Aubrey Krawitz: Fundraiser and people raiser extraordinaire

January 11, 2019 by  
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As 2018 drew to a close, the Sydney community lost one of its most charismatic and dynamic personalities…writes Peter Wise.

Aubrey Krawitz with his wife Dorit

Aubrey Krawitz was a fundraiser extraordinaire, but he was also way more than just that – he was a magnet to people and using his charm and drive he cajoled and attracted a new era of communal leadership to come forward.

I first met Aubrey in early 1995 when he responded to a JCA advertisement seeking a fulltime professional fundraiser. At that time, I was JCA Appeal Chairman and still a relatively new Sydney resident. We had big plans to drive JCA forward; and we knew we needed help.

When Aubrey came into my office for his interview, I took an immediate liking to him. He was fresh and open. He was erudite. He had a twinkle in his eye. He exuded confidence. And through all of that, I recognised a rare characteristic that none of the other candidates seemed to have in the same measure – he had Yiddishkeit and an understanding and love of community in his kishkes. And it showed.

In my report to The JCA Board of Governors in March 1995 I said:

“I am pleased to advise that we have been successful in attracting Mr Aubrey Krawitz to the JCA in responses to our recent advertisements for a fulltime fundraiser. Aubrey comes to us with an impressive CV and a strong record of communal involvement which will be most valuable to us. His employment will involve direct fundraising, relationship building and donor development – all integral parts of the Appeal Executive’s plans to move JCA forward rapidly in the next few years”.

Those words proved to be prophetic. When Aubrey came aboard, the 1995 campaign plans were already locked and loaded and held tremendous promise with Professor Alan Dershowitz as our keynote speaker. It was a seminal moment for JCA and Aubrey recognised it for what it was – a turning point for JCA; and using this as his springboard, he propelled himself and JCA forward with unbridled vigour and enthusiasm.

Email was not yet in vogue, so in the beginning, our communications were by telephone and fax. My diary and notes of that time are full of references to Aubrey – the one-on-one meetings he was organising with donors; the select luncheons for influential donors with big potential; the welcome functions he was organising for new immigrants; the names of people he thought would make good JCA workers; ideas for how we could do things better – and so the list went on.

His mantra was “JCA is not just about raising funds – it’s also about raising people”. The theory was that if the people came, the money would follow, and he certainly proved this right. Within a year or two, people like Barry Smorgon and Peter Ivany had joined the JCA ranks and together with others were destined to be hugely instrumental in the growth of JCA. Aubrey took them under his wing and helped to ease them into their crucial roles.

More than that, Aubrey had the bit between his teeth and he was determined to prove to all who would listen to him that JCA was the hub around which the communal wheel turns. With grit and determination – and with a fair dose of chutzpah as well – he was instrumental in driving up the number of donors, and with it the dollars. The campaign graph kept growing, helped along the way by the introduction of a corporate sponsorship program that was his baby. He also played a role in getting a more formalised JCA bequest program underway.

Over the years that Aubrey was a JCA professional, he enjoyed the respect of the myriads of volunteers who came and went through the various committee structures. To be sure, he rankled a few by his direct and forthright manner; but he showed us all that you can’t be an effective fundraiser if you don’t ask the hard questions. Everyone who worked with him in either a lay or professional capacity understood that Aubrey was driven, not by personal aspirations, but by what he believed the community needed.

Aubrey and I chatted often and after more than a decade of working closely with him, it was to him that I turned to for guidance on when he thought it was time for me to pass on the JCA President’s baton. With a mix of sentiment and practicality, he helped me through that transition at the end of 2005. And then he went on to serve under new Presidents; new Appeal Chairmen; new CEO’s and a host of new volunteers, many of whom he had been cultivating for years. And he kept working the donor lists; increasing the pledges; increasing the donor numbers. Even when the time came for Aubrey himself to retire as a JCA professional, he kept going in a voluntary capacity with his wife Dorit at his side. How do you value dedication like that?

The list of Aubrey’s achievements for and on behalf of the Jewish Communal Appeal is long and varied. As we start 2019, I am reflecting on Aubrey’s accomplishments and how his influence will continue in his absence. In organisations like JCA, people come and go, but there are not many who leave behind a legacy that will live on.

Aubrey’s legacy goes beyond JCA and our community. He leaves a personal legacy of great value too – his family.  Aubrey enjoyed a lifelong partnership with his wife Dorit and together they built a family based on strong Jewish and community values. Their three children Nicole, Barbara, and Antony and their families, in turn, all walk in Aubrey’s footsteps.

JCA and our community need more people like Aubrey Krawitz. We need professionals and lay leaders who intrinsically understand what makes our community tick; who understand how to motivate others; who are not afraid to tell it as it is; and above all, who are not afraid to ask people to put their hands in their own pocket for the betterment of our community as a whole. We are a community with tremendous potential; a community with the capacity to be even more generous than we already are; and we are a community that can do great things. Aubrey told us all of this way back then – and it still holds true today.

Aubrey Krawitz was one of a kind. He was a mensch. Our community is poorer without him, but he will not be forgotten. In the coming months, the JCA Board of Governors will be asked to approve a communal award in his honour. I have no doubt that it will be approved unanimously by all the Presidents of the JCA constituent organisations who have all benefitted from JCA’s success.

It’s a full circle. As Aubrey always said, you get back what you give.

Peter Wise is a former JCA Appeal Chairman and JCA President. He is currently a JCA Honorary Life Governor. He also serves as a JCA Trustee in his capacity as Chairman of the Council for Jewish Community Security (CSG).

Aubrey Krawitz died at the age of 85 on December 27, 2018

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