David J. Azrieli zl

One Step Ahead

David J. Azrieli survived the Holocaust by always staying one step ahead of the Nazis.

Born in Makow-Mazowiecki, Poland in 1922, David Azrieli was the second of four children of Sara-Chaya (née Gerwer) and Rafael Hirsch Azrylewicz. In September 1939, David escaped the Nazi occupation by moving eastward into Sovietoccupied Poland. When Germany invaded the USSR in June 1941, David fled further eastward, staying one step ahead of the Nazis. David’s travels took him to Gomel, Stalingrad, Ulyanovsk, Tashkent, and Bukhara. In the fall of 1942, David joined the Polish “Anders” Army in Bukhara and moved with them into Iran and then to Baghdad.

There he contacted two Hagannah representatives—Moshe Dayan and Enzo Sereni— and was recruited to work for the Zionist cause. He reached British-mandate Palestine in late 1942.

He studied architecture at Technion and served in the Seventh Brigade during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. In 1946, he learned that only one brother had survived the Holocaust.

David moved to Montreal in 1954, earning a Bachelor of Arts from l’Université de Montréal (Thomas More Institute). He launched his career in design and real estate development in 1957 with the construction of four modest houses in Montreal. Today, his unparallelled success in building and design can be seen in imaginative office towers, hotels, and shopping centres in Canada, the United States, and Israel. His two companies—Canpro Investments Ltd. in Canada and the Azrieli Group Ltd. in Israel—are leaders in their fields. His Azrieli Center is a striking landmark that has changed and dominates the Tel Aviv skyline.

David is a committed philanthropist. Personally and through the Azrieli Foundation, he has generously supported numerous initiatives in the fields

of education, architecture, Holocaust education, developmental disabilities, and scientific and medical research. The Azrieli Foundation also publishes the awardwinning Azrieli Series of Holocaust Survivor Memoirs, written by Canadian Holocaust survivors. David’s belief in the importance of education is apparent in his philanthropic pursuits as well as his personal journey: in 1997, at the age of 75, he earned a Master’s degree in Architecture at Carleton University.

Among David’s many honours are the Order of Canada, l’Ordre Nationale du Québec, Honorary Trustee (“Neeman”) of the City of Jerusalem, and honorary doctorates from Concordia University, Yeshiva University, Carleton University, Tel Aviv University, and Technion. David Azrieli is married to Stephanie Lefcort. They have four children and seven grandchildren.

On July 9, 2014, David Azrieli passed away, at the age of 92, leaving a remarkable legacy of philanthropy that is carried on by his family.