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Jack D. Weiler and Family Papers

Identifier: P-1045

Content Description

The Jack D. Weiler and Family Papers are divided into two sub-groups: one containing most of JDW's personal records, including materials related to the Lenru Men's Club; JDW's philanthrophy in regards to the many organizations he worked with; items related to his work as part of the real estate firm, Swig, Weiler, and Arnow; and also includes a large number of photographs related to his meetings, dedications, campaigns, and building funds for Israel Bonds, UJA, and Federation. Last in this sub-group are books dedicated to JDW or Robert Arnow, and several small, pocket-sized booklets on subjects varying from toasts to Jewish law to care of the back.

The second sub-group is dedicated to the family of Jack D. Weiler and his wife, milliner designer Doris (née Person) Weiler, and their children, Joan and Alan. While the sub-group does contain many images and outings with Joan's husband and Jack's business partner, Robert Arnow and the children of Alan and Helene Weiler, this is primarily due to marriage into the Weiler family, and therefore the series relates more to the Weilers, with major evidence of Jack and Doris's grand- and in some cases, their great-grandchildren.

The sub-group also documents the family circles of Weiler and Person families, including the brothers and sisters of Jack and Doris, but primarily documents the family of Faivel and Chana Weiler. This sub-group contains correspondence, primarily between Jack and Doris and their children; general personal papers relating to the lives of Jack and Doris; and a large cache of family photos dating from the mid-1920s to the early 2000s.

A seperate series of Audio-Visual Materials rounds out the collection.


  • 1920 - 2014
  • Majority of material found within 1910 - 1990


Language of Materials

The collection is primarily in English with some Yiddish and one item in Russian. Some shorthand also appears in the collection.

Biographical Note

In May of 2020, at the height of the lowest moment of New York City's battle with COVID-19, the Jack D. Weiler Hosptial, located on the Einstein Campus of Montefiore Medical Center in New York City (part of Yeshiva University Medical Center until 2016), discharged the 1,000th patient who was sickened during the early days of the year's coronavirus pandemic. The discharge happened a mere two months after the working class Morris Park area of the Bronx--historically a Jewish enclave̶--with a large African-American and Hispanic essential worker makeup, who were determined to get the city through one of the worst health crises in the city's history, was hard hit by the pandemic. The hospital, named after its benefactor and builder, Jack David Weiler (JDW), a New York City real estate developer and philanthropist, originally did not want his name on the several hospitals, synagogues, and public housing projects he crafted and fundraised for both in the United States and Israel.

As Weiler's 80th birthday approached, according to an 1984 interview with Weiler ("A Passionate Concern," Jerusalem Post, Oct. 1, 1984), and "Sixty years later [in the real estate business], philanthropist Jack Weiler devote[d] millions of dollars of his profits" to projects in the United States and Israel. At the height of Weiler's 80th birthday celebrations, not only had his name been attached to the Bronx hospital, but also a restored synagogue in Italy, the Jack Weiler Chaplaincy of the New York Board of Rabbis; and, in Israel, the architecture department of Bezalel Academy of Art, and the Jack D. Weiler Fund for Research into Halakhic Philosophy at Bar-Ilan University.

"I have always believed, very, very, firmly, that you have to keep the home fires burning...," Weiler, pounding his cane on the floor, adamantly noted in an 1984 oral history conducted by Nicki Newman Tanner as part of the UJA/Federation of New York Oral History Collection, "...Without us being strong here [in America], we couldn't be strong for Israel." Jack, born in Russia, lit his own fires to become a self-made millionaire, eventually appearing in the Forbes 400 as a real estate broker and property dealmaker. Jack D. Weiler developed his real estate empire by working hard on his chosen deals, saving his money, paying back his loans, and ultimately donating large portions of his wealth during his lifetime and after, to major Jewish-based organizations in the United States, and especially in the State of Israel. JDW believed that Jews needed to keep the home fires of hard work and achievement burning for themselves as pillars of their community, both for their fellow Jews in America, and those migrating to the State of Israel after World War II. In a nutshell, Jack Weiler was a steadfast American, family man, real estate developer, philanthropist, and Zionist.

Jack was born on May 30, 1904 to Faivel Weiler (1870-1959) and Chana Cohen (1870-1937) in Russia, the seventh of eleven children, with one sister dying in infancy. Chana was born in Yekaterinoslav (now in Ukraine) and had two sisters and four brothers. Faivel was born in Chernigov (now in Ukraine) and he had two brothers and sisters. According to a historical sketch of the Weiler family located in Box 13, Folder 1, after Faivel and Chana married, they settled in the town of Svitskoy. Their second oldest son, Rubin (Ruby), left for America to work. After saving money and sending it back to his parents, the Weilers booked passage to the United States. However, after an arduous overland trip to the nearest port of departure, the family was delayed at boarding as Chana was pregnant with her ninth living child, Sammy, Jr., and about to give birth. The Weilers had to wait a month more before they could leave with the children, including the newborn. The eleventh child, and only one born in the United States, was named Pauline.

