Brother Joe Fund for the Student Center
For his affection to BU students
About the Student Center
The University is planning to construct a Multi-Purpose Building Containing: Fitness Center, Visitors Reception Center, 150 Seat Theater/Lecture Hall, Parking Facilities and a Rooftop Terrace that Adjoins the Existing Cafeteria.
This project will provide:
- Vastly improved fitness facilities that can be used by faculty, staff and students.
- An appropriate venue where overseas visitors can meet and interact with Student Ambassadors of Bethlehem University.
- A rooftop terrace that adjoins the existing cafeteria, where students can relax between classes.
- Relocated and resurface basketball and tennis courts
- Additional parking space in the basement garage
First Vice Chancellor, Brother Joseph Loewenstein Passes Away
Bethlehem University mourns the death of Brother Joseph Loewenstein, FSC (affectionately known as Brother Joe) the first Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University.
Brother Joe passed away peacefully at the age of 95 on Thursday, 18 February 2021, at the De La Salle Hall Nursing Home for the Brothers in Eastern North America.
Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University, Brother Peter Bray, FSC, said “We thank God for the life of Brother Joe and the amazing way he enriched the lives of so many people here at Bethlehem University.”
Brother Joe was a permanent fixture at Bethlehem University for most of its existence – educating thousands of teachers, civil society and business leaders, parents, nurses, scientists, and Church workers. He has been recognized by many for his devoted work in Palestine, particularly with those living in Palestinian refugee camps as he spent over 42 years in Bethlehem.
Brother Joe, you touched the hearts of many of us here at Bethlehem University as well as people in other places where you have served as a Brother. We are grateful to God, to your family, and to you for sharing your life with us and in doing so enriching our lives. We bid you a final farewell filled with fond memories. May you rest in peace.
Brother Joseph Loewenstein was born in Queens, New York, in 1925 where he grew up alongside two siblings during the depression. He attended an elementary school run by Dominican Sisters, the parochial school of the Brooklyn diocese of Elmhurst, Queens. The diocese offered scholarships for students to its secondary school, Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, which was run by the De La Salle Christian Brothers.
At 15 years old, Brother Joe left home to go to a training school for boys interested in joining the Brothers. He graduated in 1943 and went to Novitiate for one year’s training in the Brotherhood, after which he enrolled in Catholic University in Washington D.C. His class was sent to various schools after three years, before completing their Bachelor’s degrees, since there was a shortage of teachers during World War II.
Brother Joe’s genuine interest in and compassion with students stems from his time at Lincoln Hall Correctional School for Boys, where he worked for four years between 1956 and 1960.
Before coming to Bethlehem, he had completed his doctorate in Education at UCLA, specializing in Administration and Supervision. This topic had garnered his interest while working in Kenya with the Kikuyu tribe at a teachers training school and later as headmaster of a secondary school in the same area. It wasn’t an easy time to be in Kenya, in the aftermath of the Mau Mau uprising and the subsequent independence from colonial Britain.
When Brother Joe came to Bethlehem University in 1975, he was ready for a new challenge. First, he taught for a while without assuming a leadership position, after which he became the first Vice Chancellor and passionately took up leading the new university. Bethlehem University had only opened its doors in 1973 and not all educational facilities were yet on track.
Brother Joe proceeded to enlist new people to lead the faculties and established deanships to decentralize leadership. He also added Nursing to the curriculum after requests from local doctors. Nowadays, the Nursing program is one of Bethlehem University’s most successful programs.
While teaching at Bethlehem University, Brother Joe has also been a member of the CNEWA family for a long time. For several years, in the 1980’s, he served as the director of CNEWA’s regional office in Jerusalem.
From the day he arrived, Brother Joe’s passion was making university-level education available to young Palestinians. He loved working with individual students as a tutor and mentor, and he did everything he could to procure financial aid to help those students most in need.
In 2013, Brother Joe was honored with a Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. The fellow Lasallian university conferred the doctorates during its celebration of De La Salle Week and its founding 100 years ago.
