Remembering Abraham Feinberg

Abraham FeinbergThe International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life was established through a generous gift from the late Abraham Feinberg.

During his long relationship with Brandeis University, Feinberg served as a Brandeis fellow and as a member and chairman of the Board of Trustees, and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1961.He was a substantial force in shaping the university during its early years. President Jehuda Reinharz called the establishment of the center "the fulfillment of a long-held and cherished dream [for which] his last years were made happier by the thought that he [could] make contributions to … coexistence and ethics around the world."

Feinberg was a successful businessman with investments and businesses in New York and Israel. At the time of his death, he held the position of chief executive of Central Bottling Corp. in Israel. He got his start in business in the Bronx, New York, where he was born and raised. He worked days with his father in a modest clothing business while attending school in the evenings at City College and earning law degrees from Fordham University and New York University.

A supporter of Jewish causes, Feinberg is regarded as having been instrumental in the establishment of the state of Israel. As the president of Haganah, the Zionist military movement, he helped mobilize support for Israel. He offered his home to Zionist leaders who were trying to gain support of the U.S. government and assisted European Jews seeking refuge. He even accompanied Israel's first president, Chaim Weizmann, to his first meeting with President Harry Truman.

Active in American politics, Feinberg worked informally with the U.S. and Israeli governments during Middle East crises, led many Democratic fundraisers and served as a confidant to Presidents Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. There was hardly a Jewish cause to which he did not contribute.

Feinberg also supported numerous medical causes, including schizophrenia research in New York and in Israel. He endowed the psychiatric wing at Schneider Children's Medical Center for Israel.

The full extent of Abraham Feinberg's generosity may never be known. Described as extremely sincere and modest, most of his philanthropic endeavors were made anonymously, as is illustrated in the remarks made by Harry Truman in 1960 during an event celebrating Feinberg as B'nai B'rith's Man of the Year: "In addition to the good work by Feinberg that has been made public, I could name two or three times as many that he has done anonymously, without personal credit and always at sacrifice to himself."

Feinberg died on Dec. 5, 1998, at age 90.