Tom Rees, Noreen Shcolnik and Rep. Greg Stanton

Tom Rees, Noreen Shcolnik and U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton stand together with congressional tribute to Janet Arnold Rees on Nov. 10, 2022.

Roughly one year after her death, Janet Arnold Rees, former senior concierge and creative aging coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS), founder of Arizona Jewish Theatre Company (AJTC) and devoted friend to Greater Phoenix’s Jewish community, was honored by U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton (AZ-04) with a tribute he entered into the Congressional Record and became part of the Library of Congress in perpetuity.

On Thursday, Nov. 10, Tom Rees and Noreen Shcolnik, Janet’s widower and sister-in-law, respectively, sat in Stanton’s Phoenix office as the congressman read from the framed tribute before handing it to Tom.

The tribute begins, “Madam Speaker, I rise to honor the life and legacy of Janet Arnold Rees. Janet was tirelessly devoted to our community and made it a better place to live through her work as a teacher, theater producer, entrepreneur and social worker.”

It then briefly summarizes Janet’s biographical details, her experience founding the AJTC and her work with JFCS before closing with a brief benediction.

“Janet touched so many lives and leaves behind a legacy that will be felt by generations. We join her loved ones in grief and gratitude, thankful we bore witness to her work. Godspeed, Janet.”

Stanton said that serving in the U.S. Congress is “a great job for many reasons” and one of the best is honoring people like Janet, “who have gone above and beyond so that their life, their work and their advocacy and stewardship of the community deserves to be in the Congressional Record.”

This tribute now becomes part of the official record of the United States and will be part of the Library of Congress, on view for future generations.

Stanton said his staff read about Janet’s leadership and her passing and brought it to his attention.

“She had an amazing life,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that I did my part to recognize Janet’s amazing accomplishments and leadership.”

While Stanton never met Janet, as Phoenix’s former mayor, he knew the importance of AJTC to the local theater scene.

“It’s hard to create stuff and she created a theater company which is pretty amazing,” Stanton said. “It’s a bummer that it ended up not making it and hopefully, someone else will use a lot of the things she created.”

Stanton called himself “an arts and culture guy” and appreciated the diversity Janet brought to Phoenix’s theater scene. Her founding of AJTC, as well as her work with JFCS, another organization he knew well from his days as mayor, grabbed his attention when his staff first mentioned her as someone who might deserve the tribute.

“I love people like Janet who are willing to make such a positive difference,” Stanton said.

“And when I saw that she was AJTC’s founder, I thought, ‘This is the perfect person.’”

A congressional tribute is the highest honor U.S. congress members can give and they do so sparingly. Stanton estimated that he might give one to seven or eight people a year. He’s done it for military veterans and civil rights leaders who have had amazing lives, he said. And occasionally, he has given it to an organization celebrating its centennial anniversary.

“In my world, it’s big and I love it,” he said.

After reading the tribute, Stanton chatted briefly with Tom and Noreen about the midterm election, redistricting and his need to find a new office. He told them his staff would give them more copies of the tribute for family members.

Noreen described Janet as “a force.” The two were best friends since they were 14 and “talked every single day of our lives for 67 years.”

The two became in-laws when Noreen married Janet’s brother at 19.

“We always said we were sisters by choice and the marriage just made it legal,” Noreen said.

She was thrilled by the tribute and said the words Stanton read “really captured Janet.”

Tom, who still wears his wedding ring, said he “married up” with Janet, someone who “improved my life drastically.”

Janet died Nov. 23, 2021, of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. She was 73. JN