Marty Davis, who lived and worked in Ottawa’s Jewish community as a shaliach from Israel from 2001 to 2005, passed away, October 14, at age 62, in Ashkelon, Israel. Bonnie and Chuck Merovitz recall their close friend.
Marty Davis was born in Brooklyn on March 4, 1953, the youngest of three boys. He developed a love for Israel at an early age. As a teenager, Marty became involved in Young Judea and soon became a leader and senior adviser.
That was where he met his beloved wife, Terri. They had three children: Seth, married to Shani; Elana, married to Asaf; and Barak, soon to be married to Avitale. Marty was a doting grandfather to Emily, Harel and Anna.
Marty and family made aliyah in 1980 and spent their first year at a Jerusalem absorption centre before moving in 1981 to Ashkelon, at the time a small coastal city in need of a lot of help, where he wanted to make an impact with Project Renewal. Marty ran summer camps for thousands of children and brought volunteer dentists from the UK to provide dental care for the under-privileged. One resident said that, when she first came to Ashkelon, Marty was introduced to her as “Mr. Ashkelon.”
Marty’s involvement with Project Renewal took him to the UK, from 1988 to 1991, where he was in charge of Project Renewal campaigns and young leadership development. The friendships he made during that time endured, and several people flew from London to attend his funeral on October 16 in Ashkelon.
Marty was a creative fundraiser. His enthusiasm was contagious. On a dare, Marty shaved his beard and was able to negotiate a donation of 10,000 British pounds! Another dare, another 10,000 pounds was raised!
Marty was also involved in the movement to help Soviet Jewry.
On a trip to the former Soviet Union, Marty was carrying exit invitations in his hand luggage. In line at immigration and sensing he might be targeted, he convinced an elderly lady travelling with his group to switch hand luggage.
Marty’s concerns were validated and he had to explain why he was carrying lady’s underwear in his carry-on. Marty calmly told the immigration officer he should not question his personal choices.
We met Marty when he came to Ottawa as the shaliach in 2001, hired to lead the Annual Campaign and the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation. He arrived as a community staff person, but quickly became a community leader and, forever, a close friend.
Marty had the unique ability to bring all corners of the Jewish community together. From Reform, to Conservative, to Orthodox, to Chabad, to the Kollel, people were sitting down and dialoguing.
He resurrected community missions to Israel. In 2004, more than 100 people came from Ottawa and many of them remain deeply connected to their Jewish roots and to Israel. Marty was instrumental in this.
We had successful Annual Campaigns and a reimagined Foundation campaign because Marty knew how to read people.
Beyond being a born community leader, he and Terri opened their home to many. Every Shabbat, they entertained, and we all looked forward to an invitation to their table. On the odd Shabbat that they seemed to be alone, their son Barak would insist we be invited. Our relationship had notched up to that of family.
Marty was the cantorial officiant at our son’s wedding just before he, Terri and Barak returned to Israel in 2005. The ceremony was held outdoors at a golf course overlooking the 18th hole. Marty, who never shied away from the limelight, belted out the last of the Sheva Bruchot just as a golfer was trying to sink his putt. Marty’s hitting that high note caused the golfer to miss his shot – very amusing for us, not so much so for the golfer.
“So many in our community were touched by Marty and the Davis family and feel a profound sense of loss and disbelief over his passing,” noted Jewish Federation of Ottawa President and CEO Andrea Freedman on learning of his death.
“The Jewish world lost a leader, mensch and bright light. Tragically, his family and friends lost so much more.”
Marty’s funeral ended with a recording of him singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
It was an emotional and touching final tribute to a guy who always did it his way.