At the 2017 graduation ceremony, the mayor of Bethlehem made Brother Joe an honorary citizen of Bethlehem – his second home. Brother Joe received a standing ovation from students and families alike in tribute to his dedicated service to the community.
In August 2017, Brother Joe took a very difficult decision for him which was to enter De La Salle Hall for elderly and physically ill Brothers. In his farewell note to the Bethlehem University community, Brother Joe wrote “I am sincerely grateful to all of you, faculty, staff, students for your concern for me and for your friendship over the years. I will never forget the experience of living in Palestine and working with you all these years particularly these last couple of years when I began to show my age.”
In recognition of his extraordinary service to Bethlehem University, Brother Joe was invested as an Honorary Patron of the Bethlehem University Foundation in 2018.
Letters of Condolences
Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, Apostolic Delegate
Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari , President CNEWA/PM
Dear Br. Peter and Members of the International Board of Regents:
Brother Peter, thank you for sharing with us the news of the death of Brother Joseph Loewenstein, FSC, the first Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University.
Please accept the sincere condolences and prayers of the entire CNEWA/PM family. CNEWA/PM extends its prayerful and hope-filled solidarity to you, the De LaSalle Christian Brothers at Bethlehem University and throughout the world, the faculty, the students, the staff, the graduates, and all those in and around the town of Bethlehem, where at the graduation ceremony of 2017, Br. Joe was declared an “Honorary Citizen” of the town. Br. Joe will also be remembered by the people throughout Palestine and Israel. He will be remembered by the many groups who met him during tours of the campus of Bethlehem University (BU). This was my experience as a seminary rector when I accompanied classes of seminarians to the campus of BU. Br. Joe’s welcome, explanation, and reflection on the chapel was always our first stop on any visit.
Your obituary which accompanied your notice of his death was itself a beautiful and powerful resounding tribute to Br. Joseph. Beyond his doctorate in Education from UCLA, Br. Joseph’s passion and dedication to the mission of BU for over forty years was a personal legacy and a great tribute to the commitment and passion of the ongoing history of the De LaSalle Christian Brothers! Rooted deep in your tradition, he was open to the needs of a changing world, e.g. his initiative on behalf of the Nursing faculty.
Br. Peter, as you pointed out in your reflection, Br. Joseph was also a member of CNEWA/PM. In the 1980s, he served as our regional director for the office in Jerusalem. Our blog post of 6 January 2017 recognized the love and passion Br. Joe had for the mission of CNEWA and, always, his passion for the De LaSalle tradition at Bethlehem University!
Br. Peter, please be assured of my prayers at Mass for Br. Joseph Loewenstein, FSC, especially here in the chapel of the CNEWA Residence in New York City. You, your community, and Br. Joseph, embody the meaning of Pope Francis’s third encyclical, Fratelli Tutti (3 October 2020), in the promotion of the art of encounter and social friendship. As the pope wrote: “Together, we can seek the truth in dialogue…The process of building fraternity…can only be undertaken by spirits that are free and open to authentic encounters” (Fratelli Tutti, 50).
Br. Peter, as you pointed out, Br. Joseph truly walked in the “footsteps of St. John Baptist De LaSalle.”
Requiescat in pace!
Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari
Tributes to Brother Joe
In 1977, I enrolled at the Teachers College at Bethlehem University as a transfer student from Bir Zeit College. Br. Joe was then the president of the University and he used to teach some courses for the English major. I took two courses with him: Linguistics and Communication. He was one of the best teachers, yet tough. No student dared be absent from his class. Upon graduating from the University, I went into Br. Joe’s office to inquire about the possibility of a job in the Library. Having known me as a student, he offered me a part-time job at the Circulation Desk. A year later, he nominated me for an Amideast scholarship for an MA in Library Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA. Upon completion of my MA in 1981, I came back to fulfill my service obligation and assumed the headship of the Arabic Technical Services. To you Br. Joe, I attribute the start of my employment at Bethlehem University that has continued to the present day. Br. Joe was known for taking pride in his friendship with the students from the Bethlehem Refugee camps. He boasted feeling safe while wandering around Bethlehem during the Intifada of 1987 because of his many friends and acquaintances in town. Br. Joe’s love for the Palestinians was no less than that of his countrymen. Be assured Br. Joe that you have a special place in the memory of Bethlehem University and of many Palestinians. Rest in peace.
