David Azrieli C.M., C.Q., M.Arch.
Dreamer, builder and 2011 honouree
One of the world’s most innovative builders and ardent philanthropist, David Azrieli,
is the Foundation’s 2011 Honouree.“David has combined wisdom, vision and kindness
with his love of Israel and our people.
His leadership in business is mirrored by his visionary
philanthropic activities which have touched the lives
of our people in Canada, Israel and around the world.” JCF president Barry Pascal
David’s story is a testament to survival and triumph. It’s also about philanthropic vision and commitment to the Jewish people.
Born in Poland in 1922, David Azrieli lost his parents, younger brother and sister in the Shoah. In 1939, at the age of 17, he escaped from Poland and made his way through Russia and Central Asia, always one step ahead of the Nazis.
From then on he would always be one step ahead – in everything he undertook to do.“My passion is to design and build.Regrets don't last long and are fewer than successes.” David Azrieli
David studied architecture at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa (shown, left), but did not complete his degree. In 1948, he joined the Israel Defense Forces to fight in the Israeli War of Independence. After the war, he settled in Canada where he earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Montreal. Later, much later, at the age of 75, David would finally complete his Master’s degree in architecture from Carleton University.
In the meantime, he started changing landscapes and skylines. It began with four houses in a Montreal suburb. Today, David’s creative vision is evident in office buildings, high-rise residences, office towers and shopping centres he has built in Canada, the United States and Israel.
His two companies – Montreal-based Canpro Investments Ltd. and the Tel Aviv-based Azrieli Group – are considered leaders in their fields.
David’s vision and insight have also translated into his philanthropy and his commitment to education. The Azrieli Foundation, established in 1991, promotes education, architecture and design, Holocaust commemoration, scientific and medical research, and the arts.
David is a member and past Vice-Chairman of the International Board of Governors at the Technion, member of the International Board of Weizmann Institute of Science, the Board of Governors of Tel Aviv University and the Board of Trustees of Yeshiva University (New York). He is an Honorary Trustee, “Ne'eman”, of the City of Jerusalem, a Fellow of the Association of United Architects of Israel and the Israel Museum and a member of Tel Aviv Museum. In 2008 he received the Yakir Award presented by the Council for a Beautiful Israel
In 1984, David was named to the Order of Canada and in 1999, he was named “chevalier” of the Ordre National du Québec.
David attributes part of his success to immersing himself in the excitement of creating and fulfilling a dream, letting nothing stand in his way. “Besides”, he adds, “I am also hampered by being an eternal optimist.”
David and his wife, Stephanie, have four children: Rafi, Sharon, Naomi, and Danna and seven grandchildren.
The tribute to David Azrieli will take place at the Foundation’s Annual Meeting in September.