He gave away £2m, then died in a crash

The death of Benzion Dunner in a car accident at the weekend has robbed the Jewish community of one of its greatest philanthropists. Only two nights earlier, the man who described himself as “God’s postman” had given away around £2 million to poor and needy Jews who queued at his Golders Green home until four in the morning.

A friend of the family told the JC: “He was one of the leading philanthropists, not only in this country, but in the global Jewish community. He gave away about £2 million to people on Purim night alone. There was a huge queue of people, he was signing cheques until four in the morning and everyone got a smile and a kind word — even those he did not particularly like, though he would never say so. He gave away millions more during the course of the year. But that was the person he was.

“He called himself ‘God’s postman’ and said that he saw no point in having money just sitting in a bank account. Countless individuals and families depended on him to make sure they always had food on their tables, and communities people have never heard of came to him for help.

He was the most amazing man — and he did it all with that smile on his face. “His death is a huge loss because he supported so many causes and so many individuals around the world. Here, he was a governor of a number of Orthodox Jewish schools, including Menorah Grammar.”

A spokesman for the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations said: “Benzion Dunner will be sorely missed.

He was a very philanthropic person who gave away a huge amount of his income, more proportionately than anyone else we were aware of. “He was also a very religious person. He used to learn with his uncle Dayan Aron Dovid Dunner in the morning and go to his business in the afternoon.” Mr Dunner, 45, was travelling to Bournemouth with two of his nine children, aged 20 and nine, and a 77-year-old woman, on Saturday night when his £175,000 Bentley Arnage was in collision with a Toyota Celica near the south-coast resort. He was going to join his family who had spent Shabbat at the Normandie Hotel. His passengers were only slightly injured, as were those in the other car, two men aged 30 and 40.

A special inquest was opened and adjourned at Bournemouth coroner’s court at noon on Sunday to allow the funeral to take place in Enfield that afternoon. It was attended by more than 3,000 people, including both the Bobov and Skverer Rebbes who flew in from New York.

Mr Dunner is survived by his wife Esther, daughter of property magnate William Stern; his children; his father Councillor Aba Dunner, executive director of the Conference of European Rabbis; three brothers and a sister.

    Last updated: 9:30am, June 3 2008