Tributes Paid to 'God's Postman', Who Gave Away Pounds 2m before Dying in a Road Accident
McSmith, Andy, The Independent (London, England)
Britain's community of orthodox Jews is still in shock after the sudden death of the philanthropist who called himself "God's postman". The official period of mourning for Benzion Dunner ended at the weekend, but friends say his absence will be felt for much, much longer. Mr Dunner was a one-off.
Two days before his fatal road accident, Mr Dunner opened his home in Golders Green, north London, to any member of his community who had been hit by hard times. According to one witness, thousands joined the queue. Every one was received with a smile and an attentive ear - including a few, it is said, that Mr Dunner knew and did not like, but who were treated courteously all the same. He stayed up until 4am, so that no one went away empty-handed. By then, he had distributed cheques totalling about 2m.
The occasion was Purim, the Feast of Esther, when Jews celebrate their escape from Persian captivity. One of the commandments attached to the occasion is to get drunk. Most of the Dunner family spent Purim at the Normandie Hotel, in Bournemouth, while he stayed at home to use his chequebook to brighten the lives of fellow Jews. The next day, he observed Shabbah, the Jewish Sabbath. He had to wait until Saturday until he could get ready for his car journey to Dorset.
On the A338 spur road outside Bournemouth, his 150,000 Bentley Arnage collided with a Toyota Celica and plunged into woodland. Two of his children, aged 20 and nine, and a 77-year-old friend of the family emerged from the wrecked car with minor injuries. So did the two men in the Toyota. Initially, it was thought Mr Dunner had suffered a heart attack at the wheel, but his inquest was told the cause of death was multiple injuries resulting from the collision.
His funeral was held the next day, after the Bournemouth coroner had opened and adjourned an inquest in order that the body could be released for burial within 24 hours, in accordance with Jewish custom. Although he had been dead for barely 18 hours, up to 5,000 mourners crowded into the orthodox Jewish cemetery in Enfield, north London, including leaders of the Jewish community in New York, who had flown to London especially.
Even by the standards of orthodox Jews, whose religion requires them to be charitable, Mr Dunner was well known for his exuberant generosity. One man who approached him during one of his visits to New York asking for $200 (100) was given $15,000.
Leon Symons, who reported his death for The Jewish Chronicle and visited the family during the …
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Publication information: Article title: Tributes Paid to 'God's Postman', Who Gave Away Pounds 2m before Dying in a Road Accident. Contributors: McSmith, Andy - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: April 1, 2008. Page number: 16. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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