David Koschitzky plans to rack up plenty of frequent flier miles in the next two years as he travels to the four corners of the world in his capacity as head of the world board of trustees of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal (UIA).
Koschitzky, a Toronto businessman who also serves as chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), was named to the position earlier this summer. His mission, which he has chosen to accept, is to return Keren Hayesod-UIA to the forefront of people’s thinking when they consider supporting Israel.
“There was a time when Keren Hayesod was on everybody’s lips and everybody understood what it was,” Koschitzky said on the line from Israel. “I want to make sure Keren Hayesod evolves and adapts to the new generation.”
Founded in 1920, Keren Hayesod was the organization through which Diaspora Jewish communities, other than the United States, funnelled money raised in local campaigns to the State of Israel or the Jewish Agency. In Canada, the money is transferred to Keren Hayesod via Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA,
Historically, funds raised sent to the Jewish Agency were used for aliyah and absorption. Over the years, Keren Hayesod helped bring tens of thousands of Jews from Europe to Israel. It established more than 900 settlements while providing newcomers with homes and jobs, while developing the economic, industrial, educational, and cultural framework of the country.
In 2013, it helped absorb 19,000 immigrants. Altogether, it allocated $122.5 million for programs and projects in Israel.
Koschitzky, who has headed UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and its annual campaign, said he hopes to increase “brand awareness” of Keren Hayesod’s work. “A brand needs to be continually be marketed. It’s especially important for an institution where there is a generational change,” he said.
People of his father’s generation had only a few options when it came to charitable giving. Today, people are inundated with requests to support multiple good causes, he said.
That poses a challenge for organizations like Keren Hayesod, but it has reacted by offering donors the opportunity to direct their gifts in addition to putting in a larger pool to be allocated by the agency, he added.
Today, Keren Hayesod-UIA provides for programs that enhance the quality of life of impoverished segments of the Israeli population, while fostering partnerships with Jewish communities worldwide.
Its Ayalim program brings student volunteers to a dozen communities in the Negev and Galilee to perform community service work, while Kesher brings together young people from around the world for leadership development.
The shinshinim emissary program sees young Israelis spend time in local communities’ schools and shuls, further enhancing ties between the Diaspora and Israel.
Koschitzky said “it was an honour to be asked” to head Keren Hayesod-UIA. “People have looked to Canada for leadership positions,” he said. “I would say I come from a family that impressed upon us to do the best and to give back to the community.”
His aunt, Julia Koschitzky, held the same position with Keren Hayesod from 1992 to 1997. She serves as an honorary director on the board of The CJN.
A native of Calgary, Koschitzky has also lived in Chicago and Toronto. He holds an engineering degree from the University of Toronto and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He is co-chair and CEO for North America of IKO, a global manufacturer of roofing and waterproofing materials.
He has served on the Jewish Agency board of governors and chair of the Jewish Agency’s strategic planning committee.