Alfred Benjamin Memorial
Dedicated on May 29, 1927, the Alfred Benjamin Memorial symbolizes strength and weakness and honors Benjamin's contributions to humanity through charity. Alfred Benjamin (1859-1923) was a philanthropist, humanitarian, and active member in the Jewish community. In 1905, he became the president of United Jewish Charities and later organized the Jewish Educational Institute and the Alfred Benjamin Dispensary medical clinic, providing services for the indigent. The services and generosity provided by Benjamin throughout the years helped found other organizations known today as Hearts of America United Way, the Jewish Federation, Menorah Medical Center, and the Young Men’s Hebrew Association.
The Alfred Benjamin Memorial honors the generosity and charity of Alfred Benjamin.
The bronze statue of the Alfred Benjamin Memorial depicts the strong giving aid to the weak, much like the lifelong work of Mr. Benjamin.
The Alfred Benjamin Memorial in Swope Park c. 1932. Photo courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library
The Alfred Benjamin Dispensary and Jewish Educational Building on Admiral Blvd c. 1930. Photo courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library
Patrons wait for service at the Alfred Benjamin Dispensary c. 1930. Photo courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library
Backstory and Context
Created by New York sculptor F.H. Packer, the Alfred Benjamin Memorial was funded and donated by friends, family and admirers of Mr. Benjamin. At a total height of 13 feet, two 9 foot bronze figures are mounted on top of a 28 by 14 foot rectangular marble base, containing a bench carved into each side. A semi-circular drinking fountain projects from the center of the marble base, but is no longer operable. The memorial symbolizes strength and weakness, much like the services provided by Benjamin. The bronze figures depict two men resting on a boulder, one offering a drink of water to the other in need. The words “Charity” and “Humanity” are carved into the front face of the back of each bench. An inscription below the bronze statue reads: “In Memory of Alfred Benjamin Whose Noble Deeds Enshrined Him In the Hearts of His Fellow Men.″ The Alfred Benjamin Memorial was dedicated on May 29, 1927 in Swope Park with hundreds in attendance.
Philanthropist Alfred Benjamin was born in 1859 in Quebec, Canada before moving to Leavenworth, Kansas with his family in 1880. He first worked as a clerk at the Abernathy Furniture Company before becoming vice president when a second location opened in Kansas City. Alfred became successful and was very involved in the Jewish community. Early on, he was the treasurer of one of the five volunteer relief societies that coalesced into the United Jewish Charities organization, which was chartered in 1901. The UJC established their commitment to the Jewish community and rented a space at 819 E 15th Street which provided direct relief and educational services. These services were available for all of the indigent population, no matter their race or religion.
Benjamin became president of United Jewish Charities in 1905. With funds raised and donated personally by Benjamin, UJC opened a Settlement home in the heart of the poor Jewish district at 1702 Locust Street, known as the Jewish Educational Institute. They provided a nursery, high school, an industrial school, library, dance and sewing classes, and a bathhouse. Soon after, they moved to a bigger space at 1000 Admiral Boulevard. Benjamin hired the first social worker in Kansas City who helped the organization's patrons develop self-help and life skills, as well as find work. Benjamin also funded a children’s summer retreat called “Bittersweet Camp” near Independence.
In 1919, Benjamin recognized the growing need of health services for this population and personally pledged funds to build a medical clinic. However, civil leaders saw the benefit of this work and declined his offer. They raised enough money to open one in his name, the Alfred Benjamin Dispensary which opened next door to the Educational Institute on Admiral. The Dispensary had two purposes - to provide otherwise unaffordable healthcare for the indigent and to provide a place for Jewish physicians unable to secure residency in any other Kansas City hospital. This inspired the Menorah Medical Center. United Jewish Charities is now Jewish Family Services, which serves more than 10,000 people annually, more than half of whom are not Jewish. They were also the predecessor for the Jewish Federation and one of the founding agencies of Hearts of America United Way.
Throughout the years, Benjamin was said to have donated at least half of his annual income to charitable causes, as well as his time and support. He was prominent in establishing the Young Men's Hebrew Association, was an avid supporter of the Kansas City symphony orchestra, and remained active on the Chamber of Commerce Charities Committee. Alfred Benjamin died on July 18, 1923. A rabbi and a Catholic priest spoke at his services with hundreds of people in attendance, both rich and poor, honoring Benjamin's life work and charitable contributions.
Alfred Benjamin Memorial, City of Fountains. Accessed February 25th 2022. https://cityoffountains.org/alfred-benjamin-memorial/.
DeAngelo, Dory. Biography of Alfred Benjamin (1859-1923), Philanthropist, Kansas City Public Library. Accessed February 25th 2022. https://kchistory.org/document/biography-alfred-benjamin-1859-1923-philanthropist
About Us, Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City. Accessed February 25th 2022. https://www.jfskc.org/about-us/.
Westlake Whitney, Carrie. Kansas City, Missouri: Its History and Its People 1800-1908. Volume 1. Chicago, IL. S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1908.
Alfred Benjamin Memorial, Kansas City Public Library. Accessed February 25th 2022. https://kchistory.org/islandora/object/kchistory%253A109014.