Sunday, February 20, 2011

ITZIK, z'l

Yitzchak Shavit passed away today after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. If you knew Itzik, as so many of us did, you would not have been surprised at the tenacity of his fight against tremendous odds. For in everything that he did, Itzik was a fighter.

At JFNA, Itzik was the "go to" guy for so much -- access to the Prime Minister, sources for funding special projects, and, to the end, for understanding financial resource development, the great good it could do...and how to do it. He was a ferocious protector of what he believed to be his territory, his donors, his Israel Emergency Fund, and his JAFI. Woe unto those who tread upon that diverse turf. But, unlike many of us, Itzik was dedicated always to the goals as he saw them, as he defined them, and he drove himself 24/7 toward the singular objective of tikkun olam, of making this world a place of safety and greater comfort for those of our people most in need.

I was privileged to work side-by-side with Itzik for so many years -- first when I was named UJA Chair when we worked together to build upon what was then the unique projectization of the Jewish Agency's budget -- created by Itzik in a great lay-professional partnership with Chicago's Edgar Cadden, z'l. As UJA Chair I had Itzik's help in naming Jane Sherman as Ed's successor at the IEF -- and Jane and Itzik would form a partnership of great strength from those days forward. I was blessed to have been his lay partner in our work together in the research and drafting of the Resource Development Guidelines that we promulgated, worked through the then UJC bureaucracy (and no one...could work their way through the various bureaucracies he confronted time and again any better than Itzik) only to see them shelved by unthinking leaders of then UJC.

But it was in his work as the Executive Vice-Chair of UIA within JFNA where Itzik demonstrated, time and again his outstanding professionalism. It was a constant juggling act to balance the demands of JFNA leaders with the fiduciary responsibilities of UIA to our system. And all of the time Itzik was raising millions of dollars under the IEF umbrella through the merger, through the uncertainty (and what was perceived as "competition") of JAFI NA, until the end.

As Bruce Arbit, UIA's Board Chair, said today, few have had "...a greater hand in literally building the State of Israel brick by brick." And few had greater pride in achievement.

To his beloved wife, Barbara, and Itzik's beautiful family, know that you are in our thoughts and prayers, as all of us remember this great, dedicated leader.



paul jeser said...

Itzik was one of the best. A fundraiser's fundraiser. I was provided to work with him on joint projects on many occasions. He will be missed.

Bernie Moscovitz said...

I was terribly saddened to learn of Itik's passing. Just last week my wife and I were talking about the unbridled joy at Barabara and Itzik's wedding. He was one of the brightest and happiest lights at UJA. It is uplifting to remember his passion for Israel and the Jewish Agency. He made our job easier. Rich, your blog frequently looks back at the mid to late 90s with not just nostalgia. They are times I treasure and always will. With you and Richie and Carol and Marvin and so many others in the lay leadership and with Vicki and Lee and Gayle and Yithak Shavit at 99 Park and then on Eighth Avenue, a huge number of hearts were in the right place and a good deal of what you called G-d's work, got done.

RWEX said...

Thanks, Bernie, for your recollections. Those were the days, my friend -- of passion, purpose and commitment all of which Itzik embodied.

daniel allen said...

It was a cold day but at 2:50, in a bus to the Jewish Agency to participate in the naming of the FRD building of JAFI for Yitzhak, an email arrived that said he had just left us all for the last time. As we huddled inside the lobby, his son and brothers bereft, the ceremony actually took place.

It was classic Itzhik, bringing people togheter, dedicating a building, honoring the best in all of us - and this time in him.

He never liked to be acknowledged but just thanked. The tekes was streamed live to barbarait was to have been to Itzhik as well.

A couple of years ago, it was mentioned, that there was a list creted of who had raised the most moeny for Israel. Itzhik came in second to Shimon Peres. Some say it is because Shimon took credit for some of Ithiks work.

We worked together at UJA and later more closely when I served as CEO of UIA. He was a unique fellow who always made you feel - even when not fully paying attention- that your cause, your concern, and you were important not merely to him but were important to the Jews and Israel.

He was truly Israel's ambassador to American Jews - Baruch Dayan emet.

Danny Allen

RWEX said...

Thanks Danny -- you knew Itzik so well as friend and partner.

The last two correspondents were grteat professional leaders in what was our system -- and, hopefuly, will be again. Bernie Moscovitz was the last Chief Professional Officer at the United Jewish Appeal where he and Lee Twersky led us through the merger with great hopes for the future. I miss him (and those days).

Danny Allen served the United Israel Appeal with great distinction and passion as Executive Vice Chairman.I had the greatest rerspect for Danny's knowledge of the history of our system's relationship with JAFI and all of us miss his insights today.