Obituary - HARVEY ARNOWITZ
Harvey Arnowitz passed away on June 19, 2014. He was 91 years old.
Brooklyn born to first-generation Americans, Sam and Freda, Mr. Arnowitz grew up with his brothers Paul and Zuckie in an idyllic neighborhood. He was a devout Dodgers fan along with everyone else. His grandmother made sure to take play-by-play notes during the day games so the boys could catch up on the action when they got home. He was a kind young man with a great sense of humor and knack for tinkering. He even rigged up a wheelchair to help his grandfather. He just wanted to help – even at four, when his father said he wanted to get the car painted, Harvey took matters in his own hands and painted it, on the inside.
Mr. Arnowitz was called to action in World War II. He was A1 fit and one of the first in his neighborhood to ship out to Alabama for training. Always a man with an innate sense of justice, he was shocked to see that the “colored” soldiers couldn’t ride the buses or go in the restaurants even while in uniform. As he said, the German POW’s could ride the trains across the south, but his fellow soldiers couldn’t.
Mr. Arnowitz was originally set to be a tank driver in the armored division but they soon found out his eyesight wasn’t quite up to it. When they asked if anyone knew anything about cameras, his childhood hobby opened up a new way to serve. Despite being assigned to a captain who almost got him killed, he eventually ended up attached directly to General Eisenhower and travelled with him for most of the war and afterwards, and was there to capture the Battle of the Bulge, the consolidation of the Normandy Invasion, to document the famous Eagle’s Nest. He was also there to record the horrors of the concentration camps as they were liberated. His photos of these dark deeds are in the Yad Vashem collection as part of the eternal record for humanity.
After the war, Mr. Arnowitz photographed the Nuremberg trials and even used a tripod to have one photo with himself standing behind the criminals. His sense of right told him that bringing them to justice was an important step in our history.
Although he never bragged about his service he was proud of what he had accomplished. His albums contain iconic pictures of heroes and villains and the story they tell will never be forgotten.
When Harvey was finally on his way home, he telegraphed his mother, “get the kneidleach ready.” Many GI’s who returned couldn’t adjust to civilian life. Many who had seen the full horrors of the Second World War and Holocaust could never find peace. Mr. Arnowitz made his own peace. After the war he began a great love affair. A new 1947 Ford, with a heater no less. Because of it, he met his wife, Bea, whom he married in 1948.
When they celebrated their 65th anniversary, it was plain to see that they were still in love like newlyweds. Harvey was devoted to Bea beyond measure. She in turn didn’t just love him for his car or sense of humor but because of his kindness and uprightness. He was a gentle soul who cared about her and their daughters, Linda and Robin.
For over 20 years Harvey was in charge of Temple Israel’s buildings and grounds for our congregations – and that’s through three different buildings. He ran a tight ship, usually with a very tight budget. He knew how to get things done and, in stronger days, never minded doing them himself. He took care of Temple Israel like it was his own home. If something broke, he’d know a guy to set it right. He spoke his mind at the meetings and on the board and had a way of cutting through to heart of an issue. Not exactly blunt, but he didn’t mince words.
Every Shabbat he’d be there, third row from the front, ready with a quip during the sermon. When he needed a boost, he brought his oxygen machine. When he needed a little more support, he finally got a walker – not an easy step – but he was determined to be independent and determined to come to shul. He’d stay for Kiddush lunch and schmoozing a little, but he couldn’t stay for the study because he had a date with a pretty girl. It didn’t matter that he saw her every day, a date was a date.
His daughters made sure he could keep that date one last time. After a month’s fight, he final knew that he couldn’t hold on any longer. He made his decisions, gave instructions, made all the nurses love him and then went to rest peacefully surrounded by his family.
Good men like Harvey Arnowitz don’t show up in the history books. Very few get turned into movies or novels. But Harvey lived an amazing life of love, adventure, achievement and devotion. He did it all without lies or hate or greed. He wasn’t a man shaped by his times but one who sought to shape them. He lived by that most ancient and blessed of Jewish values: he tried to make things better. He has left behind a legacy to the world, our community and his family that will always endure.