(JTA) – David Azrieli, a Canadian-Israeli real estate developer with major holdings in Israel, including the three geometric towers in the middle of Tel Aviv, has died.
Azrieli, a billionaire philanthropist whose family’s foundation has given away an estimated $100 million, died near Montreal on Wednesday. He was 92.
He was the founder and controlling shareholder of the Israeli real estate developer Azrieli Group. Azrieli stepped down as company chairman last week amid failing health.
In Israel, his name was closely associated with three iconic Tel Aviv towers, in the shapes of a circle, triangle and square, which bear his name.
Known also as the “Mall Man from Montreal,” his company owns over a dozen shopping malls in Israel, including Tel Aviv’s Azrieli Center, as well as office building and subsidiaries in the energy, water and environment industries. The company also owns 20 percent of the credit card company Leumi Card and nearly 5 percent holdings in Bank Leumi Le Israel Ltd.
His net worth is estimated at $3 billion.
Born in Poland, Azrieli fled the Nazis at age 17. He went to Russia and arrived in Palestine in time to fight in Israel’s War of Independence. He studied architecture at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and moved to Canada in 1954.
His family foundation’s gifts focused mainly on education but also on architecture and design, Holocaust commemoration, scientific and medical research, and the arts.
Among the programs established by the Azrieli Foundation is the Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program which collects and publishes memoirs and diaries written by survivors of the Holocaust living in Canada.
At age 75, Azrieli received his master’s degree in architecture from Carleton University in Ottawa. An endowment from Azrieli led to the establishment of the David J. Azrieli Institute of Graduate Studies and Research in Architecture at Carleton.
David Koschitzky, chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, released the following statement:
“We are saddened by the passing of David Azrieli, may his memory be for a blessing. David had a momentous life. Having fled war-torn Europe and serving in Israel’s War of Independence, David went on to become a world-class developer and designer. As a philanthropist in Canada, his contributions to Carleton University and his establishment of the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies at Concordia are among the many academic initiatives that benefited from his support.
“However, perhaps his most significant contribution was the creation of the Azrieli Foundation, which has sponsored a wide range of projects for the betterment of Canada, Israel, and the Jewish community. He was a leading supporter of the Canadian Zionist Federation and served for many years on the Board of the Canada-Israel Committee – one of the predecessors of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. From the Jewish community’s perspective, we are enormously grateful for his remarkable work in the fields of Holocaust remembrance and building the Canada-Israel relationship. In Israel, his iconic developments, most notably the Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv, have forever impacted the landscape.
“We offer our deepest condolences to the Azrieli family. May you be comforted in the knowledge that David has left behind an extraordinary legacy of contribution here in Canada and in Israel.”
(The Ottawa Jewish Bulletin contributed to this report.)