Children of Faivel and Chana:

Sam, Sr., March 1889-1967 (Married Rose)

Rubin, (nicknamed Ruby) May 1891-1962 (Married Jenny)

Anna, April 1893 (Married Harry Gelfand)

Hyman, (nicknamed Hymie) 1895-1965 (Married Mary)

Max, April 1898 (Married Esther)

Aaron, August 1902 (Married Kay)

Jack, May 1904-1989 (Married Doris)

Frances, July 1906-1979 (Married Jules Berliner)

Sam, Jr. October 1910 (Married Selma)

Pauline, March 1913, married Joe Shenkman

According to Weiler's UJA oral history and a 1986 Wexner Institute interview, the family’s first stop was with relatives at 95 Allen Street on the Lower East Side before moving to Fifth Avenue and 112th street in Harlem. Weiler mentions that the family then moved to the Bronx, though according to the 1920 census, the family lived at 586 Powell Street in Brooklyn. On that census, Faivel is listed as the head of household and a teacher at a Hebrew school, with Sam Sr.’s listed occupation as painter, Hymie listed as a machine operator at a clothing factory, and Aaron, a salesman. Jacob (Jack), noted in the census as fifteen at the time, was a student at the High School of Commerce opened in 1902, and located on W. 65th, on the current site of the Julliard School of the Arts. The high school was "organized to prepare young men for careers in business and commerce or advanced education on the university level, The High School of Commerce offered students a rigorous comprehensive education through courses ranging in focus from biology to bookkeeping to Medieval history." There, Jack learned shorthand, typing, and business practices, all three of which he would use to start his life as a clerk in a real estate office, and later, to start his own career as a real estate developer. In his oral history, Jack notes that baseball player Lou Gehrig and Broadway impresario Billy Rose were also in his class. Jack was very involved in high school, as can be seen through his work on the Commerce Caraval journal for the years 1922-1923 in his collection of papers (box 12, folder 11). Jack was the secretary of the circulation department of the journal. This led to Jack working on some stories for the journal, and from there, Jack spent a brief time as a writer for the New York Call, a socialist newspaper where he gathered stories of "school news and school athletics." After high school, Weiler spent a year at City College in New York City, but dropped out after learning Faivel borrowed money to pay for his college tuition. Jack was the first in the family to attend college. Though he did not graduate from college, JDW would earn several honorary degrees. Photographs in the collection from the early 1920s portray a vibrant young man of the roaring Twenties age. JDW noted in his oral history that while his father was a Hebrew teacher, Jack himself was not necessarily an observant Jew even though his father was a Talmudic teacher, as Jack was working six days a week, including Saturdays, as he started his career as a real estate agent. Jack met his future wife, Doris Person in New York. His first real estate license was issued in 1925, and after an engagement of a few years, Jack and Doris married on June 19, 1927. Jack and Doris had two children, Joan (born on December 17, 1929-2010) and Alan (spelled Allen in some records, born April 24, 1934).

The 1930s were a pivotal time for Jack and his family. The Great Depression was ongoing and Jack himself was not making a great deal of money to sustain his family of four, let alone help his extended family. According to his oral history, Jack was making so little money that he was forced to ask his landlord to allow him to hold off on his rent for a period of time, and Doris, as a professional hat designer, brought in more money than Jack.

Despite financial difficulties (or because of them), on November 18, 1932, the Weiler family created the “Weiler Sheves Achim” family club (box 13, folders 11-25). The club, based on Psalm 133, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity,” created a family mutual aid society. Each of the brothers (and eventually, the sisters) formed the club first to help their father financially and support their ailing mother with each member donating at least $100 per year. Family members could borrow up to $200 per year, with $2 monthly payments back into the fund. Monthly meetings were held at different Weiler houses, with a President, Secretary, and Treasurer appointed to administer the meetings or type up the minutes. When Chana became deathly ill in 1936, the fund was able to pay for doctors and specialists. After her death in 1937 and the breakup of their sister, Anna’s, marriage to her husband Harry, Anna moved in with Faivel and took care of him. Funds left over from Chana’s illness were substantial, but Faivel suggested that the family continue to donate for the benefit of each other. Faivel’s health collapsed and his doctors recommended that he quit teaching. He moved to Florida, where he lived for several years. Doris, Alan and Joan would spend winters with him and Anna, until Faivel moved to California with family who resettled there. Later the family fund helped with hospital bills incurred when Alex Weiler, the son of Rubin and Jenny, fell ill. Alex died on January 18, 1940. The club’s minutes continue until 1995, eventually splitting into East and West Coast divisions as Weiler family members migrated from New York and Florida to California.

