Bar­bara Jonas

Cham­pion of nurs­ing, phi­lan­thropist and ab­stract art col­lec­tor

The Scotsman - - Obituaries - SAM ROBERTS

Bar­bara Jonas, who with her hus­band col­lected ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ist paint­ings and sold them three decades later to pro­mote a cause sel­dom em­braced by phi­lan­thropists – the re­cruit­ment and train­ing of nurses – died on 23 Oc­to­ber in Man­hat­tan. She was 84.

The cause was com­pli­ca­tions of chronic ob­struc­tive pul­monary dis­ease, her son, John Jonas, said.

In 2006, Jonas and her hus­band, Donald, a founder and for­mer chair­man of Lechters, a house­hold goods re­tailer, auc­tioned off half their art col­lec­tion for $44 mil­lion to cre­ate Jonas Nurs­ing and Vet­er­ans Health­care.

“Bar­bara Jonas had a deep un­der­stand­ing of the value that doc­toral ed­u­ca­tion could have on health pol­icy out­comes,” and how in­flu­en­tial that could be in nurs­ing, said Bob­bie Berkowitz, dean emer­i­tus of the Columbia Univer­sity School of Nurs­ing.

The cou­ple broad­ened their com­mit­ment to med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion and re­search in 2018, when they es­tab­lished Jonas Phi­lan­thropies, not only to ad­vance the nurs­ing pro­fes­sion but also to help re­turn­ing vet­er­ans, treat low vi­sion and blind­ness and ad­dress the im­pact of toxic chem­i­cals, con­tam­i­nants and pol­lu­tants on pre­na­tal and child health.

Jonas, a for­mer prac­tic­ing psy­chother­a­pist and so­cial worker, had demon­strated her com­mit­ment to child­hood health is­sues in 1992, when she es­tab­lished the Bar­bara Jonas Cen­ters for the Study and Treat­ment of Chil­dren at Risk within the psy­chi­a­try de­part­ments of New York Univer­sity Lan­gone Med­i­cal Cen­ter and Newyork-pres­by­te­rian/ Columbia Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

She also served as vice chair­woman of the Com­mu­nity Ser­vices Board of the New York City Depart­ment of Men­tal Health, Men­tal Re­tar­da­tion and Al­co­holism Ser­vices.

The cou­ple, who lived in Man­hat­tan and had homes in Greenwich, Con­necti­cut, and the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, be­gan in­vest­ing in art in the mid-1970s. Af­ter suc­ceed­ing as art col­lec­tors, they part­nered as phi­lan­thropists.

“We de­cided that we wanted to do some things in our life­time, es­pe­cially for New York City where we have lived our whole lives,” Donald Jonas said. “If you die rich, you die poor, re­ally.”

Af­ter sell­ing about half their col­lec­tion of de Koon­ings, Rothkos and other ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ist paint­ings (in the process set­ting five auc­tion records at Christie’s), they gave the pro­ceeds to the Jew­ish Com­mu­nal Fund to ad­min­is­ter the Bar­bara and Donald Jonas Fam­ily Fund. They ear­marked their first con­tri­bu­tions to nurs­ing, which donald jon as de­scribed as “the most un­der­val­ued pro­fes­sion”.

So far, 1,500 Jonas Schol­ars have earned doc­tor­ates in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Na­tional League for Nurs­ing.

The cou­ple has also sought to en­cour­age con­nec­tions among var­i­ous play­ers in the health care sys­tem. “We wanted to force a col­lab­o­ra­tive model to get agen­cies and hospi­tals to­gether,” Bar­bara Jonas told the Fi­nan­cial Times in 2006.

They en­cour­aged joint ven­tures with grants. One went to Pace Univer­sity’s nurs­ing school in Man­hat­tan and Mount Si­nai Med­i­cal Cen­tre to im­prove care for men­tally ill pa­tients while train­ing nurses from mi­nor­ity groups to pro­vide that treat­ment.

Bar­bara Lynn Raub­vo­gel was born on 21 December, 1933, in the Bronx to Leo Raub­vo­gel, who owned a com­pany that sold bak­ing equip­ment, and Gertrude (Mall­man) Raub­vo­gel.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the High School of Per­form­ing Arts in Man­hat­tan, she re­ceived a bach­e­lor’s de­gree from Sarah Lawrence Col­lege and a mas­ter’s in so­cial work from Yeshiva Univer­sity.

In ad­di­tion to her hus­band and son, she is sur­vived by their daugh­ter, Kirby Jones; two grand­chil­dren; and two great-grand­chil­dren.

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