The end of an era was marked this week with the death of Robert Arnow, 94, the last survivor of the 11 founders who reconstituted The Jewish Week in the mid-1970s. Each had a distinguished career of service in addition to their considerable professional achievements in business, enriching the Jewish community here, in Israel and around the world with visionary leadership and generosity.
Arnow, the first chairman of The Jewish Week, served as an active board member until his last years. He was a champion of Jewish journalism, first serving as president of JTA and later playing a major role in advocating for The Jewish Week in its quest to be a high-quality, independent publication that reached all corners of the community. His wise counsel on a wide range of issues and his generous support were instrumental in The Jewish Week’s growth over the years.
Professionally, Bob Arnow was a major figure in the real estate business. In 1949, he joined his father-in-law and mentor, the legendary Jack Weiler, in business, and later headed the firm of Swig, Weiler & Arnow, and pursued his passion, along with his late wife, Joan, as a philanthropist and leader in Jewish communal life.
A man of quiet dignity, with a warm and outgoing nature, Arnow combined love of nature and compassion for “the other” in his unique contribution to the Israeli Negev in general, to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in particular — he served as chairman of the board of governors for 10 years — and especially to the nomadic community of about 200,000 Bedouins, who comprise the most downtrodden segment of Israeli society. Arnow became their biggest advocate and benefactor, providing university scholarships for hundreds of young Bedouin women. He recognized that empowering women through education was key to improving life in a traditionally patriarchal society.
A gentleman farmer himself, Arnow took on the challenge of helping to bring agriculture to the dry Negev through his efforts to make the university into a first-rate institution, encouraging development and growth in the area. He founded The Center for Bedouin Studies and Development at BGU, dedicated to improving the lives the of the Negev Bedouin community.
“He carried the Bedouin community in his mind, heart and soul,” Amal Elsana told us this week. The first Bedouin woman to attend BGU, she credits Arnow with supporting her throughout her career. She became a leader in the community and completed her doctorate in social development, now directing the International Community Action Network of Social Work at McGill University in Montreal. She said she intends to make good next year on her promise to Arnow to “return to teach at BGU and serve my community, and I will.”
At his funeral on Tuesday at Congregation Shaarei Tikvah in Scarsdale, Arnow was described by family and friends as a man of action, dreams and passion, committed to helping others. Shifra Bronzick, who worked with Arnow in his business and his philanthropy, called him “a practical visionary who helped each of us see the possibilities and potentials of others, and ourselves.”
The Jewish Week board and staff join the community in mourning his loss and expressing gratitude for the life he lived. May his memory be a blessing.
Read more about him here.