This past Sunday marked the last day of shiv’ah for Dr. Allen Bennett, Avraham Yehudah ben Aharon z”l. Dr. Bennett was niftar on 29 Kislev, at the age of 72, just shy of his 73rd birthday, which would have been this past Shabbos. A fixture in the Kew Gardens Hills community, Dr. Bennett is survived by his brother, Dr. Leslie Bennett (Kew Gardens Hills), his two sisters Susan Kest (Los Angeles) and Lisa Neuman (Jamaica Estates), his five children – Naftali and Beth Bennett (Lawrence), Dr. Yaakov and Chayale Saibel (Ramat Beit Shemesh), Rabbi Yossi and Malkie Bennett (Woodmere), Rabbi Yaakov and Batsheva Bennett (Ramat Eshkol), Rabbi Mordechai and Hadassah Bennett (Baltimore) – and 27 grandchildren.
Born in the Bronx in 1949, and having spent the greater part of his childhood growing up in Forest Hills, Dr. Bennett lived the vast majority of his life in Kew Gardens Hills, together with his wife Judy a”h. Together, they raised five children with tremendous support and perseverance, all of whom are shomrei Torah u’mitzvos today and continue their incredible legacy. Dr. Bennett was unequivocally dedicated and supportive to his family, children, and grandchildren, and reaped the wonderful nachas that they gave.
Although Dr. Bennett’s private medical practice was primarily at his office in Gramercy Park, New York, he was, what many mentioned during shiv’ah, a 24/7 doctor. Always available to those in need in the community, it was a regular occurrence for his Shabbos seudah to be interrupted by a knock on the door by someone requiring medical attention, and he would never turn someone away. Specializing in hematology, oncology, internal medicine, and geriatrics, his proficiency in all areas of medicine was well known among his peers. Numerous physicians, visiting the family, were able to recount countless times that Dr. Bennett was able to advise and guide them in their own specialties, having a broad knowledge of all areas of medicine. He sat on the Board of Medical Ethics for the State of New York, was the President of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists for over 30 years, and was the Medical Director of Aishel Avrohom Nursing Home in Williamsburg. He was an expert in end-of-life issues, having written and lectured on topics including Brain Death, DNRs, Organ Donation, and Heath Care Proxies. His countless degrees, board certifications, and commendations were just a symbol of his dedication to his field and his patients.
Dr. Bennett will be remembered for his unwavering willingness to help those in need. Who can forget his signature “Ani Oheiv Kol Yehudi” yarmulka? His children recounted growing up in the home of a physician. When traveling, Dr. Bennett would initiate a conversation with flight attendants upon boarding a plane, “My name is Dr. Allen Bennett. I am sitting in seat 13H. If there is a need for a doctor on the plane, you know where to find me.” Those visiting shared dozens of stories of Dr. Bennett dropping everything to help someone needing medical attention. Erev Rosh HaShanah, Erev Yom Kippur, on Yom Kippur, at 3:00 in the morning – so many stories were shared illustrating Dr. Bennett’s commitment and dedication to people in need and to his community.
But beyond his medical career, Dr. Bennett was an askan before the term was even used. He was brilliant, confident, and had a unique drive to help others. Rabbanim and community leaders knew that if they needed something to get done, they could always call Dr. Bennett. It didn’t matter if it was changing a light bulb in shul or filling in as a last minute baal k’riah, he was an “ish tziburi” – a man of the people. Dr. Bennett lived by a number of mantras, one of which was the mishnah in Pirkei Avos: “B’makom she’ein ish, hishtadeil lihyos ish” – loosely translated as, “In a place where there is a void, a vacancy, a need for someone to step up – be that person.” He repeated it hundreds of times, and he lived it. He was an ish emes, a man of truth, and he did what he felt was right, regardless of popular opinion.
He served as the Chairman of Community Board 8 in Queens and was involved in many mosdos both in New York and in Eretz Yisrael. His nephew, Chaskel Bennett, a renowned community activist, recalled the time that during the Gulf War in 1990, when everyone was leaving Eretz Yisrael, Dr. Bennett closed his practice, purchased a ticket, and boarded a plane to Eretz Yisrael. He thought, “Maybe they need a physician. Maybe I could help.” Chaskel credits his uncle as being the inspiration for his involvement in community work.
Dr. Bennett was an ardent lover of Eretz Yisrael. He used to tell his children, “When I retire from medicine, I’d like to become an Egged bus driver.” He wanted to travel around Eretz Yisrael and show others its beauty. Dr. Bennett finally made it to Eretz Yisrael and is resting in Eretz HaChaim in Beit Shemesh together with his beloved wife, Judy.
The family should be comforted knowing that Dr. Bennett’s tremendous legacy lives on, and the myriad mitzvos and maasim tovim accompany him in Olam HaBa.