In memory of Benny Dunner

Thursday, 3 April, 2008 - 6:39 pm

I met Mr. Benzion (Benny) Dunner when I was forced into a position of having to fundraise single-handedly a quarter of a million pounds at the age of 25 for a historical project, the building of the first Mikvah in Oxford in over 700 years. Indeed, 5 years later this project has miraculously been completed and is now functional on the site of the Oxford Chabad House.


However, trying to sell this project to reluctant people, some who asked “why do you need a Mikvah in a place like Oxford?” made the journey difficult. In fact one generous person suggested it was a waste of resources and proposed to contribute to a trust that would cover taxis to London to the few women who might need to use a Mikvah.


One of the first great sources of inspiration was when I met Benny Dunner, who died tragically at the age of 45 in a car accident. Benny Dunner is a known philanthropist in NW London but by no means does that indicate that one can expect any support for this peculiar project in Oxford.


I arranged an appointment and at the first meeting, within sixty seconds, Benny had signed a cheque for £5,000. Furthermore, he requested I return later on as the project develops, indicating that I could expect further generous support.


To be sure, my family and the Dunner family share some history. Benny's father, Mr. Abba Dunner and my grandmother, Charlotte Angyalfi (nee Rosenblum), arrived in England penniless. My grandmother often mentioned Abba Dunner and his children with fondness, as they would meet every few years.  However, this hardly explains his generosity displayed towards a project that most people thought would not materialize.


The night before his passing was the festival of Purim, when it is traditional to distribute charity to the poor. Benny opened his house until 4am writing cheques to hundreds of needy families, parting with over £2,000,000 in one night to charity.

It was this love for humanity, which is the highest virtue in Judaism, together with its synonym, love of G-d that guided his life.


Not long before his passing he indeed fulfilled his promise and donated a further £5,000 towards the Mikvah, without any desire for honour or dedication.


It can truly be said that it was his altruism and kindness that made the miracle of the Oxford Mikvah come true.

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