We will celebrate Aaron’s life with a Memorial Service on Saturday, March 9th at the Hoboken Community Church on Sixth and Garden Streets at 11 a.m.   

Ron Hine | February 28, 2024

Aaron Lewit’s life began in 1948 in the Weequahic section of Newark, New Jersey, a community immortalized in several of Philip Roth’s novels. By age four, Aaron’s family moved to Vailsburg, another Newark neighborhood, where he grew up and went to high school.

His father, Herman Lewit, was the Director of the Newark Housing Authority, and his mother, Ruth, worked as a school nurse for the City of Newark. Aaron’s grandfather, Nathan Lewit helped to found the Workman’s Circle Home for the Aged in Elizabeth, New Jersey. 

Aaron’s family instilled in him a life-long commitment to social justice issues and progressive causes. When I first met him in 1992, he worked for the Enterprise Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building affordable housing and promoting racial equity. Twelve years earlier, Aaron and his friend, architect Carl Berg, had formed a construction company.

In 1985, Aaron visited the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and heard a lecture given by Lynne Shapiro, who worked there. At the time, they both lived in the West Village and began dating. They married that year and in 1989, purchased their home at 627 Garden Street in Hoboken. In 1992, their son Nathanael was born.

Aaron joined the Board of Directors of the Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW) in the early 1990s before the Enterprise Foundation, in 1995, sent Aaron and his family to Sante Fe, New Mexico where he developed housing for Native Americans. In Sante Fe, Aaron also created a men’s shelter.

Two years later, they returned to their home in Hoboken. As Nathanael approached school age, Aaron and Lynne helped to found the Elysian Charter School, the first charter school established in the state of New Jersey. 

Aaron also rejoined FBW’s Board and soon was elected its President. In 2001, FBW challenged a series of waterfront projects proposed by Stevens Institute of Technology. Subsequently, Stevens hit FBW with a SLAPP suit (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation), also naming Aaron and myself as defendants. Ultimately, the suit failed to achieve its aim, to put FBW out of business, and Aaron continued to serve on FBW’s Board.

After college, Aaron spent a year traveling around the world. Upon his return, he attended graduate school at Rutgers, earning two master’s degrees, one in education and the other in criminal justice. During graduate school, he ran a shelter in New Brunswick, New Jersey for children awaiting placement in foster care. 

After grad school, his first jobs were in New York City. He ran the City’s alternative to incarceration program for women. Subsequently, he became Director of Education at the Federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

As a long-time volunteer, Aaron has lent his housing expertise to three Hoboken organizations: the Hoboken Shelter, the Community Center and the Hoboken Housing Authority where he has served as a commissioner.  

Aaron was also known for his prolific roof-top garden, most notably his Cherokee Purple tomatoes. He would share his heirloom seedlings and tomatoes with me and we would compare notes about growing them. Aaron’s green thumb extended to their unique, lush backyard with Lynne overseeing the design and plant selections.

At Vailsburg High School, Aaron played football and was an award-winning pole vaulter.  He went to Simpson College in Iowa on a football scholarship. His intellectual, poet wife Lynne likes to joke, “I married a jock!” Not long ago, Aaron could often be found on the basketball courts at Hoboken’s Church Square Park. While at Enterprise, he was known to ride his bicycle to the various job sites. 

Tragically, this past year, Aaron had been afflicted with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. This progressive neurodegenerative disease quickly took its toll, sapping his strength and energy. On February 27, 2024,  Aaron’s life came to an end.

We will celebrate Aaron’s life with a Memorial Service on Saturday, March 9th at the Hoboken Community Church on Sixth and Garden Streets from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. All of his friends, neighbors and associates are invited.