Rudolf Sonneborn Dead at 87

Funeral services were held here Tuesday at Temple Emanu-El for Rudolf Sonneborn, a long-time leader of the American Zionist movement and a prominent fund raiser for the State of Israel in the 1940′s and 1950′s. He was 87 years old and lived in Manhattan. He died Sunday at his estate in Connecticut.

Throughout his years as a successful businessman, Sonneborn remained active in Jewish causes until hindered by a stroke in 1959. His influence dates back to 1919, when he became friends with future Israel leaders David Ben Gurion and Dr. Chaim Weizman. Through them, he began aiding Israel and was involved in the famous ship Exodus and other American efforts to send supplies to the Jewish community in Palestine.

Once Israel was established, Sonneborn became a star campaigner at dinners and other events, raising hundreds of million of dollars for Israel. His fund raising efforts began during World War II to assist Jewish refugees in Europe. It was a catalyst for his association as a leading figure in the United Jewish Appeal and one of its main beneficiaries, the United Palestine Appeal, as well as the Israel Bond Organization and the Zionist Organization of America. He also served as a member of the Board of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Sonneborn, a native of Baltimore, attended Johns Hopkins University until being commissioned into the Naval Air Corps in 1918 to train as an aviator. After the war, which he never entered, Sonneborn was sent by the World Zionist Organization to oversee the Jewish community in Palestine.

Shortly before the end of the British mandate in 1947, Ben Gurion asked Sonneborn and a small number of other prominent American Jews to send supplies to the Jewish community and its military force, the Haganah. The group turned into a secretive, nationwide organization led by Sonneborn called Materials for Israel, also known as the Sonneborn Institute. Sonneborn, who traveled to Israel frequently, fostered American investments in Israel through the American Financial and Development Corporation and Israel Investors.

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