NEW YORK, NY – January 11, 2017 — City & State magazine is honoring Rev. Dr. David Benke, Interim CEO and President of Lutheran Social Services of New York (LSSNY), in its second annual “50 Over Fifty” awards, for his positive impact on New York City’s human services landscape, including advocacy and coalition-building in the areas of affordable housing and community preservation. City & State honors the “most distinguished public servants in New York City who have committed decades of their life to making the city a better place.”

“This comes at a particularly poignant moment, as I reflect back on the important work of LSSNY in continuing to grow the scope and quality of the human services it provides to all New Yorkers,” said Dr. Benke. “To be honored alongside such distinguished leaders in public service gives me hope that interests that I hold most dear to my heart—community preservation, immigration rights and education—are in the hands of such an accomplished group.”

The award caps off a stellar year of leadership for Dr. Benke as LSSNY’s Interim CEO/President, during which the agency celebrated its 130th anniversary of providing social services to New Yorkers in need. Under his leadership, LSSNY continued its strategic growth plan, strengthening its financial standing and working with the board and program staff to diversify its portfolio of services in foster care, housing, immigration, education and food security.

Dr. Benke, pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, NY, has a gift for fostering social change in an inclusive way. In the 1980s, he formed collaborative coalitions to create affordable housing in East New York. That passion for protecting fair housing and providing equal access to housing continues today. In 2016, he appeared on WNYC-NPR’s podcast, “There Goes the Neighborhood,” on a Brian Lehrer Show segment discussing the effects of gentrification on the housing market in East New York.

He draws on his diverse experience in faith-based, community activism for his work at LSSNY. “Through LSSNY, I saw a way to play an active role in the provision of human services, including immigration legal services, early childhood education services to pre-K and Head Start families, and unique foster care and supportive housing services. At LSSNY, my experience as a spiritual leader and social service advocate has come together seamlessly, offering me tremendous personal satisfaction,” said Dr. Benke.

Dr. Benke has served as the President/Bishop for the Atlantic District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, representing the eastern half of New York State for the denomination and its 2.5 million members nationally, from 1991 until 2015. Following the events of September 11, he co-founded Lutheran Disaster Response of New York, an agency chosen by the Victims’ Families Association as their agency of choice.

This year’s 50 honorees will be profiled in the January 30th special edition of City & State magazine. Dr. Benke will be honored at City & State’s reception on January 30th at the Ainsworth Midtown Restaurant in New York City. For the full list of the “50 Over Fifty” honorees, visit City & State. Past “50 Over Fifty” honorees have included Carol Kellermann, President of the Citizens Budget Commission; Paulette Lomonaco, Executive Director of Good Shepherd Services, and Robert Morgenthau, former Manhattan District Attorney.

Brian Gavin, Vice President of Advancement and Communications
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About Lutheran Social Services of New York:
Founded in 1886, Lutheran Social Services of New York is a nonprofit social service organization devoted to strengthening lives, families and community. Lutheran Social Services of New York has developed a wide range of educational and community programs to assist 7,000 people across New York every day to reach their full potential. To learn more about their programs, visit