Monday, February 21, 2011


Yesterday Bruce Arbit, UIA's Board Chair, eulogized his dear friend, Yitzchak Shavit, z'l. Bruce's words were so beautiful and comforting, that I wanted to share them with you:

"As you all know by now, we lost Yitzchak Shavit z'l.
Yesterday was a long and difficult day for all of us.

Tomorrow as we lay him to rest in Netanya may be worse.
The loss of Itzik will be a painful part of our lives forever.
We all knew how ill Itzik was. But, at least for me, in some childish part of my mind,
heroes simply do not die.

And for me Itzik was a super hero.

Itzik dedicated his entire adult life to the service of the Jewish people and the State of
Israel, beginning with is service in Tzahal and then literally building Israel brick by
brick. He was truly a servant of his people.

I spoke to Itzik almost every single day during his sickness, but I never got the chance
to say goodbye. Ben Gurion said that whoever did not believe in miracles was not a
realist. I was sure that Itzik had earned his miracle.

Itzik told me he was ready to go, that he was tired of the struggle, he was sad that his
work was not complete, that there was so much more for him to do. He was worried
for Barbara. He told me he loved me, and thanked me for being "with him" while he
was ill. I told him " אזוב שטויות " "azov shtuyot" – the Hebrew term for "leave out the
nonsense". I guess in the Hebrew speaking side of my personality, I wanted to out
Israeli the Israeli.

I was sure that Itzik's miracle would come. I could not accept Itzik's acceptance of his

I did not understand that Itzik had already received his miracle in the love and
devotion of Barbara Salmanson. Barbara and Itzik's love flourished in the shadow of
Itzik's first bout with cancer and there is a clear sadness in their relationship having
bookends of Itzik's illnesses.

Some people say that if you ask a carpenter how to fix something, he will tell you to
use wood, and if you ask a welder how to fix something, he will tell you to use metal.
If you asked Itzik how to fix something, he would tell you to raise money..
For Itzik was an extraordinarily talented craftsman in the endeavor of his choice.
Itzik was a fundraiser. He was not involved in financial resource development, or
moves management or any of the well defined new science. Itzik was one of an elite
class of journeyman fundraisers.

Itzik would always call me after any major organizational meeting and ask me for the
run down on what happened at the meeting. If he was frustrated by what I shared
with him – he would always respond the same way: "Would you please tell them to
go out and raise some money". Itzik truly believed that if we were all busier raising
money we would not have time for what he considered to be nonsense.

I came to UIA hoping to have another wonderful professional lay partnership, which I
had enjoyed in my other volunteer postings.

I was never Itzik's partner. I was his grateful student. The Mishna teaches us:
חבר" ; רב וקנה ל ; עשה ל " "Aseh lecha Rav u'kneh lecha chaver". "Find yourself a
Teacher and you will have acquired a friend". As the Mishna promised, I found my
teacher and I got a wonderful friend.

We have all lost our teacher. He taught his lessons by his personal example. We
have lost an indefatigable advocate to for the building of strong Israel and a vibrant
Jewish Connection to Israel. We have lost our friend. Yitzchak Shavit.

As we dedicated the Yitzchak Shavit Resource Development Building in Jerusalem,
minutes after Itzik's passing, the sky went dark, the wind howled and winter rain
began to fall.

The light that was Itzik was gone.

The lights of Jerusalem and in all of Israel burned dimmer last night.

All of our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to his beloved Barbara Salmanson; his
sons Adan and Einar; daughters-in-law Nitsan and Inbal; grandchildren Ofri Adan and
Edni; and brothers Gideon Shavit and Yonatan Shtiebel.

May the entire Shavit family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and
Jerusalem and may his memory continue to be a blessing to all who knew and loved

Bruce A. Arbit"

Amen. Thank you, Bruce.


Anonymous said...


Working with Yitzchak zl in years past was alway a pleasure. He could motivate anybody to go the extra mile. Such a loss and so young - a tradgedy!

With his broad smile and a twinkle in his eye - he made everyone feel that what they were doing was indeed God's work and most of all he made everyone feel good about what they were doing and that they made a difference.

Anonymous said...

Wow, thank you for reprinting, I had not seen this.

Bruce captures Yitzchak Shavit's legacy in a most accurate and moving way.

Two or three times a year, somebody forwards to me something that Bruce has written.

Does he have a blog or a list?

I am sure he will not win a Pulitzer prize, but it seems to me like he is a poet laureate of our lay leadership. He always captures my feelings and sentiments and says the things I wish I knew how to say. He draws on what feels like a better education than I got in my hebrew school and yet whatever it is about, I resonate with what he writes.

I was at your farewell to UIA dinner in Jerusalem. I think I cried more than you when he spoke so eloquently about your contributions.

I do not know him more than to say hello, but Milwaukee must have been very lucky to hear and read him there.

I hope he has more leadership roles to come.

RWEX said...

Thanks, Tanya.

Seriously, Bruce is knowledgeable, insightful and articulate -- dangerous attributes under the current JFNA lay leadership.