Anera Meant So Much To Him

Aref Jabr seemed to know about Anera from its earliest days. And as he became more involved with the organization he knew that he would make a bequest. A lot had to do with his beginnings, says his wife Barbara.

Aref was born and raised in Jaffa, where his uncle Dr. Yusuf Haikal served as the last elected mayor before the state of Israel was created in 1948. Dr. Haikal was later named Jordan’s first emissary to the United States. Aref was living and working in Kuwait at the time but his uncle asked him to come work with him in Washington, D.C. “Aref could never sit still, he had so much energy and he was excited by the prospect.” This also gave him the opportunity to continue his studies, and he received his law degree from the Washington College of Law at American University. He spent the rest of his career at West Publishing Company, a law book publisher in St. Paul.

Barbara and Aref Jabr visited Jerusalem when they went on an Anera board trip to the Middle East in the 1990s.
Barbara and Aref Jabr visited Jerusalem when they went on an Anera board trip to the Middle East in the 1990s.

It was in Washington that Barbara and Aref met. She remembers it was while she was at Macalester College and temporarily in Washington to take a class at George Washington University. “A mutual friend introduced us,” says Barbara, “and that was it.” She returned to Macalester to finish her studies and they were married shortly after graduation.

Aref passed away two years ago but Barbara says he devoted his life to the Palestinian cause and to the welfare of the Arab-American community in the Twin Cities, Minnesota where they lived.

Aref Jabr was always very active with Anera, serving on the board and then on the advisory council. “I remember an Anera trip we took to the West Bank and Gaza in 1997 to see the wonderful projects that Anera was implementing. We were were struck by the incredible hospitality that was shown to us by the Arab communities wherever we went.”

Barbara says they were saddened at the time by the difficult conditions in Gaza, which have only worsened since then.

She herself remains committed to Anera and has taken over Aref’s seat on the advisory committee. “Anera always meant so much to him and to me,” Barbara says, “because of its important work in development and humanitarian assistance.” That is why, she continues, Aref decided to leave Anera his largest charitable gift.