The world lost a most incredible, vibrant, loving woman. Harlene Goldfield Arenberg, age 86, of Bridgeport, CT, and formerly of Scranton, passed away from COVID-19 on December 17, 2020 holding her daughter’s hands. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Eli Arenberg, on June 7, 2008.
She was born to Samuel Goldfield and Bella Klejnman, Camden, NJ, and as the youngest of four outstanding sisters, the late Rhoda, the late Gloria, and Sandy, she learned by example to love fiercely, as she was everybody’s baby and was so adored.
Harlene spent her years after college working as a social worker in Camden. She met the love of her life, Eli Arenberg, first when she was 3, and he came from Scranton to Camden to visit his grandparents, Harry and Fanny Markowich, who were Bella and Samuel’s best friends and neighbors. Twenty-three years later, Sandy, Eli’s brother, and Fanny devised a strategem to get Harlene to Scranton, to reintroduce her to Eli. For a well-seasoned traveler, who relished her trips all over the world, the one to Scranton was the most auspicious of her life. After one failed bid for her hand, Eli swept Harlene off her feet with his humor, tenderness, and musical talent at the piano.
Harlene was welcomed warmly by Scrantonians who became life-long friends and she quickly integrated herself into Scranton’s vibrant community by volunteering at several Jewish organizations. She went back to work as a social worker in the 1970’s as a Home/School Visitor in the Scranton School District. She got her Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in 1974 and became a Licensed Professional Counselor, opening a private counseling practice. Harlene traveled to Philadelphia to train with the experts of the profession and became a masterful clinician in marriage and family therapy and in healing trauma. She continued to stay on the cutting edge of the latest developments in the counseling field, and was treasured by her numerous clients for her compassion and effectiveness. Harlene was fulfilled by her work to utmost extent. She continued her practice until the day before she moved from Scranton to Connecticut two years ago.
When Harlene and Eli’s magnificent son, Steven (19) was killed by a drunk driver in 1981, instead of becoming depressed, their grief motivated them to contribute to their community by establishing the first chapters in the area of Compassionate Friends and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, as well as establishing The Steven Bruce Arenberg Fund to support students’ trips to Israel. By example, Harlene taught her family, her friends and her community how to grieve. How to go on. And, most importantly, how to put JOY back into life.
Harlene didn’t have hobbies, but she made a sport out of perfecting (“trying to,” she would say) the crust for her renowned apple pies. She devoted a yeoman’s effort of 60 years, working through her hands as many configurations of flour, fat, salt, and water as chemically possible. Once in a while, she’d give herself credit for a “Not bad. Actually pretty good” crust. Additionally, she loved to entertain and throw warm and festive epic dinners and brunches for beloved family and friends, cooking everything herself. Harlene nourished people in a variety of ways.
Harlene will be remembered for capturing hearts through enormous warmth and focused attention. There was hardly a person she met whom she didn’t find some love for. She was energized by connecting, and others were empowered by her. She did not know how to have a customary greeting. Instead, her heart would reach out to greet, and she genuinely assumed all were fabulous until proven otherwise. Even then, she was rarely critical or judgmental.
Her family, numerous nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews, and valued friends will remember her for her ability to teach through her example of how to live with delight, how to manage difficulty, what to focus on, and more importantly, what to overlook. She will also be remembered for her deep intelligence, fabulous wit, magnanimous warmth, and conviction to love deeply. Most remarkably, every person will remember a particular feeling they have that is unique to Harlene, that left an imprint and filled them up.
Harlene put everything she had into her love and care for her family. She is survived by her wonderful sister Sandy Silbert; daughter, Jodie Semel, who will never get over her luck that this sensational, spectacular woman was her mother and the one she was meant to have; son-in-law, Jeff, who can’t get over his particular luck in winning the mother-in-law lottery and will miss her love and their deep, philosophical discourses; and the ones who captured her heart the most, the greatest joys of her life, her precious grandchildren, Lindsay and Jesse Semel. Harlene never stopped living. She is still living. In all of those she touched.
In addition to her parents and husband, she was preceded in death by her son, Steven; and sisters Rhoda Miller and Gloria Bryen.
Family and friends are invited to a graveside service on Sunday at 12 noon in Temple Israel Cemetery, Dunmore, by Rabbi Miriam Spitzer and Cantor Vladimir Aronzon. All those attending are kindly asked to follow current safety guidelines by observing social distancing and wearing a mask.
Contributions in Harlene’s memory may be made to the Steven Bruce Arenberg Fund, c/o The Jewish Community Center, 601 Jefferson Ave., Scranton, 18510; or to the COVID-19 Support Fund, https://foundation.bridgeporthospital.org/what-we-support/.
Friends may call during a virtual shiva via Zoom on Monday evening from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Please call Temple Israel of Scranton on Sunday morning for the link.
To send flowers to Harlene's family, please visit our floral store.