Benjamin Rosenbloom, 96, aided Jewish organizations

October 14, 2001|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Benjamin Rosenbloom, 96, who used his success as a venture capitalist to aid Jewish organizations throughout the world, died of pneumonia in his sleep early Friday at Northwest Hospital. In recent years, he had lived at the North Oaks Retirement Community in Pikesville.

The beneficiaries of Mr. Rosenbloom's philanthropy include to the Hillel Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore and the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.

Born the seventh of nine children, Mr. Rosenbloom grew up in West Baltimore near Hollins Street, leaving the city only to attend the Staunton Military Academy in Virginia.

He returned to Baltimore and went to work with his five brothers in the family's clothing manufacturing business -- first called S. Rosenbloom Inc., then named Blue Ridge Manufacturers.

Mr. Rosenbloom and his brother, Carroll Rosenbloom, focused on sales, and their main customers were some of the nation's largest department stores, including Sears, JC Penney and Montgomery Ward.

"When I met the president of Sears, he told me that my grandfather was the most charismatic and distinguished man he'd ever met," said his grandson, Keith Rosen- bloom. "He was a man of ultimate dignity."

After the family sold the company in the late 1950s, Mr. Rosen- bloom stayed on for several years to maintain customer relations. But he then left, looking for other investment opportunities.

His most successful foray into venture capitalism began in the late 1960s. Mr. Rosenbloom and a friend, lawyer and philanthropist Zanvyl Krieger, were approached about investing in a device that allowed staples to be used to close incisions after surgical operations, replacing sutures.

Their $3 million investment led to creation of the U.S. Surgical Corp., and Mr. Rosenbloom served on its board. The company was sold to Tyco International Ltd. for $3.8 billion in 1998, and at the time of the sale, he was one of the company's largest shareholders.

Mr. Rosenbloom also served on the board of London Fog for many years.

He preferred to remain in the background, so when his brother Carroll purchased the Baltimore Colts, he passed up the opportunity to join in, said Mr. Rosen- bloom's son, Howard Rosenbloom of Lutherville.

Mr. Rosenbloom and his wife of 63 years, the former Esther Krieger Hoffberger, formed a foundation that has focused on giving gifts to Jewish organizations, both locally and elsewhere. Their son is the foundation's president.

They donated $1 million to the University of Maryland, College Park to refurbish the school's old Hillel building. In 1998, it was renamed the Ben and Esther Rosenbloom Hillel Center for Jewish Life.

More recently, they helped create the Center for Nanotechnology by Biology at Technion -- Israel's equivalent of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, located in Haifa.

Two other large Baltimore institutions also bear their names in recognition of donations: the Jewish Community Center in Owings Mills and the religious school of the Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Pikesville.

Services are scheduled for noon today at the Chizuk Amuno Congregation, 8100 Stevenson Road.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Rosenbloom is survived by a daughter, Harriet Rosenbloom of Rockville; a sister, Mildred Hecht of Palm Beach, Fla.; and four grandchildren. Another son, Saul Rosenbloom, died in 1984.

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