The Austrian-born Zionist had activist roots in Philadelphia and was also a major figure in raising money for the local Israel Bonds.
Henry Z. Ten, a prominent Zionist with activist roots in Philadelphia who was also a major figure in raising money for the local Israel Bonds, died at the age of 96 on July 19.
Born in Austria, he was only 10 when he became active in the Betar Movement, a Zionist youth program founded by Vladimir Jabotinsky that was just gaining traction. He also became involved with Kochol Lavan, another Zionist youth group.
Years later, as the war loomed, and the Anschluss was in motion, Ten was arrested by the Nazis. He was then charged with the responsibility of ferrying Jews out of Austria. It was a time before the Nazis had put into effect their killing machine for Austria, concerned at that time in just emptying Austria of its Jews.
Indeed, Ten was ordered to report daily to the SS headquarters in Vienna, where he was handed marching orders on which Jews would be evacuated that day.
In 1939, the following year, he himself was kicked out of the country by the Nazis in their effort to “cleanse” Austria. He left for America, finding a sponsoring family in Linden, N.J., whose bakery he worked in for a while.
He enlisted when the United States got involved in World War II, and served as an Army lieutenant with a specialty in intelligence.
Postwar, Ten eventually found his way to Philadelphia, where he started a carpeting business, Axminster Rugs.
Mark Saul once worked at the carpet company and then purchased it from Ten. He recalls his former boss, with whom he kept in touch, as a person “who never gave up” and whose motto was dedicated to “remain honest and always take care of the customer.”
Ten’s sense of caring extended to Jewish welfare here and abroad. He was long active in Israel Bonds and raised money on their behalf while a member of the Retail Floor Company Association.
Ten was honored by Beth Sholom Congregation for his efforts on behalf of Bonds.
His communal activities extended to Brith Sholom as well, whose Cardozo Lodge also honored him.
Ten had visited Israel four times over his lifetime and considered it an essential Jewish haven to escape what he considered the global malaise of anti-Semitism. “My father realized that anti-Semitism didn’t just start in 1939,” the beginning of World War II, says his son, Jeffrey. “He knew that there always needed to be a place for Jews to go to.”
Such an understanding fueled Ten’s commitment to the Zionist Organization of America; Ten became involved with the local ZOA, serving as president and then a board member. The organization honored him four years ago.
He also was on the organization’s National Executive Committee and was a delegate at ZOA’s national convention earlier this year.
Taking note of Ten’s lifelong commitment to Zionism, starting as a youngster, Steve Feldman, executive director, ZOA Greater Philadelphia District, said Ten “demonstrated with his deeds that one can never be too young to take an interest in helping your people and being active in Zionism.”
Feldman praised him as a role model with the “hope other young people will be inspired by his story and take up the cause for Israel — especially now.”
One of the biggest adversaries Ten encountered early on in life came from an unexpected — and surprising — source: the rabbinate in Austria, who demonized his Zionist activities there. “In those days, the rabbinate didn’t support” the establishment of a Jewish state, notes son Jeffrey.
He recalls his father telling him of a local Austrian Jewish paper edition emblazoned with the screaming headline: “Death to the Zehnguts” (the family’s original name before it was changed to Tengood at Ellis Island; Henry later took the name of Ten), condemning Henry and his three brothers for their Zionist activity.
But such obstacles never stopped him, pre-and postwar. Ten continued his push in Austria and then here.
Other activities to which he devoted time included the local branch of American Jewish Congress and the National Ramah Commission, which worked to raise funds for Camp Ramah.
Ten’s influence was felt beyond Philadelphia but perhaps no more so than it was at home, especially when he sparked his son’s own Zionist dreams: Jeffrey founded the Cheltenham Chapter of Masada, which was then a ZOA youth group.
“He always encouraged me” to work on behalf of Israel, he says.
In addition to his son, Ten is survived by his wife, Ruth; a stepdaughter, Debbie Eisenberg; a brother, Bernard Tengood; six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Donations in his honor may be made to the local Zionist Organization of America, 1 Belmont Ave., Suite 601, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004.