Rabbi Daniel Greer is the founder of the Yeshiva of New Haven and a one time candidate for the Democratic nomination for a New York State Assembly District. He was the father of Batsheba Greer, the lead plaintiff in case of the Yale Five.
Greer was born in New York City to Moses and Angele Greer. Angele was a native of Egypt and a graduate of the University of Paris. Moses was a graduate of City College of New York and a wholesale wool resaler. His parents were both Modern Orthodox Jews and Greer grew-up attending day school. He went to high school at the Manhattan Talmudical Academy.
Greer attended college at Princeton University where for his first two years he would eat alone in his room so he could have kosher food. He spent his junior year studying at Hebrew University of Jerusalem after which he switched from being a biology to being a near eastern studies major. After graduating from Princeton Greer spent a year studying talmud and related subjects under Joseph Soloveitchik.
Greer then entered Yale Law School where he was roommates with Jerry Brown. Other members of his Yale Law class included Gary Hart and Michael Horowitz. After graduating Greer worked for a short time at a Wall Street Law firm, but quickly moved into the administration of John V. Lindsay. He initially was an examining attorney for the Commissioner of Investigations, then general counsel and later Deputy Commissioner for Ports and Terminals.
During this time he also became affiliated with the Save Soviet Jewry movement and was one of the moving figures in getting the United States State Department to intervene in the Leonid Rigerman case. In 1971 he married Sarah Bergman, a Jewish day school teacher.
In 1972 Greer ran against incumbent Richard Gottfried for the Democratic nomination for the state assembly in one of the Upper West Side Manhattan districts. Both candidates tried to project themselves as running on a campaign plank for McGovern and Peace. However Greer was becoming disenchanted with the welfare state and even more so with Lindsay's community control of schools which led to the firing of many Jewish teachers to make room for African-American ones.
In 1973 Greer and his wife went to Israel with work permits and plans to make aliyah. They arrived in time to be there through the Yom Kippur War. Greer apprenticed in law under Eliyahu Lenkin, the man who captained the Altalena which (according to some) was sunk on the orders of David Ben-Gurion while Yitzah Rabin led a charge killing those on the shore who sought to aid the Altalena crew to safety. Greer also studied to be ordained a rabbi with Yehoshua Neuwirth. Greer's wife Sarah studied under Nehama Leibowitz. Their first son, Dov, was also born in Israel.
After moving to New Haven the Greers established an orthodox day school because there was not a sufficiently religious one in New Haven. Greer continued to work as a lawyer for 14 years. Daniel Greer also served as a time as the New Haven City Police Commissioner.
Over the years the Greers expanded their day school into a full Yeshiva with both an elementary school and boys and girls high schools. He also formed various organizations to redevelop the neighborhood where his Yeshiva was located, including fighting the prostitution in the neighborhood.
Greers children went to Yale. After the change in policy in 1995 that required even students with families in New Haven to live on campus, he sought an exemption for his daughter Batsheva on the grounds that living in co-ed dorms that freely distributed condoms, had lectures on safe sex and co-ed bathrooms were incompatible with Orthodox Judaism. Yale refused to cooperate, so the Greers paid the rent on a room their daughter never even entered. In December 1997 Batsheba and three others brought a suit against Yale. The fifth of the Yale five had married three months earlier than planned to avoid having to follow Yale's rules.
Greer also organized the Edgewood Park Defense Patrol to cut down on crime in the Edgewood Park neighborhood of New Haven. Both the Anti-Defamation League of Connecticut and the local chapter of the NAACP criticized the patrol for carrying firearms. As of 2007 he and his son Eliezer were seeking the ouster of New Haven Police Chief Francisco Ortiz.
- Samuel G. Freedman. Jew Vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000) p. 231-263.
- Jewish Student Press service article on Yale housing dispute
- Aug 26, 2009 Ha'aretz article on Greer