Dalck Feith, 91, a Philadelphia philanthropist, community leader and businessman, died on Oct. 16 at his Elkins Park home, where he had lived for 53 years.
Born in Poland, Feith joined Menachem Begin's Betar movement in the early 1930s, according to his son Donald. "My dad wanted to move to Israel, but couldn't get in because of the British quotas. His oldest sister Miriam was able to settle there in 1933. They were the only ones to survive the Holocaust. The Nazis murdered his parents, three brothers and four sisters."
Until the start of World War II, Feith helped smuggle Jews to England. He was captured by the Nazis and imprisoned, tortured and put in solitary confinement for many months. As he was being transferred to a work camp, he escaped to Great Britain, where he joined their Merchant Marine Fleet, working as a stoker shoveling coal into the boiler of the ship.
He left the British Merchant Marine in Nova Scotia, and made his way to the United States and joined the U.S. Merchant Marine in Philadelphia. "The ships carried dangerous cargoes over dangerous seas," said Donald Feith. "Dad lost two ships to torpedoes and one to aerial bombing."
"My father didn't merely survive the Holocaust and World War II," noted Douglas Feith. "He fought and he made a point of telling his kids he survived only because he fought. There was nothing whatever passive about him."
Discharged from the Merchant Marine as a lieutenant commander, Feith started his life in his adopted country, a country Douglas Feith said he "praised with the words, 'God Bless America,' whenever something good happened in our family."
Dalck Feith met his wife, Rose Bankel, at Grossingers in 1943 when he was on leave from the Merchant Marine; they married in 1946.
"He had been in New York City, and walked into a clothing store and asked the Jewish proprietor where he could go to meet a nice Jewish girl," said Douglas Feith. " 'Grossingers' was the answer. When he got there, his room wasn't ready. He got angry and started yelling at the clerk. There was an attractive girl in the lobby who tried to calm him down – she turned out to be my mom, to whom he was married for 60 years."
'Sphere of Success'
Feith and his bride settled in Philadelphia. With the help of what is now Council and HIAS Migration Service, Feith started Dalco Manufacturing Co., which manufactured metal boxes and chasses for the growing electronics industry. He became an investor in Jerrold Electronics and merged the company into General Instruments, making him the largest single shareholder in a business that pioneered the field of cable television.
However, in Feith's view, "the principal sphere of his success was the family he created in America after loosing his in Europe," said son Douglas. "My father luxuriated in the pride and love that was and is the mutual connection among him, my mother, and their children and grandchildren."
Feith shared his success, according to his sons, who recall family dinner conversations centered on fundraising for charity.
"My father was always going forward," said Donald Feith. "He always had a plan, and was mentally and physically strong. People sensed it and responded to him."
Rabbi Aaron Landis, rabbi emeritus of Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park, which Feith attended for decades and where he served on the board of governors, remembers a man "who carried himself with dignity, and a man who was tough when he was fundraising. He had a dogged 'don't take no for an answer' way of asking others to give," said the rabbi.
Dalck Feith was the general chairman of the 1971 Allied Jewish Appeal-Israel Emergency Fund of what is now the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. He served as president of the Philadelphia Psychiatric Center and helped with its merger to become Belmont Center for Comprehensive Treatment, part of the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network.
He made his first trip to Israel in 1967. "It awakened a new activism and a renewed passion for the country in my dad, and he encouraged others to be excited and get involved," said son Donald. "He was appointed to Hebrew University's Board, and made four to five trips to Israel every year."
Appointed by President Reagan to the U.S. Holocaust Commission, he was part of the committee that helped oversee the design, fundraising and construction of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Before that, in the early 1960s, Feith served on the committee to build Philadelphia's Holocaust Memorial on 16th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway. In addition, he was on the board and an officer of the Philadelphia Police Athletic League.
His numerous awards came from organization such as the Golden Slipper Camp, the City of Hope and American Jewish Congress. Hebrew University gave him an honorary doctorate of humane letters.
"Dalck Feith was a force for good," said Landis."He passed this legacy on to his children and grandchildren. He was a giant of a personality – inspired by God."
Feith is survived by his wife, Rose; two sons, Donald and Douglas; a daughter, Deborah Feith Tye; and 10 grandchildren.