Robert Benyas

Interviewed by Stanley Meretsky

September 22, 2004

Max M. Fisher Federation Building

Robert Benyas
Video 01:27:38


In this interview, photographer Robert Benyas discusses his long professional career as a photographer of the Jewish community.  He mentions that without formal training, he was under the tutelage of many photographers working for the Detroit News or Free Press.

Later on, he was able to take a course in Chicago where world famous photographers gave seminars, and also attended and graduated from the Institute of Design.

Benyas details the jobs he has had over the years; photographer for Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, Richmond Army Air Base, Sinai Hospital, League of Catholic Women, Joyce Carol Oates, numerous US Presidents, among others.  He talks about the business he opened with friend and colleague, Jack Kaufman.

Benyas also talks about his involvement with the Federation, the American Jewish Committee, Jewish Community Council, and Sholem Aleichem.

Benyas also speaks about his switch from shooting on film to shooting digitally.  He mentions his family, and his wedding at Temple Israel.  He also relates photographing the first open heart surgery operation in the United States at Harper Hospital.

History of Narrator

Robert Benyas was born on October 12, 1923 to Pearl and Saul Benyas. During World War II, he served in the China-Burma-India Theater with the Army Air Corps. The G.I. Bill help Benyas attend the Institute of Design in Chicago. There, he met Jack Kaufman and in 1951, the two men opened Benyas-Kaufman Photography Studio in Detroit. The studio later moved to Oak Park.

Benyas photographed the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and other Jewish organizations’ events and activities since 1951.  In 1981, he won first prize in photography in the Council of Jewish Federations’ Public Relations Competition, and in 1976 he won first prize in photography in the national communications contest of United Way America.

In 1991, he was honored at the annual meeting of Jewish Federation for 40 years of photography of community events of both Federation and United Way.  He was also the official photographer for the Michigan State Fair. Benyas photographed famous subjects, including Israeli leaders Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan, musician Leonard Bernstein, as well as Presidents Johnson, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Clinton.


Important Subjects

  • Ecumenical Institute
  • Industrial Photographers of Michigan
  • Jewish Book Fair
  • League of Catholic Women
  • Opera
  • Photography
  • Sholem Aleichem
  • Sinai Hospital
  • Temple Israel
  • World Trade Center

Important Names

  • Bill Clinton
  • Buckminster Fuller
  • David Hermelin
  • David Mondry
  • Dr. Julian Priver
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Golda Meir
  • Henry Ford II
  • Jack Kaufman
  • Jim Lyons
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Joyce Carol Oates
  • Judith Cantor
  • Laszlo Mohole-Nagy
  • Max Fisher
  • Mike Zeltzer
  • Minoru Yamasaki
  • Moshe Dayan
  • Paul Zuckerman
  • Red Gales
  • Sid Siegel
  • Valter Poole
  • Wayne Miller
  • Weegee

Credit as: Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives. Robert Benyas Oral History Interview, September 22, 2004.