Abner Benisch, 92, of Livingston, a leader who oversaw the local merger of major Jewish community organizations, died June 13, 2011. A lifelong resident of Essex County, he was born in Newark.
An active member of the local community, he provided service and leadership to several prominent Jewish organizations. He served on the board of Jewish Family Service of MetroWest and was president from 1961 to 1963 of its predecessor organization, the Jewish Counseling and Service Agency — itself the product of a merger, which he oversaw, between JFS and the Jewish Child Care Association. In 2006 he established the JFS Abner and Norma Benisch Transportation Fund for Disabled Seniors for the benefit of JFS clients who used the MetroTransport service provided by Daughters of Israel in West Orange.
He was also a member of Temple Israel of the Oranges, serving as president from 1969 to 1971 and presiding over its merger with Temple Sharey Tefilo, which resulted in the creation of Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange.
Noting that Benisch presided over two organizational mergers, JFS executive director Reuben Rotman said, “The JFS of today owes much to Abner for his vision and insight as to the potential and need for this agency in our community.”
Benisch recognized the importance of offering services to both children and adults under one agency, Rotman added. “His vision was to bring those forces together.”
Mr. Benisch became a partner at Jay and Jay Insurance in Newark, which became Jay, Schlesinger, Benisch and Lowy in 1954, and continued to grow the business until it became Benisch & Co. He was among the first to become both a Chartered Life Underwriter and a Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter. He served as president of the New Jersey chapter of the CPCU Society in 1958-59.
He graduated from Irvington High School in 1936 and from Newark State Teachers College (now Kean University) with a bachelor of science in education. While a student at Newark State, he distinguished himself as captain of the basketball and tennis teams, was New Jersey Junior Singles Tennis champion, and was inducted into the Kean University Athletic Hall of Fame, which was renamed the Benisch Athletic Hall of Fame in his honor in 2010.
He served his country both abroad and at home during World War II, and was discharged as a U.S. Army captain in 1946.
Benisch was an accomplished golfer, playing in pro/am tournaments and on courses in Ireland, Australia, and across the United States. He was also a member of Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell, serving as president from 1989 to 1992.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Norma; his son, Joel; his daughter, Barbara; three grandchildren; and a great-grandson.
Services were held June 15 at Sharey Tefilo-Israel with arrangements by Bernheim-Apter-Kreitzman Suburban Funeral Chapel, Livingston. The family will receive visitors June 16-17, 2-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Memorial contributions may be made to Jewish Family Service of MetroWest.