Greenbaum was in Israel on a summer program to complete her master’s degree in education. A former teacher at the Hebrew Academy in Long Beach, N.Y., she was set to begin teaching at the Yeshiva of North Jersey that September.

To commemorate her death, Greenbaum is ramping up awareness of the free, daily, Jewish-oriented e-mails his organization, Partners in Kindness, sends to readers. The e-mails tell about acts of kindness by people around the world.

The organization, which he and some friends founded in 2002 “to make the world a better place,” is also donating almost 5,000 copies of his recent book, “A Daily Dose of Kindness, Stories from the Heart,” to public libraries worldwide, said Greenbaum.

A non-sectarian e-mail newsletter, “Kind Words,” is syndicated around the world.

The two newsletters have a combined circulation of 1.5 million to 2 million, are translated into eight languages, and sent to six continents.

Greenbaum believes that “by merely reading something, you can change a person.” He credits the popularity of the e-mails to the positive messages they carry. “These positive stories are things not covered in the news….You can’t find them on the Internet. This is the only source.”

The book is a compilation of some of those e-mails. Putting it together was a “strenuous” task, Greenbaum said. More than 90 volunteers worked to edit and publish the stories of kindness.

“People are habitual, and they generally focus on the negative. It takes something to not do that, a conscious effort. That’s what the emails are about. Someone can read the email and say, ‘Wow, this person can do that, and then they think, I can do that too,'” said Greenbaum.

“The book is composed of positive stories about Israel … for both Jewish readers and those of other faiths,” said Greenbaum. “We want people to see the beautiful things going on in Israel.”

Publishers started retreating from their initial offers to carry the book, he said, after the focus became more clearly stories based in Israel. “They would tell me, ‘Israel just doesn’t sell.’ It wasn’t an anti-Semitic thing – they just were being practical.”

Partners in Kindness chose to self-publish the book, but this became an obstacle when the organization began to distribute the books to libraries.

Said Greenbaum, “Just donating doesn’t get you anywhere. Libraries won’t accept books that are self-published – unless they are requested by the public. We have over 300 libraries that have accepted the book, which is testament to the power of the book.”

Every library in Brooklyn and Queens has the book in its collection, and the book is now carried in parts of New Jersey. The book can be found in libraries all over the country, from Long Island to Arizona, Greenbaum said.

He used a discussion with a library consultant in the United Kingdom to illustrate his push to bring the books to libraries. “She sat down with us for an hour and a quarter, telling us that self-published books are never accepted into libraries, that books are never donated to libraries, and this is what I told her: Our campaign is an unusual way of doing things. We just might stand a chance. After an hour and a quarter, she agreed with us,” said Greenbaum.

“Our greatest hope is that on Tisha B’Av [when the 10th anniversary falls], people will line up at their local library and ask for the book,” he said. “I hope they get 20 people together and go to their library.”

Said Greenbaum, “People ask, ‘What can I do?’ Get the e-mails. Forward them to friends. Ask your local library to accept the book.”

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