Albert Bender came from a proud Jewish family whose influence was felt not only in Ireland and the United States, but also in Britain and South Africa. His father, Philip, held the position of Rabbi to the Jewish congregation of Dublin from circa 1856-78, where he also taught at 73 Lower Mount Street. After twenty years he eventually left Ireland with his family for Hastings, England where he opened a Jewish Boarding School that he ran for fifteen years. From his obituary in The Jewish Chronicle it appears a testimonial was given to him by his congregation when he left Dublin, which stated: ‘Through you a high standard of mental culture has been given to our children and to those former pupils of our faith, who became distinguished alumni of the University of Dublin, and shed lustre on our congregation.’
Albert Bender’s older brother, Alfred was born in Dublin in 1863. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and St. John’s College, Cambridge and in 1892 he was awarded the Mason Hebrew prize. By 1895 he became Chief Rabbi of Capetown and Professor of Hebrew in Capetown University. Like his brother, Alfred was renowned for his generosity and philanthropic activities, particularly in the area of education. He also spoke out against the malnutrition experienced by many of Capetown’s children, his obituary in the Cape Times stating that ‘on many occasions he publicly blamed politics for this state of affairs saying that had there been less politics in South Africa the poor and needy and the ailing would receive better attention.’
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