Biblical Botanical Garden co-founder was memorable fixture at Rodef Shalom
Irene Jacob, 84, a well-known gardener, author and the founding director of the Biblical Botanical Garden at Rodef Shalom Congregation died peacefully Thursday at her home in Point Breeze. Her husband of 54 years, Rodef Shalom Rabbi Emeritus Walter Jacob, was by her side.
Born Irene Loewenthal in Germany, Jacob became a refugee during the rise of the Nazis, living for a time in England where she completed boarding school at age 16. An ardent Zionist, she worked with Friends of Hebrew University; part of her job was to show London to visitors, one of whom happened to be the famed scholar Martin Buber.
She immigrated to Israel six months after independence was declared in 1948 and later came to the United States.
She and Walter married in 1958 and made their home in Point Breeze.
She became an active member of Rodef Shalom Congregation, engaging in the lives of its congregants, which earned her much admiration and appreciation.
In the 1980s, with husband Walter, and Joel Kranich, she established the Biblical Botanical Garden, a well-known Shadyside attraction that has garnered much local and national media attention for more than 25 years.
Beyond the actual garden, Jacob also expressed her love for horticulture in the classroom and in print. She taught botany at Chatham University and wrote or co-wrote seven books on the subject, including Gardens of North America and Hawaii: a Traveler’s Guide, Biblical Plants, The Healing Past, Plants of the Bible and their Uses, and Botanical Symbols in World Religions. She also wrote monographs and papers, which she presented around the world.
She also started The Plant Hunter, a business that designed and set up indoor gardens.
An active leader in the Greater Pittsburgh community, Jacob co-founded Mainstay Services for Handicapped Children, the Pittsburgh Recorder Society and Mother’s Day Out. Jacob also became a docent at the Carnegie Museum.
She was the mother of the late Claire Jacob, Kenny Jacob, Daniel and Eslyn Jacob.
In addition to her husband Walter, Jacob is survived by her sister Eva Meisler, Jerusalem; brother Eli Loewenthal, Haifa; and nephews and nieces Max and Lisa Jacob, Burlingame, Cal.; Jenny and Drew Patterson, Mountain View, Cal; Susan and Geoffrey Caine, Jerusalem; Ronnie and Limor Loewenthal, Modiin, Israel; Jonnie Freier, Tel Aviv; and Kate Stern, London; as well as many other relatives and friends in North America, Germany and Israel.
A funeral service will be held Friday, Dec. 7, 2:30 p.m., at Rodef Shalom.
Memorial contributions may be made to: the Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden Endowment Fund, c/o Rodef Shalom Congregation, 4905 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213.
Shiva will be held Saturday, Dec. 8, to Thursday, Dec 13, 5:30 p.m. each evening, at Rodef Shalom.