A community leader in the Midwest, Mary Arbitman Fellman was president of Beth El Synagogue Sisterhood (Omaha), of the Midwest branch of the National Women’s League, and of the Omaha chapter of Hadassah. She became the first woman elected president of the Jewish Federation of Omaha in 1978. For five years she and her sister, Annie Arbitman Allen, directed the Midwest Jewish Singles Network to help Jewish singles meet.
Mary Arbitman Fellman was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on March 2, 1917. Her father, Max Arbitman, arrived in the United States from Odessa in 1905. Her mother, Dora Freed, came from Minsk in 1912, and with her family made their entry to the United States at Galveston, Texas. Max Arbitman was the proprietor of a grocery store from 1916 until 1959. The Arbitmans had three children, of whom Mary was the eldest; her brother, Morris, died in 1941 while in the U.S. military and the youngest, Annie Allen, moved to Israel.
Mary graduated from Central High School in 1935 and from the University of Nebraska in 1939 with a degree in sociology and journalism. After jobs with the U.S. Engineers and an insurance company, she began work as a news editor for the Omaha Jewish Press in 1943. She served as its first woman editor until her marriage in 1947 to Morris C. Fellman. They had three children: Marsha Zimmerman, a registered nurse in St. Paul, Minnesota; Mark Fellman, an attorney in Mendota Heights, Minnesota; and Ronald Fellman, an attorney in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts.
In 1982 she and Oliver B. Pollak cofounded the Nebraska Jewish Historical Society. She has been instrumental in the publication of Memories of the Jewish Midwest, the establishment of the Archival Center, and the Henry and Dorothy Riekes Museum in the Dan and Esther Gordman Center for Jewish Learning.
Her many awards include the B’nai B’rith Citizenship Award, the Jewish Federation of Omaha and the Amit Women’s Humanitarian Awards, the KETV Jefferson Award, the National Council of Jewish Women’s Hannah G. Solomon Award, the Beth El Synagogue Earl Siegal Award, and the Omaha Chapter of Hadassah Lifetime of Service Award.
Mary Arbitman Fellman died on July 6, 2008.
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Pollak, Oliver B.. "Mary Arbitman Fellman." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 22, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/fellman-mary-arbitman>.