Community leader Dr. Ahmad Jaber, a Bay Ridge doctor known for founding the civil rights organization the Arab American Association of New York, died Dec. 10 at the age of 73.
Born in the Palestinian village of Yamoun, Dr. Jaber emigrated to the United States in 1974 and launched his medical career as a resident at NYU Langone-Brooklyn, formerly Lutheran Medical Center, in Sunset Park. He went on to become a board-certified OB-GYN before opening a private practice in Bay Ridge, where he long resided.
In addition to delivering more than 5,000 babies over the course of his career, Dr. Jaber was known for his community involvement and generosity.
“I’ve known Dr. Jaber for almost 15 years. [He] dedicated his entire life in service of others,” said Faiza Ali, the co-director for outreach at the City Council, and the former advocacy and civic engagement director at the Arab American Association of New York. “He not only founded Muslim and Arab organizations in Brooklyn that laid the foundation for the community he loved, he was also a bridge builder and activist. Dr. Jaber was driven by his faith values of compassion and love.”
Ali said no job was too small for Dr. Jaber, whose mentees called him “Dr. J.”
“He was the person who helped a struggling new immigrant family with bills and groceries, the one who spoke out against discrimination and injustice, the person who jumped in his car and ran to Costco to pick up bottled water to distribute during protests and rallies,” she told Brooklyn Paper.
But, Dr. Jaber’s impact on Bay Ridge was just as big as those to the families of children he helped bring into the world, according to l
Local elected officials and community members took to social media Thursday to lionize the “giant.”
“Today I mourn with the Arab-American and Muslim communities in Bay Ridge and beyond,” wrote Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus on Twitter. “We lost a giant with the passing of Dr. Ahmad Jaber, who dedicated his life to serving the community and promoting cross-cultural unity.”
Well-known Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour mourned the passing of her “movement father.”
“My heart is crushed but my commitment to our people is now even stronger,” said the former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. “In your honor Dr J., we keep going.”
The association, which provides social services, immigration support and public advocacy for New York’s Arab-American community, was founded in a small office on the second floor of Dr. Jaber’s Fifth Avenue practice. Before starting the group, Dr. Jaber joined forces with a budding community of Arab-American doctors across the country to found the National Arab-American Medical Association in 1975.
“Dr. Jaber founded the AAANY as a welcome center and beacon of hope to new arriving Arab and Muslim immigrants,” Sarsour told Brooklyn Paper. “He invested his own resources, including giving up his medical clinic in a prime location to establish the association. He wanted every immigrant who came to have a family, and that’s what AAANY was.”
The community leader also left a mark on the city and state at large, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio in respective statements. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson also took to Twitter to express his condolences. “New York City lost a beloved leader today,” he tweeted. “Without a doubt, he was a pillar who built and grew community and fellowship everywhere he went.”
Dr. Jaber’s passing came after a lengthy battle with liver cancer, Ali said.
“His loss is being felt by so many right now,” said Ali, “but there is comfort knowing that his contributions and legacy will be felt for generations.”
Dr. Jaber is survived by his wife Najah; his children Reem, Ramee, Ranee, Omar, Waseem, and Faris; and his grandchildren Deen, Hana, Zayn, Faisal, Leena, Elijah, Noah, Iris, and Eisa.