In the early 1960s, Harvey Krueger, an investment banker who had grown up in a New Jersey home as the grandson of Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Eastern Europe, took his first trip to Israel.
Walking the streets of the Jewish state, he was “looking for family,” said his daughter, State Sen. Liz Krueger, “because everybody’s faces looked like his.”
That experience spurred a life-long interest in personal genealogy, which ended in a family tree spanning back to the 1500s, Krueger said.
She said that research helped strengthen the Jewish identity and Jewish involvement of Mr. Krueger, a prominent philanthropist, who died on April 23 at 88 at his Manhattan home of multiple ailments.
Mr. Krueger returned to Israel — “We stopped counting trips after trip 400,” Liz Krueger said — and to Eastern Europe, where he visited towns where distant family members had lived and cemeteries where they were buried, and “found living relatives and did oral histories with them.”
Mr. Krueger’s roots research impressed upon him “the importance of a safe homeland for Jews,” which led him to support a wide variety of Jewish and Israeli causes, many of them educational institutions, his daughter said.
Formerly CEO of Kuhn, Loeb, & Co., and later an executive with Lehman Brothers and Barclays Capital, he was a chairman of the Board of Governors of both Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University, and an officer of Beit Hatfutsot and the Peres Center for Peace.
Mr. Krueger “was a very kind and thoughtful, generous person,” said Edith Everett, a fellow philanthropist who shared many of his interests in the Jewish community. “He almost never said ‘no’ — to a fault.”
Mr. Krueger was also known as the first banker to bring Israel to international capital markets, seeking support for the country’s high-tech “Start-Up Nation” firms. “He opened markets to Israeli start-up companies,” his daughter said.
Mr. Krueger, with his late wife, Constance, founded the Peter Krueger Center for Immunological Diseases of Mount Sinai/Beth Israel Medical Center, named for the couple’s son, who died of AIDS in 1988.
A native of Hackensack, N.J., he attended Columbia University and Columbia Law School.
Mr. Krueger is survived by three children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, as well as a brother.