An activist, philanthropist, and leader of Canadian and world Jewry, Julia Koschitzky was born in Cardiff, Wales, the daughter of Max Podolski (b. Posen, now Poznan, 1904, d. Toronto, 1986) and Elli (Moses) Podolski (b. Berlin, 1908, d. Toronto, 2002). Her parents, who worked together in business, fled Germany in 1939 for Wales, where they had business interests, leaving for Canada in 1949 and finally settling in Toronto in 1956.
In 1963, Julia married businessman Henry Koschitzky (b. Kattowice, Poland, 1935), whose family came to Canada having lived in exile in the Soviet Union during World War II. Over the years, the Koschitzkys became increasingly prominent in philanthropy, community leadership, and Orthodoxy in Canada and Israel. Chief among their interests are Jewish education and social welfare across the communal spectrum, with major benefactions over the years to many causes, such as day schools and yeshivas and the endowment of the Koschitzky Family Chair in Jewish Teacher Education at York University in Toronto.
For Koschitzky, communal leadership has meant not only philanthropy but also taking active roles in Jewish affairs locally, nationally, and internationally. She began as president of the Parents’ Association of the Associated Hebrew Schools of Toronto, the community day school that her children attended. In 1985, she chaired the Toronto UJA (United Jewish Appeal) Women’s Division Campaign and in 1988–1989 co-chaired the general Toronto UJA Campaign. She served for eight years as an officer of the UJA/Federation of Greater Toronto and then (1990–1992) as president of UIA (United Israel Appeal)/Federations Canada. In the latter position, she was able to help shape the relationship between Canadian Jewry and Israel and to play a central role in Operation Exodus, the immigration of Jews from Russia to Israel. In 1998, she chaired the Toronto celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of Israeli statehood; in 2003, she was chairing UJA/Federation’s Israel Advocacy program and serving on the executive committee of Israel Now.
From 1992 to 1997 Koschitzky chaired the Keren Hayesod World Board of Trustees. Since 1990 she has been a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel and, since 1996, a member of the Agency Executive. In 2003 she was also serving as a trustee of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Canadian Jewish News, the York University Foundation, the United Jewish Communities of North America, the Pincus Fund for Jewish Education of the Jewish Agency, and other organizations.
Koschitzky has received a number of awards for unstinting service. Among them are: the Woman of Valour Award of Toronto’s UJA Business and Professional Women’s Division (1990); the Commonwealth Medal given on the 125th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation (1993); the Jerusalem Award of the Canadian Zionist Federation (1994); the Ben Sadowski Award for outstanding dedication to the Toronto Jewish Community (1997); the Israel Goldstein Prize conferred by the Knesset for outstanding service to the Keren Hayesod (1997); the Volunteer Service Award of the Province of Ontario (1999) conferred by the lieutenant-governor; and an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University (2003).
Koschitzky and her husband are the parents of four children: Serena (b. 1964), Hartley (b. 1965), Jonathan (b. 1970), and Leelah (Gitler, b. 1974). Her sister is Jeannette Massouda (b.1940). The Koschitzkys are recognized as an extraordinary example of a family that has been reborn from exile and suffering to success in the world of business and generosity in assuming communal responsibility.