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...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.