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Albert Bender's Birth and Family Background

Learn more about the family background of Albert Bender, Asian art collector and donor to the Museum.

Albert Bender was born in Dublin, the son of Rabbi Philip Bender and Augusta Bremer. Albert Bender's was a proud Jewish family whose influence was felt not only in Ireland and the United States, but also in Britain and South Africa.

Albert Bender's Education

Bender went to primary school at 73 Lower Mount Street where his father, Philip, was a teacher and taught Jews and Christians, a rare occurrence in nineteenth century Ireland.

Albert Bender's father, Philip

Philip Bender also held the position of Rabbi to the Jewish congregation of Dublin from circa 1856-78. After twenty years he 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 brother, Alfred

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. 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.’

Emigration and Fortune

Albert Bender immigrated to San Francisco at the age of thirteen where his uncle, William H. Bremer, a shipping and insurance broker gave him work. By the age of twenty he had set up as an independent insurance agent and would amass great wealth. He was interested in three main areas of collecting - modern art, books and Asian art.