Nathan Benderson (1917 – 2012)

November 20, 1917 was an auspicious day for the City of Buffalo.

Nathan Benderson, who became one of the most important philanthropists in Western New York, was born on that date to Isaac and Minnie Benderson. Sixteen years later he engaged in his first substantial business deal involving a large purchase and subsequent sale of surplus beer bottles.

Overcoming parental skepticism and caution, this venture marked the beginning of a more than 80-year business career including glass bottle brokerage, manufacturing, finance, real estate development, car wash services and more.

Viewed as a tough yet fair negotiator, Nate – or Sonny as his friends called him – earned the respect and admiration of reluctant bankers, politicians and community leaders. By 2021, Benderson Development grew to more than 45 million square feet of real estate in 38 states throughout the USA.

Nate the Philanthropist

Nate was not a particularly religious man, but much of his later life was dedicated to doing mitzvahs as a leading philanthropist and advocate for the less fortunate. While most of his generosity was intentionally anonymous, there is a long list of worthwhile organizations that have and will continue to benefit from his generosity. While his giving focused on both Jewish and secular institutions in Buffalo, NY and Sarasota, FL, many causes throughout the United States and Israel were recipients of his largess.

Proud of his Jewish heritage and conscious of the power of philanthropy to create a better world, Nate was generous and charitable. He assisted with planning and executing direct gifts, creating endowments gifting his and his sons’ life insurance pools amounting to tens of millions of dollars. Late in Nate’s life, he was asked whether he more enjoyed making a fortune or donating his largesse to causes and organizations he believed in, his response was immediate, replying that it is much more fun donating it.

As a community leader, Nate served as president of the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies and the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo. He led the United Jewish Fund campaign as well as capital campaigns for several organizations. Among the organizations that thrive thanks to his immense generosity: the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo, Jewish Family Service in Sarasota, the Wiley Sports Complex in Buffalo, the SPCA of Erie County, the Buffalo Zoo, the Nathan Benderson Rowing Park in Sarasota and more. Nate loved animals and good people, always concerned about the underdog person and the abandoned pet.

A tribute to nate benderson

Nate Benderson’s Legacy today

Benderson Family philanthropy continues through his sons Ron, Randy and Bob and their children. Organizations supported by Nate, his sons and extended family continue to receive charitable funding from endowments established through the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies.

When approached for financial assistance to support a good idea that would benefit various organizations, his common response was “What are you waiting for?”

As part of his philanthropy, Nate insisted that he not be the only donor and sought partners and matching-gift donors.

His examples, dedication and leadership were and continue to be inspirational to other donors of all abilities.

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create legacy

The Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies would be honored to assist you and your family in preserving your legacy.

Irving H. Levy, Executive Director
(716) 204-1139 •  716-390-9653 •  Irv@jewishphilanthropies.org

Lorne Steinhart, Senior Manager of Client Relations
(716) 204-1135 • Lorne@jewishphilanthropies.org