Tributes to ‘legendary’ former MDA leader Eli Benson
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Tributes to ‘legendary’ former MDA leader Eli Benson

Respects paid to inspirational former charity head who led UK arm of medical emergency service

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Eli Benson (right) with an ambulance dedicated in his name
Eli Benson (right) with an ambulance dedicated in his name

The former head of Magen David Adom UK has today been remembered as a “legendary leader” who dedicated for his life to supporting Israel after he passed away last night.

Eli Benson spent 14 years as chief executive of the British arm of the medical emergency service, helping to raise over $50m for the charity before stepping down in 2013.

He also served in a number of other communal roles over 40-year career starting in 1972 as mazkir at Young Poale Zion. He later went on to serve in several posts at the Joint Israel Appeal, the precursor to UJIA, and as campaigns director for the Central British Fund, contributing to Operation Solomon to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

Daniel Burger, Chief Executive MDA UK told Jewish News: “Eli Benson was a true gentleman and a remarkable fundraiser who helped enrich the lives of countless people.  He will be sorely missed by everyone he came into contact with and worked tirelessly for the people of Israel and the community here.  Our hearts go out to Anita and the family”.

Paul Anticoni, chief executive of World Jewish Relief, which succeeded the Central British Fund, said:“Eli was a legendary leader and fundraiser at World Jewish Relief in the 1990s. A humble, quiet man who shunned the limelight but made an incredible difference particularly to Jewish communities in the Former Soviet Union and in Bosnia. He was an old school fundraiser who made us all, as charity donors, feel special.”

UJIA CEO Michael Wegier described him as “much-loved” member of the fundraising team. “We are very saddened by his death and hope his family take comfort in knowing that his life’s work contributed greatly to the people of Israel.”

Eli at a previous MDA dinner

Benson, who had been battling illness, continued his commitment to MDA after leaving the top job, asking his friends to support the charity for his last birthday this summer. He also recently attended the dedication of the record 11th ambulance funded through the efforts of Norman Rosenbaum and Cockfosters Synagogue. It was under leadership that Jewish News raised funds with Rosenbaum for another vehicle.

Eli Benson was the first person to be buried in the United Synagogue’s Bushey New Cemetery on Monday afternoon, in a ceremony officiated by Hendon United Synagogue’s Rabbi Ginsbury.

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