A ‘visionary’ leader mourned

A ‘visionary’ leader mourned

Arthur Joseph and his wife, Joyce, never missed an opportunity to make Super Sunday fundraising calls. Michael Laves

Arthur Joseph, a champion of Jewish education and a beloved communal leader, died last Friday at the age of 85.

In 2007 – when Joseph and his wife, Joyce, were honored by Jewish Educational Services (JES) – an article in this newspaper, citing tributes to the couple, noted that when they moved to Teaneck in 1954, little of the current Jewish infrastructure existed in our area.

According to those who knew them best, the Josephs helped create many of the institutions we take for granted today.

The couple served as leaders in the community until a near-fatal car accident in Maryland on the eve of Passover in 2006. Joseph was in a coma for several months. When he revived, it was decided that he and his wife would live near their daughter, Marcy Markowitz, in Potomac, Md. Despite the relocation, the Josephs’ ties to the community remained strong.

So many organizations

Friend and colleague Mel Solomon, an immigration and nationality law attorney – who traveled to Maryland with other longtime friends of the Josephs’ to deliver a eulogy – said his “biggest nightmare” would have been to prepare a citizenship application for Arthur Joseph.

“For one reason, Part B, Question 8a, of the application asks: ‘Have you ever been a member of or associated with any organization, association, fund, foundation, party, club, society, or similar group in the United States or any other place?’ Then, Question 8b states, ‘If you answered yes, list the names of each group below. If you need more space, attach the names of the other groups on a separate sheet of paper.'”

“It would probably take an entire day and dozens of pages to list all of the organizations and foundations that Arthur Joseph was involved with,” said Solomon, adding that while Joseph was the second president of Bergen County’s Jewish federation, “To everyone he was the first president and the real founder of the organization. He loved the federation like one would love a child. His love was unconditional.”

Rabbi Stanley Bramnick congratulates Arthur Joseph at a JES dinner held in his honor. Michael Laves

Joseph helped create many of the federation’s programs, such as Jewish Educational Services, the Teachers Center, the Endowment Fund, and the Israeli Program Center. As Solomon noted, both Arthur and Joyce remained active in the federation for more than 20 years after he left the presidency.

“He attended virtually all of the board meetings, never missed a fundraising dinner, or community rally, and was an active member of many emergency and permanent committees,” said his longtime friend. “He [also] remained an active member of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Educational Services, and the Endowment Committee. He was a fixture on the executive committee.”

Solomon pointed to Arthur’s willingness to do the “dirty work,” noting that the Josephs attended every Super Sunday fundraising event and “would immediately sit down to a telephone and just start making phone calls to raise money.”

In addition to serving federation, Arthur Joseph was a staunch supporter of Jewish education generally. He was a founder of the Bergen County High School for Jewish Studies and the community’s first Solomon Schechter Day School, while also serving as a board member of the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey. Also, said Solomon, Joseph helped organize the first Chabad House in Bergen County and a local political action committee supporting pro-Israel candidates.

“Because of his vision and on-going support, Jewish educators in northern New Jersey have been supported through conferences, workshops, consultations, and trips to Israel, and the learning of myriads of students has been enhanced,” said Minna H. Heilpern, the JES director of teacher education.

‘Role model for chesed’

“I am so grateful that I had the privilege of knowing Arthur from the earliest days of JES,” she said. “He was a role model of the ideals of chesed, devotion to the community, tzedakah and menschlichkeit…, a legacy that will live on in all of us who strive to follow his example.”

Joseph’s interests went beyond education, however. “He served on the board of the Jewish Home for the Aged and Jewish Family Services,” said Solomon. “He was an active member and supporter of the Y. He was the first chairman of the New Jersey Council of Jewish Federations. He was a board member of Boys Town Jerusalem. He was active in the Anti-Defamation League, Hadassah, State of Israel Bonds, and the United Jewish Appeal. The list could go on and on.”

The Josephs lent both their presence and financial support to all these institutions, his eulogist said.

“The rumor is that Arthur and Joyce gave so generously to charity that one year the Internal Revenue Service audited them because the examiners could not believe that someone could give such a large percentage of their income to charity.”

Also dear to his friend was the Jewish Center of Teaneck, where he was a member for 50 years and a regular attendee at religious services. Said Solomon, “Arthur was keenly aware of the problems facing the Jewish Center due to changing demographics and the aging of the membership. I am sure that he would be happy to see that the Jewish Center is undergoing revitalization.”

Solomon said an additional problem filing a citizenship application for Joseph would center on the provision requiring the applicant to list all the trips of 24 hours or more that one has taken outside the United States since becoming a lawful permanent resident.

Traveling man

“Arthur was an ardent Zionist,” said Solomon. “[He] traveled to Israel close to 80 times. He also traveled to many other places to aid his fellow Jews. Listing those trips could take weeks.”

Still, he added, “He believed that if he did not live in Israel, he had no right to set government policy. Whatever the government did was fine with him as long as it was for the benefit of the Jewish community. Arthur met every prime minister of Israel and he knew many of them on a first-name basis,” said Solomon, who noted that the Josephs often entertained leading Israeli figures in their home.

Finally, said Solomon, Joseph was an avid fan of the New York Giants, holding season’s tickets and attending countless games.

“It used to drive Arthur crazy when the Giants got the ball with a minute or two to go in the first half and simply let the clock run out,” he said. “When I would tell him that they did not want to risk a fumble or interception deep in their own territory, he would always say you only get the ball a certain number of times and you better take every opportunity that you have to score. That was Arthur, he took every opportunity he had in life to make this world a better place. We are all so much richer for that.”

Also traveling to Maryland for Joseph’s funeral were longtime friends and Teaneck residents Eva and Leo Gans. Eva, herself a past president of federation, called Arthur and Joyce “both friends and mentors.”

Said Gans, “They got us involved in community work. Arthur was an incredible mensch – an extremely modest man who spent all his money trying to further Jewish causes and get others to sign on with him.”

“They’re both amazing people,” Gans had said in 2007, when the Josephs were honored by JES. “They’re at the center of the Jewish universe here. Many of the important things happening in our Jewish community were started by Arthur.”

‘Give till it feels good’

“He was so inspiring to us,” Gans said, adding that she and her husband traveled to Israel every year with the Josephs. “Arthur used to say, ‘Don’t give till it hurts – give until it feels good.’ He also said every year he pledged more than he could afford, but somehow the Almighty gave him a way to pay his pledge.”

“Arthur Joseph was the living embodiment of the most positive Jewish values,” said educator Wallace Greene, who worked with Joseph for many years on local education initiatives. “He was concerned about his fellow man, he was exceptionally philanthropic, he served his community and the broader Jewish community with distinction, he davened every morning with a minyan, he was passionate about Jewish education, he was devoted to every major Jewish cause, and he was a loving family man.”

“He was the sort of visionary that this community will not soon see again,” said Greene, citing Joseph’s role in establishing JES, where Greene served as director. “His generosity and leadership knew no boundaries. When he was honored at the 25th anniversary of JES, there [were] walls of plaques from every major Jewish organization spanning the denominations and political spectra.”

Arthur Joseph is survived by his wife, Joyce; three daughters, Linda Byron, Caryn Siegel, and Marcy Markowitz; nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and a sister.

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