The American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors of Greater Boston announced last week that Israel Arbeiter has stepped down as president of the organization.
"Izzy has worked diligently to oversee all components of the association," said Janet Stein, a Brookline resident who was unanimously elected to succeed Arbeiter as AAJHSGB's president. Stein is currently vice president of Generations After, a group of second-generation descendants of Holocaust survivors, and former vice president and secretary of AAJHSGB, in a press release.
Stein cited some of Arbeiter's efforts on behalf of the association in the release: “He participated in the planning and dedication of the New England Holocaust Memorial (Arbeiter remains on its executive committee), he has been active in all Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) Holocaust Remembrance Day programs, and was part of the survivor community that commissioned the Statue of Job Holocaust Memorial at Brandeis University,” she said.
According to the press release, Arbeiter has also taken his involvements to larger and more-distant stages, such as the U.S. Congress to speak on survivors' concerns, which have included restitution payments as well as reparations for insurance policies nullified by the Nazis.
Arbeiter has also worked in conjunction with the Brookline-based national education organization Facing History and Ourselves to present firsthand experience as part of their core curriculum, and has spoken at schools and organizations throughout the United States and Europe.
"He has single-handedly helped to ensure that the lessons learned from the Holocaust are not forgotten or rewritten," Stein said.
In 1942, Arbeiter was sent to the Starachowice labor camp, where he stayed until he was liberated on April 25, 1945. He and his wife, whom he had met at the camp, came to America in 1949, and settled in a Jewish community near Franklin Park in Mattapan. Arbeiter and his only surviving brother opened a tailor shop called "The Arbeiter Brothers" on Talbot Avenue in Dorchester, later "Auburn Cleaners" in Newton.
Arbeiter is a founding member of the AAJHSGB, which was established in 1952 and has since hosted events to support the survivor community, such as "Cafe Europa" brunches, the annual Yizkor ("remember") service at Brandeis' Statue of Job, and the yearly Yom HaShoah commemoration at Faneuil Hall in Boston. Arbeiter himself has received numerous distinctions that include the Kehillath Schechter Academy of Norwood's Israel Arbeiter Gallery of Tolerance and Understanding.
The press release states that Arbeiter will continue to be an active presence in the organization, "albeit from a sitting position in the audience at community forums and events" as Stein takes over.
"When interviewed for this new post," the board recounted in a release of its own, "Janet responded by stating that 'as a child of a survivor of the Holocaust, I know that I represent in this world all of those who perished during World War II, and that it is my responsibility to honor and respect those who survived.'"
"Together with the survivors, Child survivors, Generations After, and Boston 3G (third generation) members," Stein said, "we will continue to fulfill the mission of this association by honoring and providing assistance to survivors, by paying homage to those killed, by ensuring that lessons learned from the Holocaust continue to be taught and are not altered to suit others, and by promoting and supporting Holocaust observances."
To read more of Arbeiter's story, click here.
Laura Franzini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.