Tanya Arbit, a Russian-Jewish refugee, says she fell in love with her husband, Bruce, because of his ideals — “his constant need to make the world a better place for everyone.”
He also has a passion for Jewish education and raising money for the cause, she said.
Bruce Arbit, a Milwaukee businessman and Milwaukee Jewish Federation leader, said he admires his wife’s involvement in the Jewish community, starting as a recipient of refugee services in 1989 to becoming an activist for Jewish women’s philanthropy and a leader in the Russian–Jewish refugee community.
It is especially meaningful that the couple celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary by stepping up their giving to the Women’s Philanthropy Lion of Judah Endowment.
Since they married, Tanya Arbit has made an annual threshold contribution of $5,000 to the women’s campaign run by Milwaukee Jewish Federation. This year, the Arbits increased that level of giving to a $100,000 endowment contribution that ensures Tanya’s support for the Jewish community continues with the march of time.
“It’s such an incredible way to celebrate such an important and happy occasion,” said Dana Margolis, director of women’s philanthropy at Federation. “Instead of celebrating in the traditional way, they have chosen to mark the occasion with an incredibly generous legacy commitment.”
Joan Lubar, incoming board chair of Federation, said she is pleased that the Arbits decided to endow Tanya’s Lion of Judah gift. “It’s very generous and I appreciate that they had the foresight to understand what the meaning of this gift is to our community and to the future of our Jewish community in Milwaukee,” said Lubar, who is past co-chairwoman of the Lion of Judah Endowment Campaign. She also serves on the North American committee of the 7,000-member Lion of Judah organization.
It was Bruce Arbit’s idea to establish the $100,000 endowment gift in his wife’s honor. He is a former chairman of the Federation Annual Campaign and a former president of Federation. “We’ve always been Federation donors and Tanya became active as a Lion a number of years ago, and has gone to national conferences. She has grown a great deal from it,” he said. “When I told her that we were going to do this, she was extremely happy because it is meaningful to her. She has a strong feeling about giving back.”
Tanya came to Milwaukee in 1989 as a refugee from Kiev, the capital of Ukraine in the former Soviet Union. She arrived with six-year-old Eugene and her former husband. She was resettled by the HIAS and Federation and reunited with family in Milwaukee who fled Russia in the 1970s.
Like most Jewish refugees, she faced antisemitism in her native country. She was fired as an elementary school teacher when she declared her intention to leave.
The couple met when Bruce’s family “adopted” Tanya’s extended family as part of a communitywide resettlement program.
As soon as she could, Tanya got involved helping other Russian Jewish families that were resettling in Milwaukee, she said. She became a leader of the Russian-speaking Jewish community for many years, helping people become citizens.
Tanya’s son attended Milwaukee Jewish Day School. She and Bruce are Modern Orthodox and attend Anshe Sfard Kehillat Torah.
Tanya feels it is her obligation to give back. “I am a mother and a grandmother,” she said. “I would like the world to be a better place for the future generation. And it’s my honor to do that because, as coming here as a refugee from the former Soviet Union, I was helped. My family was helped and welcomed. I’m honored to be in that position, to be able to give this kind of gift.”
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To find out more about the Women’s Philanthropy Lion of Judah Endowment, which is chaired by Lauri Roth, contact Dana Margolis at Milwaukee Jewish Federation at 414-390-5700.