The move west for some Weilers proved fortuitous as Sam Jr. became a manager in Hollywood, working with stars such as opera singer Mario Lanza and Ernest Borgnine, who spoke at the 1957 Weiler Sheves Achim Club 25th Anniversary, along with his then wife, Rhoda.

From about 1930-1944, family correspondence reveals that Jack traveled frequently for real estate deals, first with the real estate company Harris and Newmark starting in 1929, and then by partnering with Benjamin Swig. Jack met Ben and Mae Swig in 1936. Benjamin’s father was banker and Massachusetts politician, Simon Swig of Boston, famous for taking down the con artist, Charles Ponzi of the "Ponzi scheme," which provided profits not from legitimate investments, but from the money of investors themselves, creating a false return on investment. Simon was also known for hiring Jews, women, and Black tellers at his bank branches. When Simon died in 1939, Benjamin became the treasurer of the Tremont Trust Company in Boston. At the time Jack met Benjamin in 1936, Swig owned supermarkets in Massachusetts, and it is unclear from the collection how exactly Jack and Benjamin met. However, over the next forty-four years, Jack and Benjamin worked deals on a "handshake” basis, with Jack covering primarily the East Coast and Benjamin, who eventually moved to San Francisco where he owned the Fairmont Hotel in the city, the West Coast.

Robert Arnow (1924-2014) was the tall, handsome nephew of Benjamin Swig, the son of Mae Swig's sister. Robert entered the Weiler family picture after World War II. Arnow was born in Roxbury, MA where his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Leon Abronovitz owned a pharmacy, a profession that Robert would turn to after the war. Arnow, stationed in the Philippines, specialized in photography during the war according to his oral history. Out of the service, Robert went back to college to continue his pharmacy studies but noted in his oral history that he was not cut out for school.

While Robert’s paternal grandparents where Orthodox, his father was more Conservative, and like Jack, more secular than religious. After a blind date set up by family and friends, Robert noted that Joan immediately told her friend after she met him that she was going to marry him. Joan had just graduated from the Lasell Junior College in Auburndale, MA and Robert was a senior in pharmacy school, and they wed on June 26, 1949, and would go on to have four children, Peter, David, Ruth, and Joshua. After they married and under the tutelage of Jack, Robert left pharmacies to enter the real estate business, eventually becoming a named partner in Swig, Weiler, and Arnow.

Alan Weiler married twice, first to Helene (and later, Elaine), and Alan had three children: Susan, Fred, and Barbara. He became a lawyer and was an Assistant Attorney General in New York for a time.

After World War II and several years of involvement in the UJA and Federation, Jack focused on Israel and refugees, visiting Israel in 1949, and according to immigration records, trips with Doris every year to Europe and Israel until at least 1956. (Immigration records note incoming passage to the United States on the SS Liberte, the RMS Elizabeth and RMS Mary.) These overseas trips were used to plan and create, with Israeli leader David Ben-Gurion and other officials, housing for the large number of Jews migrating from European displaced person camps to Israel. Jack served as Jewish Agency Chair of the Housing Committee for Israel for several years, helping the Israeli government build housing to move immigrants from tents to homes with roofs.

By 1951, Jack was the General Chairman of the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York. Jack's name first appears on the Roll of Honor: Leaders of the UJA 1939-1963 (box 4, folder 7) in 1960 as a National Chairman of the organization, and by 1963, he was noted as the "National Chairman Representing the agency of the JDC” while Isadore Breslau represented the United Israel Appeal. Even while Jack and Ben were still building, Jack mostly dedicated himself to raising money for the UJA and Federation and establishing bond projects for housing and infrastructure in Israel.

Jack’s resume of philanthropy (box 13, folder 8) is long and his tenure in organizations included not only the United Jewish Appeal and the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, but also the United Israel Appeal, the Honorary Chairman of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (notably the Jack D. Weiler Hospital), the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JOINT), the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the Realty Foundation of New York (Founder and President), and he was the Honorary President of the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital as well as Chairman of its Board. In addition, he was Honorary President of the Jewish Community Council of New York, named Realty Man of the Year in 1956 and 1962, was on the Advisory Board of American Friends of Hebrew University and the Israel Education Fund, and a member of New York City’s Grand Street Boys Association as well. In the realm of politics, Jack was the Chair of the Finance Committees for both Senator Herbert Lehman (1950) and New York City Mayor Robert Wagner (1956).

