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Theodore Seidenberg, 'Ultimate Federationer,' Dies at 79

October 18, 2007 By:
Jared Shelly, JE Feature
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Theodore Seidenberg

Theodore Seidenberg, 79, owner of local paper-box and packaging companies, died Oct. 8 at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Center City. He was a resident of Philadelphia.

Serving over the years as a member of the Federation Allied Jewish Appeal, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Endowments Corporation, and most recently, the Strategic Planning Committee before becoming the organization's president, Seidenberg championed charitable causes that benefited Jews and non-Jews alike.

He was president of Federation from 1990 until 1993.

"He was the ultimate 'Federationer,' " proclaimed Bubbles Seidenberg, his wife of 42 years, who has also been active with Federation over the years.

Seidenberg grew up in Wynnefield, a neighborhood populated largely by Jews in the 1930s and '40s, when he was a young boy.

Many of the friends he made as a child remained close to him throughout his life, according to family members.

"It was a tight, close-knit community, where everybody knew everybody else," said his wife. "There was a lot of bonding."

A graduate of Overbrook High School in 1944, he entered the army in 1946 after spending time at Temple University.

When he was discharged the next year, he returned to Temple, where he eventually earned a business degree.

In 1948, Seidenberg married Zelda Rosenberg; the couple had two sons before divorcing in 1959. He married Bubbles Morrison in 1963, and the couple had a daughter together.

After working for a few years making boxes at Kalikman Paper Box Co. in South Philadelphia, Seidenberg founded the Frankford Paper Box Co. in 1961, along with partner Joe Finkel.

The company later became McLean Packaging.

As part of his work with Federation, Seidenberg led missions to Israel and Poland, and met with refuseniks in Russia who hoped to leave the Soviet Union and come to the West.

"How does one feel about their brothers and sisters? Make sure they are safe and free, so they may practice the faith to which they belong and raise their children to be part of it," said his wife, who noted that both she and her husband had Russian-born parents.

"We came back with many stories that touched people and involved them in the process."

While Seidenberg worked in many facets of Philadelphia's Jewish community, it was education that was "nearest and dearest to his heart," said Bubbles Seidenberg. She added that he was instrumental in helping to secure funding for Politz Hebrew Academy to purchase its building in Northeast Philadelphia.

He considered Jewish education to be "the way we're going to keep the Jewish world alive and living," she said.

Relatives recalled that Seidenberg's passion for Jewish causes ran so deep that the topic often dominated household discussions.

"I can't remember any recurring dinner-table conversation other than about Jewish charity, the State of Israel, what was going on in the Jewish world politically or the importance of remembering the lessons of the Holocaust," said his daughter, Hope Feiwald. "That is what we talked about, night in and night out."

His devotion to helping fellow Jews perhaps stemmed from his full name, Theodore Herzl Seidenberg, which echoed the name of the founder of modern political Zionism, Theodor Herzl.

"He wore it as a badge of honor and a call to duty," said son David Seidenberg, while speaking at his father's funeral at Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley.

The Oct. 11 service drew a crowd inside the large sanctuary. Seidenberg was later laid to rest at Roosevelt Memorial Park in Trevose.

In his younger days, he was an avid golfer, and as he got older, he became a "terrific" card player, said Feiwald.

"One of his friends said they were having a memorial gin game for him," she noted.

Seidenberg is survived by his wife; his daughter; two sons, David Seidenberg and Marc Seidenberg; and five grandchildren.

Memorial donations can be sent to: the Madlyn and Leonard Abramson Center for Jewish Life, 1425 Horsham Road, North Wales, PA 19454.

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