Obituary: Judy Shaviv

Born London, April 16, 1951. Died December 2, 2008, Toronto, Canada, aged 57.


Personal assistant to one Israeli president and two British chief rabbis, Judy Shaviv was key aide to Jewish leaders, both national and international.

She was born into a family of London communal activists. Her father, Mark Kosky, who died in 2008, was an honorary officer of the United Synagogue and president of the Board of Shechitah, while mother Lillah founded the Jewish Bereavement Service.

As a teenager, Judy was active in the Federation of Zionist Youth and the Student Campaign for Soviet Jewry.

Long before a gap year in Israel was common, she spent a year in Jerusalem at the Institute for the Training of Diaspora Youth Leaders, then worked as a volunteer on Kibbutz Lavi.

Returning to England, she worked as personal secretary to the late Chief Rabbi, Lord Jakobovits. For several years she lived with her husband, Paul, and children at Carmel College and taught Jewish students at the European School attached to the nuclear research institute at Culham, Oxfordshire.

Moving to Israel in 1982, she was appointed personal and private secretary to President Chaim Herzog and his wife, Ora, and travelled with him on the longest tour ever undertaken by an Israeli statesman, the 1986 presidential tour of South Asia. She was also responsible for diplomatic etiquette in the President’s House.

She later worked for the head of the Jewish Agency, Simcha Dinitz, in a similar role and was a crucial witness in his defence when he was accused of financial irregularities in the 1990s.

In 1990 the family moved back to England and Judy was invited to help set up the office of newly appointed Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks.

In 1994 the family moved to Canada, where in her final job she worked for philanthropist Charles Bronfman, founder of birthright Israel.

Judy was equally adept at dealing with bishops, dayanim, royalty, politicians or philanthropists. She battled cancer for six and a half years, finally succumbing in Canada.

At her funeral in Toronto — followed, at her wish, by burial in Israel — tributes were paid to her natural grace and easy manner.

She is survived by her husband, Paul, director of education of the community Jewish high school in Toronto; daughter Miriam (Comment Editor of the JC); two sons, Aron and Gidon; and four granddaughters.

The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, writes: Judy Shaviv was a woman of strength in every sense, gracious, giving, helping others. Her whole life was given over to serving the Jewish people. Though her last years were laden with illness and pain, she never let it show. She was one of the most capable people I have ever met.

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