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In Gratitude: Philip Krawitz

2015 Yakir Keren Hayesod Award recipient

Cape Town, South Africa

On Wednesday, June 17, 2015, at a festive ceremony held in Jerusalem, the Yakir Keren Hayesod award was bestowed upon Chairman of the United Jewish Campaign’s Board of Trustees, Philip J. Krawitz. During this moving evening, a short video clip produced in his honor was screened, with Mayor of Raanana Zeev Bielsky, former Chairman of the Jewish Agency and member of the Knesset, saying warm words of praise about him. Philip and the three other 2015 Yakir KH Award recipients were personally congratulated by both President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom they met earlier that day.

Philip was born to Arthur and Clare Krawitz on March 29, 1950. His grandparents had emigrated to South Africa from Poland, Lithuania and the United Kingdom in the late 19th Century. Philip’s maternal grandfather, Joseph Ratzker, was a stalwart of the Johannesburg Jewish Community where he founded organisations such as the Chevra Kadisha and the Hebrew Benevolent Society. He also laid the foundation stone of the Yeoville Street Synagogue and was an Honorary Life Committee member of the Wolmaran Street Shul. Philip derives much of his communal enthusiasm from his inspiring grandfather Joseph.

Philip’s paternal grandfather, Philip, founded the family business, Cape Union Mart, in 1933. He was a staunch supporter of the Zionist Movement. Philip’s late father, Arthur, inherited his father’s passion for the State of Israel. Amongst his proudest possessions were memorabilia from the War of Independence and especially a personally signed copy of Menachem Begin’s autobiography, The Revolt.

Following World War II, ships laden with Jewish refugees came to Cape Town and Arthur was on hand taking photographs of members of the Cape Town Jewish Community passing supplies to the hapless passengers who were not permitted to disembark. Philip grew up having these photos constantly shown, as a reminder of the time when the State of Israel did not exist and there was no place for Jews to seek refuge.

Arthur and his dedicated wife, Clare, ran the business until 1970 when Philip took over the reins following Arthur’s heart attack. At that stage, it was just a one-store operation. Philip soon involved himself in the sphere of organised business in order learn more about the workings of the business world. In 1984, he became the youngest ever president of the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce and went on to become the youngest President of the South African Chamber of Business in 1997.

Soon after South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, Philip was invited to serve on the USA/SA Bi-National Commission chaired jointly by American Vice President Al Gore and South African Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki. Philip was also a Director of Cape Town’s bid for the 2004 Olympic Games. In the cultural field Philip served on the Cape Performing Arts Board and the Board of the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra.

Even in his twenties, Philip involved himself in Jewish Communal affairs.

His involvement with Herzlia School (attended by more than 85% of Cape Town’s Jewish children), saw him become Chairman of the Board of Governors. He currently serves as Chairman of the United Herzlia School’s Board of Trustees.

Philip’s passion for Israel led him to become involved with the United Jewish Campaign, which raises funds for both local and Israeli causes including Keren Hayesod. He is today Chairman of the United Jewish Campaign’s Board of Trustees. He is also a Trustee of the Community Security Organisation (CSO) as well as serving as a Trustee of the South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation.

In addition to Jewish causes, Philip is a protector of the Trust of Ikamva Labantu, which focuses on improving the lives of the indigent and vulnerable in Cape Town’s black townships.

In just over 40 years Philip has grown Cape Union Mart from a one-store operations to one of South Africa’s largest family owned companies with some 170 stores across Southern Africa. He regards as his greatest achievement the fact that within both the retail stores and his K-Way Manufacturing operation, he has never retrenched a single employee.

In the business world, Philip served as Chairman of the Eastern Province Building Society and was also a member of the regional Board of ABSA, one of South Africa’s largest banks. His efforts in the business world were recognised by both the Afrikaans Chamber of Business and the Cape Times newspapers where in both cases he was named as Businessman of the Year. In the Jewish world, Philip has been awarded the South African Jewish Lifetime Achiever Award as well as having a bursary named in his honour by Telfed in Israel.

Philip is married to Michele who he describes as the rock of his life to which he, his children and grandchildren are firmly anchored. He has three married daughters, Martine, Lauren and Amanda and six grandchildren. His eldest and youngest daughters live in Cape Town and have joined Philip in the family business. His middle daughter, Lauren and her family, are happily settled in Ra’annana. At 65, Philip is moving to a non-executive role in the business so that he can focus his time and energy on philanthropy and building a better world for the next generation.

The worldwide family of Keren Hayesod-UIA sends its congratulations to Philip upon receiving the 2015 Yakir Keren Hayesod Award.
Thanks again for all that you have achieved until now, dear Philip, and best wishes for many more years of good health and happiness with your loved ones, as well as continued activity on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people!

For his vision, his extraordinary leadership and his unwavering dedication, Philip Krawitz is a worthy recipient of the Yakir Keren Hayesod Award.

Philip Krawitz

Proudly showing the Yakir Award, as KH leadership and Minister of Science, Technology and Space, Danny Danon, show their appreciation. From left to right: KH-UIA Director-General, Greg Masel; KH-UIA World Board of Trustees Chairman,  David KoschitzkyMinister Danon;  KH-UIA Honorary President, Julia KoschitzkyPhilip Krawitz and KH-UIA World Chairman, Eliezer (Moodi) Sandberg


Philip Krawitz

Philip Krawitz addresses the audience.