York to the Power of 50: Jewish studies centre renamed

The Centre for Jewish Studies at York University has been renamed the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies. The dedication follows a generous gift from the Koschitzky family in honour of the 100th birthday of matriarch Golda Koschitzky and the 50th anniversary of York University in 2009.

The new name was launched by York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri at a celebration on Nov. 25. “This gift from the Koschitzky family is a testament to York’s long and proud history of Jewish studies,” said Shoukri. “But it’s not only Jewish students that attend Jewish studies courses. The demand for this knowledge transcends religion, race and culture.”

Right: York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri presented a gift of artwork titled A Woman of Valor to Golda Koschitzky. From left, foreground, Golda, Mira and Julia Koschitzky with Shoukri.

The Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies offers the largest university-level program in Jewish studies in Canada and one of the largest outside of Israel.

“The centre has been key in advancing an important research agenda for York University,” said Stan Shapson, York vice-president research & innovation . “Its scope and quality is quite remarkable. Publications demonstrate its excellence in scholarship that ranges from Biblical studies, to philosophy, Holocaust studies to Jewish music.” 

The centre’s director, Professor Sara Horowitz, outlined some of the activities that can now be launched or enhanced as a result of the new gift. “The endowment, among other things, will contribute invaluably to student and faculty research and training in Jewish studies; it will help us to teach new courses; and it will help us to share the work accomplished at York with our fellow academics by supporting symposia, colloquia and conferences affecting the shape of Jewish studies across the globe for many generations to come,” she said.

Left: The Koschitzky family. From left, seated, Golda and Mira Koschitzky. From left at rear: Saul, David, Yadin, Nediva, Sarena, Julia and Henry Koschitzky

The gift is just the latest act of generosity from the Koschitzky family to Jewish studies around the world. At York alone, the family has previously established a Chair in Jewish Teacher Education. The family’s relationship with the centre dates back to its founding director, Sydney Eisen.

Julia Koschitzky is a member of the York University Foundation Board of Directors and past chair of the centre’s Jewish Studies Advisory Committee. She spoke on behalf of the family at the event. “May the naming of the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies continue to bring much joy, satisfaction and fulfillment to York University, its students, its graduates, the entire community and to our family,” she said.

Above, from left: Former centre directors Marty Lockshin and Michael Brown; Faculty of Arts Dean Robert Drummond; Eric Lawee, current associate director of the centre; Sara Horowitz; Julia Koschitzky; and Stan Shapson.

Israel and Golda Koschitzky immigrated to Canada from Poland after the Second World War. In 1951, Israel, now deceased, created IKO, a roofing products company. Koschitzky family members still run IKO and the family is prominent in Canadian philanthropy. In 1999, York University bestowed an honorary doctorate on Golda Koschitzky.

Left: Faculty of Education Dean Alice Pitt (left) with Professor Alex Pomson, visiting from Israel. Pomson was the first Chair holder in Jewish Teacher Education at York University.

“I take great pride in being able to associate the name of our centre with the name of this very extraordinary and special family,” said Horowitz. “It is really our honour to bear the name, The Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies.”

The gift from the Koschitzky family supports York University Foundation’s York to the Power of 50 campaign achievement, now at more than $167 million toward its $200-million goal.