Dr. Robert Lowenstein, 105, of West Orange died Jan. 7, 2013. He lived most of his life in Newark, where he was born, before moving to West Orange in 1973.
Dr. Lowenstein was a scholar, teacher, and published poet who helped found the Newark Teachers Union in the 1930s. He began his teaching career in Trenton before coming to Newark, where he taught Romance languages at Weequahic, South Side, and Barringer high schools.
He graduated from Newark’s South Side High School and received a bachelor’s degree in classical languages from Rutgers University in 1928, a master’s degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania, and a PhD in French from the Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on Voltaire. He taught at a boys’ high school in France for a year, forming lifelong friendships with some of his students.
In 2008, he was among the first group of inductees into the Weequahic High School Hall of Fame, where he was honored for his exemplary teaching and chairmanship of the foreign languages department over a long career.
In 1955, he was one of three Newark teachers fired during the McCarthy era, when the House Un-American Activities Committee came to Newark. He lost his job for six years, with his case going twice to the New Jersey Supreme Court before he was completely vindicated and reinstated in 1961.
Among the many students with whom he maintained decades-long friendships was Philip Roth, who used him as a model for the main character’s brother Murray, an English teacher, in his novel I Married a Communist.
After reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 1977, he turned to writing poetry and had more than 100 of his poems published in small magazines such as California Quarterly, International Poetry Review, and Parnassus Literary Journal.
He was a decorated World War II veteran honored for his service as a Master Sergeant in the Army Air Corps in North Africa, Italy, and Yugoslavia.
Predeceased by his wife of 64 years, Zelda Lewis Lowenstein, in 2005, he is survived by two daughters, Amy Lowenstein (Daniel Schwarzkopf) of Yardley, Pa., and Martha Lowenstein (Eric) Rennie of Cromwell, Conn.; his son, James (Hadassah) of Fair Lawn; four grandsons; and a great-granddaughter.
A memorial service will be held in the spring. Memorial contributions may be made to the Center for Constitutional Rights, 666 Broadway, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10012; the Bridge Family Center, 1022 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, CT 06107-2105; Jewish Family Service of North Jersey, One Pike Drive, Wayne, NJ 07470; or AAUW, 111 Sixteenth St. NW, Washington DC 20036.