Henry Bienenfeld, developer

Posted: January 01, 2014

Henry Bienenfeld was 22 when he arrived in New York with no English, no money, and a fourth-grade education.

Originally from a town outside Lviv - then in Poland, now in Ukraine - he had spent two years hiding in a hole under a Catholic farmer's barn at the height of the Holocaust. He and his mother, Freida, were the only members of their family to survive the war, and they moved to the United States together in 1948.

Mr. Bienenfeld, 87, of Rydal, rose from sweeping floors in a New York factory to found a successful real estate company, Henry Bienenfeld & Son, in Philadelphia. He died Sunday, Dec. 29, at his home after a long illness, his family said.

Mr. Bienenfeld met his wife, Helen, also a Holocaust survivor, in Baltimore on a blind date shortly after moving to the United States. They were married for 62 years. In Philadelphia, they worked four jobs between them as Mr. Bienenfeld struggled to get a fledgling development company off the ground.

He had seen a future in the business, his son Jack said, and "didn't want to work for anybody else."

The company went on to develop and run a number of residential communities in the area.

"He never worked for money, although it was necessary," Jack Bienenfeld said. "It was really all about being successful - because it proved something, not to the world, but to himself."

In his spare time, Mr. Bienenfeld enjoyed reading and watching the news, and ran a nonprofit, the Henry and Helen Bienenfeld Foundation, which supports charities in the United States and Israel. He never forgot his World War II experiences, Jack Bienenfeld said, but tried to put them behind him.

What he had gone through "would make your flesh crawl," Jack Bienenfeld said.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Bienenfeld is survived by sons Michael and Al and three grandchildren.

A memorial service was set for 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31, at Goldsteins' Rosenberg's Raphael-Sacks, 310 Second Street Pike, Southampton. The service will be followed by a cemetery service at King David Memorial Park in Bensalem and a gathering for friends and family at Congregations of Shaare Shamayim, 9768 Verree Rd.

Donations may be made to JEVS Human Services, 1845 Walnut St., Philadelphia 19103; U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024; or American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Box 4124, New York, N.Y. 10163.


awhelan@phillynews.com

215-854-2961 @aubreyjwhelan

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