My wife Eileen and I feel so sad for the departure of Brother Joe. Eileen was his secretary at the Pontifical Mission in Jerusalem for about 9 years prior to his becoming the Vice Chancellor of the Bethlehem University. We both extend our sincere condolences to the Christian Brothers of de La Salle Community as well as all the members of his family. He is truly a man to be remembered for his dedication in helping the Palestinian people in the Holy Land in various venues in addition to his helping students at Bethlehem University. May he rest in peace.
The English Knights and Dames of the EOHSJ pray for the repose of the soul of this holy man who radiated joy and confidence in the future of the young in a world of eternal turbulence. May God grant him the eternal rest he richly deserves and send us more like him.
Brother Joe hired me as a part-time teacher in 1975, to set up the Cultural Studies Program, which continued for 25 years. His forceful and upbeat character shaped and even created, together with Dr. Anton Sansour, the spirit of the University for many years. The Village Health Worker Program developed into the Faculty of Nursing. The Cultural Studies Program developed into the Humanities Department. Many other developments took place as Brother Joe's vision deepened and widened. These University experiences helped greatly his work as Director of the Pontifical Mission; for Palestine in the Jerusalem Office. His special concern with the handicapped students was well-known and appreciated by all. Until his very last days at the University, he was at the Front Door to welcome students and to be of any service. His example encouraged all who knew him.
Brother Joe would want to be remembered here at Bethlehem University as a brother. A brother to the people with whom he worked and as an older brother to the young people who were entrusted to the University, especially those who were struggling or were faced with disabilities. It was in seeking to walk in the footsteps of Saint John Baptist De La Salle that he found the courage and determination to touch the hearts of so many people here through the way he worked to help build Bethlehem University. He was so proud to be associated with this University and the people whom he came to know, respect and love here.
Brother Joe is an unforgettable person. His soul and heart were here at Bethlehem University. He once told me “Bethlehem University needs to invest in humans more than in buildings because the humans make the buildings”. Rest in peace Br. Joe
I first met Brother Joe when I came to serve at Bethlehem University in 2004. Initially, Brother Joe was uncertain about my role as Coordinator of Institutional Values; as was typical he would describe it as "interesting." However, Brother Joe helped me in several ways. First, he was very supportive and encouraging to me in my duties as a teacher in the Intensive English program. I was a bit anxious about teaching because I hadn't been in a classroom for over 10 years. Bro. Joe shared class materials he used and provided tips on how to teach English as a foreign language. Secondly, Brother Joe introduced me to people he had gotten to know over the years. He would take me to visit friends of his from villages and refugee camps; there I would learn aspects of Palestinian food and culture. Thirdly, Brother Joe loved to tell stories about the beginnings of Bethlehem University and the people who helped get it started. I found his passion for the Palestinian people and Bethlehem University to be contagious. As Brother Joe aged, he clung to life; it seemed that he had unbounded energy and wanted to spend it on connecting with people. He could often be seen at the main gate greeting students and employees as they arrived and departed for the day or stopping by offices to say hello to the people in them. I am grateful for Brother Joe's life and how he affected me.
I am honored and blessed to have known Br. Joe. We worked together in the Advancement office since 2002. He was truly a blessing in my life and the lives of everyone who have known him. Br. Joe made a difference in so many lives, especially Bethlehem University students. A good heart has stopped beating, a beautiful soul, full of love and faith, ascended to heaven, away from us, but closer to God. I will never forget him and his kindness. I will pray for him as he prayed for me and my family. I will always remember the special times we spent together. He was like a father to me and of one my closest and dearest friends. May God give him eternal rest
"Joe was kind hearted, full of energy and enthusiasm. A great person I lived with. He was very close to many from gatekeepers to university officials. He had a big heart"