July 9, 2007
Arbiser’s sculpture shows mettle of
by carol clark
The scrap-metal “stick man” pushing a giant cog up an incline is an eye-catching labor of love, installed in a landscaped area near the Facilities Management building on Peavine Creek Drive. But the simple figure, known as “The Worker,” also has a tragic, and ultimately uplifting, story to tell.
“I made this sculpture in commemoration of my family,” said Sam Arbiser at the recent dedication for the work, held at Emory’s Visual Arts Center. Arbiser donated the sculpture, appraised at $35,000, to thank the University for helping he and his wife make a new life after surviving the Holocaust.
“This sculpture memorializes an extremely poignant history of survival and triumph,” said Jeffrey Prince, regional development director for Emory Arts and Sciences Development. “People like you give Emory a conscience and we thank you for this opportunity.”
Arbiser’s great-grandfather operated a foundry in Poland, a family business eventually handed down to Arbiser’s father, Jacob, who had an engineering degree in machine building. During World War II, when Arbiser was a teenager, he was captured by the Soviets and spent seven years in a Siberian labor camp. Meanwhile, his parents, sister and brother were killed by the Nazis.
After the war, Arbiser went to Israel where he became the chief engineer in the largest machine building company and foundry in the Middle East. He also met his wife, Pola, one of the so-called “hidden children of the Holocaust,” who was saved by her Christian nanny.
The couple came to Atlanta in 1959, when Arbiser received an offer to work in the United States. He eventually opened his own company, while Pola performed research at Emory. She earned a Ph.D. here in 1964. The Arbisers’ children, Sherry and Jack, also graduated from Emory. Jack Arbiser is currently an associate professor of dermatology in the Emory School of Medicine.
“I want to thank this country and Emory University for providing my family roots and allowing us to thrive,” Jack Arbiser said. “This statue is really just a token of my family’s wish to say thank you.”