Bender, Alfred Philip

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BENDER, ALFRED PHILIP (1863–1937), South African minister. The son of a minister of the Dublin Hebrew Congregation in Ireland, he was the recognized leader of Cape Town Jewry for many years, both in religious and secular affairs. He was minister of the Cape Town Hebrew Congregation, the "mother congregation" of South Africa, from 1895 for 42 years and was responsible for initiating many educational, social, and cultural activities, including special services for children, confirmation services for girls, Sunday morning classes for women, and debating and social clubs for young men, taking a special interest in Jewish university students. Although very English in outlook and not sympathetic to the ways of "foreigners," he always gave generous assistance to East European immigrants in their settlement problems. He was long opposed to the principle of a representative lay body for South African Jewry, and in consequence his congregation did not affiliate with the Board of Deputies until 1919. He was also unsympathetic to the Zionist movement, but supported it after the Balfour Declaration. In the general community he was prominent in numerous educational and philanthropic endeavors, giving long service to the Cape Town hospital board, the school board, the council of the Cape Town University, and a variety of nondenominational philanthropic organizations.


I. Abrahams, Birth of a Community (1955), index; G. Saron and L. Hotz (eds.), Jews in South Africa (1955), index.

[Gustav Saron]