Arthur Freiman of Teaneck never wanted the limelight, those who knew him agree.
But if anyone deserved to be eulogized by Governor Philip Murphy, those who knew him also agree, it was Dr. Freiman.
Dr. Freiman died of covid on April 26. He was 68 years old. Mr. Murphy eulogized him in his April 29 press conference devoted to the covid pandemic: “Across a four decades long career, he was a champion of special needs students and their families,” Mr. Murphy said.
“He spent 30 of those years with the Bergenfield Public School District,” the governor said. “He retired three years ago after having transformed special education and Bergenfield from a place of isolation to a place of inclusion. But he came out of the bullpen. He returned for the second half of 2019 to help guide a transition there in the guidance department.
“I knew he always was a hard worker,” his wife, Jeanne, said. “I didn’t realize the extent of some of the things he did. He worked very hard. Sometimes he would come home, have dinner with us, and go back to his office and do more work, simply because he wanted to get the work done and get it right.
“He loved what he did. I had to convince him to retire. He would be happy to keep working and doing what he was doing. He really did love it.”
“Dr. Freiman created the TriValley Academy, which today serves 83 students with autism,” Mr. Murphy said. “He developed an alternative middle school, and also a high school that boasts a 97 percent graduation rate. And he continued working with educators, training them on the use of new assistive technologies to create personalized learning plans for their students.
“For his commitment and dedication, Dr. Freiman received various awards, but I know that his greatest reward was in seeing his students and their educators excel.
“God bless that guy,” the governor said.
“We’re still devastated and can’t believe he’s no longer with us,” Dr. Christopher Tully said. Dr. Tully is Bergenfield’s superintendent of schools; he started work at the district in 2002 as its director of technology. “We worked very closely at the time to improve the information system that provided all the data for the special education students. I knew he was special right from the beginning — the amount of care and focus he always had for students.
“Since his retirement in July 2017 he remained part of our family and quite often could be seen on campus trying to help wherever he could, as a volunteer.
“As we were preparing to close down our schools for distance learning, he was still visiting the school almost on a daily basis to see what he could do to help us transition, even though he was no longer receiving a paycheck. When he was ill, he was still sending messages from his hospital bed to various members of our school district, providing advice on different things they had questions about. He was still concerned for the children of Bergenfield. He was always the person who wanted to give but never wanted to take.”
That was basically the consensus from the rabbis at the two Teaneck synagogues he was involved with.
“He was a wonderful, positive member of the synagogue, eager to volunteer and help in any way possible,” Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky of Congregation Beth Sholom said. “He was a regular presence on Shabbat and holidays. He was very involved with the Tzedek Tird of Social Justice Committee, working to support a refugee family. He made an extraordinary effort there.”
“He was very understated,” Rabbi Daniel Fridman said. Rabbi Fridman leads the Jewish Center of Teaneck, the congregation the Freimans joined when they moved to Teaneck in 1980 and where he was a long-time board member. “Arthur was a really good listener.
“He was extremely humble. He did an enormous amount for the shul, but he never talked about it. Other people would tell me how much he contributed.
“Arthur was for the community. Arthur was for the kids. Arthur wasn’t for Arthur. He was the last person who would ever seek an article about his life.”
Jeanne and Arthur met as students at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1974, and got married in 1975. Arthur Freiman earned a PsyD from Rutgers, and in 1980, the Bergenfield school district hired him as a school psychologist.
“His whole philosophy was that you get the teacher to learn to help the child, rather than classifying them and putting them into a special ed class,” Ms. Freiman said.
The Freimans have two children: a son, Jordan, and a daughter, Alison. They became grandparents ten months ago, with the birth of Alison’s baby, Zack.
“My husband was the photographer in the family,” Ms. Freiman said. “He was almost never in pictures. That’s the kind of personality he had. He never wanted to be in pictures.”