David Theodore Chase was born in Kielce, Poland in 1929 to an architect father and mother who worked in a bank. In 1943, he, his parents and younger sister were sent to Auschwitz, where his mother and sister were killed almost immediately. His older sister was adopted by a non-Jewish family and stayed in Poland. Chase’s father helped keep him alive by sharing his own rations with his son. Both survived 3 years, but his father died on a forced march in January 1945, about 5 months before the Allies liberated the camps.
Chase planned to emigrate to Israel and spent the immediate period after the war helping smuggle arms to the Haganah, crossing back and forth between the Russian- and Western-controlled zones. After a chance reunion with his older sister, who had married an American GI in Berlin, he accompanied them to the US, where he eventually chose to settle in Hartford, feeling he ‘didn’t belong’ in New York.
After completing high school and college, Chase began his career selling home improvement services, eventually moving into commercial work by the mid-1950’s. By helping struggling tenants in shopping centers he built for large clients, he ended up investing in an array of enterprises, including banks, automotive equipment suppliers and radio stations.
As his wealth grew, Chase became a prolific philanthropist, contributing to causes in Israel, Poland and the United States. He co-founded the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and gave generously across Jewish denominations and beyond, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Red Cross, the Israeli Magen David Adom and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, to name only a few.
A self-described dreamer with an optimistic outlook on life and a strong moral compass, David Chase emerged from the Shoah to exemplify the importance of Jewish continuity, Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam. He died at age 88 on June 1, 2016. The Chase Family Foundation continues David’s charitable endeavors and helps support the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford, among many others.