Swig, Weiler and Arnow, the company, was as busy as Jack, the philanthropist, building not only skyscrapers, but apartment complexes such as 2 Fifth Avenue a block from Washington Square Park in New York City (1959) and Fairmont Hotels in New Orleans and Dallas. The company also razed the "Old" Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan at Broadway and 39th (1967), replacing it with a 40-story office building meant to provide revenue to the Met Opera, who eventually sold the building. Other buildings included 1776 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, the Russ Building in San Francisco, and 437 Madison and 1460 Broadway in Manhattan.

Jack’s proudest American building project, however, was the Grace Building located at 42nd Street across from Bryant Park. The gently sloping white office tower overlooking the park toward downtown New York, had a sprawling front sidewalk plaza, and an unfinished roof when Jack was presented an idea by Rabbi Harold Gordon of the New York Board of Rabbis: Why didn’t Jack put a sukkah on top?

The Grace Building was yet to be completed when Weiler hosted the first “Sukkah in the Sky” in 1972. The sukkah, built during Succoth, falling between Yom Kippur and Simchat Torah, is a tent-like structure made of branches and greenery symbolizing tents used during the exodus of the Jews from Egypt to remind Jews of their days in the desert. Jack recreated a sukkah large enough for at least 125 people (and sometimes more). According to the Jewish Week-American Examiner, the sukkah was fifty by thirty feet and Jack used it to host gatherings for different organizations between Yom Kippur and Simchat Torah. The Grace Building fully opened in 1974 and the Sukkah in the Sky events lasted until after Jack’s death but ended during the 1990s.

Jack’s building work in Israel was extensive, including the Kiryat Jack Weiler (Jack Weiler Hill) settlement in Israel, named after Jack with areas dedicated to his father Faivel, a garden to his wife Doris, and his business partner Benjamin, opened in September 1984. Jack also donated to the Bazelel Academy in Jerusalem and was “largely responsible for establishing the Academy in one campus on Mount Scopus. He not only donated the Jack D. Weiler School of Architecture, but participated generously to the Benjamin H. Swig School of Industrial Design and… endowed Bezalel’s historical downtown building… renamed the Weiler Center of Jerusalem (box 4, folder 9).” Back in the United States, Swig, Weiler, and Arnow in 1982 sold their fifty-percent interest in the Fairmont Hotel Company. That same year, the company purchased Pennsylvania Station in Newark, NJ based on a "sale-lease-back deal."

Doris was an avid gardener, as seen through family photographs. To honor Jack and Doris, their children, Alan and Joan, spearheaded a donation of $1.5 million to the Central Park Conservancy in 1987. A garden created by landscape artist--aptly named M. Betty Sprout--designed the garden in 1937, but by the financial collapse of New York City in the 1970s, had fallen into disrepair. In order to revitalize that area of the park, the Doris and Jack Weiler Garden was endowed and dedicated at 105th Street and Fifth Avenue, a mere seven New York City blocks from where Faivel and Chana Weiler and their children landed back in the early 20th century.

Towards the end of the Wexner Heritage Foundation video interview, Jack was asked to give a word of advice to the youth about philanthropy and life in general. “Get involved,” he said, “no matter how little you donate.” He continued: “Do not take life too seriously, because you’ll never get out of it alive.”

Jack David Weiler died on October 13, 1994 at his home in New Rochelle, NY. Doris died in 2009, at the age of 106.

Sources: 1985 Interview with Weiler Robert Arnow Oral History New York Times, Garden in Central Park is Reborn After Neglect by Sarah Lyall, July 11, 1987. Sheves Achim Club Scrapbook, 1932-1942; Sheves Achim Club Booklet, 1957 Pittsburgh Press Feb 18, 1986 Weiler Center—Bezalel Academy of Jerusalem Program, circa 1990 Wikipedia Simon Swig


11.8 Linear Feet (26 containers)

Physical Location

The collection is located at the American Jewish Historical Society at the Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

Related Materials

American Jewish Historical Society:

Oral History of Jack D. Weiler by Nikki Tanner as part of the UJA-Federation of New York Oral History Collection 2001, conducted in 1984 Includes transcript.

Oral History of Robert Arnow by Bella S. Loeffler as part of the UJA-Federation of New York Oral History Collection 2001

P-588 Boris Smolar Papers

I-433 United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York collection

I-506 New York Board of Rabbis

YIVO Institute of Jewish Research:

Singer, Beshevis Isaac. Remembrances of a rabbi's son : published in honor of Jack D. Weiler in celebration of his life and accomplishments, 1984.

Condition Description

Generally good condition

Guide to the Papers of Jack D. Weiler and Family, undated, 1910-2014, bulk: 1924-1990 P-1045
Tanya Elder
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Arnow and Weiler Family

Revision Statements

  • 2022 March 7: Added two oversized folders. T. Elder

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States