(Dedicated to the memory of Julia Koschitzky, of blessed memory) The debt that can only be repaid by emulation

It is likely that every Jewish community on earth, directly or indirectly, was the beneficiary of the vast goodness of the late Julia Koschitzky’s heart, of her irrepressible will and of her unequaled ability to help others. Such was her extensive involvement throughout her adult life in numerous local, national and international networks of charities, NGOs, and similar benevolent organizations, all of whose key purpose is to make life better for others.

As most people know, Julia passed away this week. The rippling, positive impact of her life will one day be chronicled. As of this writing, tributes continue to appear in a wide array of publications. The CJN published an excellent obituary, in which the breathtaking array of her communal and organizational commitments is discussed. (https://thecjn.ca/news/obituary-julia-koschitzky-was-a-generous-philanthropist-and-dedicated-leader-for-jewish-communal-causes/)

At Julia’s funeral, her daughter Sarena, told the world that hakarat hatov, (acknowledging the good that someone else does for you), was one of her mother’s high cherished values. And thus, GAJE dedicates this update to Julia in keeping with the importance of observing hakarat hatov, to acknowledge the truly immeasurable good that Julia Koschitzky did for us all.

GAJE’s debt to Julia is especially large. The unwavering focus of our activities is for the future of Jewish education. And of course, as Julia herself made plain on many occasions, it was a key focus for her as well. In many respects we are following the trail she blazed.

The CJN reported that throughout her storied career in public Jewish life, “her main passion was Jewish education.” She and her husband Henry, “in 2013, established UJA Federation’s Julia and Henry Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education, which provides tuition assistance and a variety of programs for children and young adults.”

As further noted in The CJN, “at York University, where Julia was a trustee, she and her husband established the Koschitzky Family Chair in Jewish Teacher Education. With Henry’s brother, Saul and sister-in-law, Mira, the couple established the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies, Canada’s first interdisciplinary research centre in the subject.”

The heads of the UJA-affiliated day schools and Dan Held, Chief Programs Officer, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto published a joint statement of condolences to Julia’s family in which they also movingly expressed their thanks to her for her “remarkable work to strengthen Jewish education and the indelible impact this has had on our community.”

The following is the centerpiece of the statement.

“The Greater Toronto Jewish community is one of the strongest and most exceptional in the Jewish Diaspora, thanks in no small measure to our dynamic, diverse, and accessible day school system. Through her tireless leadership, Julia has played an unparalleled role in strengthening this fundamental building block of our community. Her extraordinary work, including through UJA’s Julia and Henry Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education, has empowered countless families to benefit from a Jewish education and enabled our cherished Jewish day schools to thrive. This has created positive ripple effects throughout our entire community, forging the next generation of Jewish leaders making a difference for the Jewish people in myriad ways. The future of our community depends to a great extent on the Jewish knowledge and pride we foster among our youth today. In this regard, few have shaped our shared future like Julia Koschitzky – and the school communities we represent owe so much of our success to her unmatched leadership. We would not be who we are, were it not for Julia. We will greatly miss her and take comfort in knowing that her impact will endure for generations – both within our schools and well beyond.”

Not surprisingly, Julia’s career in public Jewish life began in Jewish education as President of the Parents’ Association of the Associated Hebrew Schools of Toronto. That role was the springboard for her subsequent, varied, remarkably self-sacrificing activities and philanthropy on behalf of Jewish education, and on behalf of every manner of urgent, pressing causes in the wide Jewish world and beyond.

From ancient times until today, kohanim have chanted and continue to chant a very precisely-worded invocation before they extend their arms when blessing the community. The wording acknowledges that the kohanim are commanded “…to bless His people Israel, from a place of  love.” (Our translation) The words are as prescriptive as they are descriptive.

Julia Koschtizky was not a kohen or kohanit. But she did indeed bless God’s people Israel, (and the world) from a place of love. However, in all she did in her 78 years, for others – for the wellbeing of her people and for the wider community – she grasped deeply one of life’s most important treasures: loving means doing.

The debt we all owe Julia Koschitzky, we can only repay by emulating her.

As a final act of Julia’s commitment toward Jewish education, her family has asked that memorial donations in her memory be made to the Generations Trust at the Jewish Federation of Toronto. Please contact Jordan Glass at 416-635-5685 or 416-635-2883 Ext.5685 , or Sarah Raizel Avalis 416-635-2883 Ext.5184, tributecards@ujafed.org or savalis@ujafed.org.

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Shabbat shalom.

Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE),

March 25, 2022

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