REMEMBERING MARK MENDELSON Z”L, 1949-2022

Our hearts are heavy.

The entire BGU Canada family is devastated to share that our beloved CEO, Mark S. Mendelson, Z”L passed away suddenly on November 14th at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. Mark was 73.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark’s entire family including his wife Edna, his daughter Omer and son Noam, his grandson Aaron, and his sisters Hazel and Ilsa.

Mark was a passionate leader and a devoted advocate of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). He spent years deepening awareness and support for the university. He was a friend and ally to the many people who met him along his journey including our lay leaders, volunteers, donors, colleagues in Israel, the United States and around the world. To his staff, he was a larger-than-life figure who led his team with compassion, enthusiasm and, as he liked to say, out-of-the-box thinking.

The Mark Mendelson Memorial Fund at Ben-Gurion University has been established in his memory.


Jack Altman

President
BGU Canada

Mark was a superman. He could be everywhere at once, always available, responding to emails promptly, acknowledging birthdays and other milestones around the world, always in touch with family, friends, donors, and volunteers. Even on vacation in Israel, on his own time, he drove from Tel Aviv to Be’er Sheva, at least 1.5 hours each way, five times with donors to escort them on a visit to the BGU campus. Why I asked him? “Because I love it”, he replied. Like the Duracell bunny he kept on going, always up and ready to go. A real Mensch, Mark left his “mark”.


Peggi Cohen Rabinovitch

President
BGU Canada – Montreal

Mark had fulsome appetites – for comestibles, fun, travel, friends, but his most marked devotion was to his dear Edna and his family, and to his ‘family’ at Ben-Gurion University. Mark’s pride in his grandson, Aaron, was always topmost in his mind, exulting at Aaron’s medals and triumphs. Mark’s knowledge and pride in his work at BGU led him to the highest level of success and leadership recognition.

Mark pulled everyone into his orbit, regaling us with tales of his distinguished time in the IDF, his many careers and his food recommendations – ‘The best smoked meat! The finest smoked salmon!”.

Mark’s gusto for life and all its challenges is a life lesson for us all. May we raise a toast to Mark and live life large, as he so eloquently did.


Mitchell & Naomi Oelbaum

Immediate Past President
BGU National
&
Co-President
BGU Canada – Toronto

Mark was a unique man. Full of energy – working tirelessly on those items that meant a lot to him. Larger than life in many ways. He was always in your court. He had good instincts and would surprise me sometimes with his assessment of a situation – not because I did not think he could assess it but because he came down on a different side than I would have guessed – often my side J. He was a great reader of people – could size up their inner workings quite well. He was passionate about many things – family first, Israel, Canada, BGU, food. He turned us on to great falafel in Beersheva. I remember one year in Israel when he took Naomi and I on a ride to the moshav that he lived on when he lived in Israel. He was brimming with pride of having lived there for part of his life. He will be missed by many.


Adam Korbin

President
BGU Canada – BC

Mark was a renaissance man. He was old-school, a trend setter and an innovator all at once. However, his kindness, love and attention to others was timeless. I met Mark for the first time in December of 2016 and yet in just 6 years I feel like I have lost a family member. My recollections of our first meeting describe Mark’s character. He was wearing a striped shirt with a floral tie and a polka-dot pocket square was peeking out of his jacket. We quickly established our Zionist bone fides and then he leaned into our conversation and quickly established our shared Jewish geography, our kinship. Within a few minutes we were genuine friends. Our last meeting was just 3 weeks ago when he was joined in Vancouver by his wife, Edna. Mark had a very busy itinerary with donors and yet we enjoyed a 2-hour Sunday coffee together with my wife Isabella and our dog Rothko. And this is how I want to remember Mark—the dog was curled up at his feet as we chatted–just being together, in timeless kindness, love and attention. His memory is my blessing.



Aaron Migie

Co-Chair
BGU Canada – Winnipeg

Having the pleasure of getting to know Mark through the Ben-Gurion University Canada organization over the last number of years has been an honour. He always brought his passion, energy, humour and amazing spirit to any room or zoom meeting, making everyone feel welcome. May Mark’s strong legacy through family, philanthropy and all that he has done for Ben Gurion University continue on and his memory be a blessing.


Sam Cordes

Chief Operating Officer
BGU Canada

I don’t know where to start…… 

Mark and I have been friends since we were 6 years old. We met in grade 1 at Jewish People’s School in  Montreal. We spent many years at school, summer camp and university together. We shared many happy and sad occasions like weddings, raising our families, and family and friends passing away.

He told everyone that we met that I was his oldest friend, and was mine as well. I cannot imagine him not being in my life and am grateful for the many years we shared.


Zach Ostrove

Executive Director
BGU Canada – Winnipeg

On the morning of November 14 the world lost a true mensch in every sense of the word with the sudden passing of Mark Mendelson, CEO of Ben-Gurion University Canada. No picture could better capture who Mark Mendelson was to me. Mark was so much more than just my boss for the last 7 years. He was the CEO who gave me a chance at 33, the mentor who taught me about fundraising, and the man and friend who loved my family like it was his own. Mark was there for every major life event of mine for the last 7 years. He came to meet Elway (my dog) when we got him. He attended my wedding to celebrate with Kristen and me. He came to meet Asher, my son, shortly after we brought him home and was there at his bris. It breaks my heart to know that he never had a chance to meet Iris, my daughter, in person but I know both my kids loved Uncle Mark very much. The sudden loss of Mark is still fresh and painful. Yehi zichra baruch, may his memory be a blessing. Farewell le grand fromage!


David Berson

Executive Director
BGU Canada – B.C.

On November 14th we lost one of the giants of our generation of Jewish communal professionals in Canada. Mark Mendelson, MSW was the CEO of BGU Canada for more than a decade. He put Israel’s most dynamic, nation building university, situated in the Negev, on the map. He wore many hats in his rich and storied career: Major, Kibbutznik, entrepreneur, banker, chef, developer, fundraiser and community builder. He was a gentleman who shared his perspectives on life and offered valuable advice as he opened his hearts to people from all walks of life. And he fought for what he believed in.

Mark loved life. He loved people. He loved Israel. And he loved Canada. And most importantly, he was devoted to his wonderful family. To Edna. To Omer and Noam. And to the light of his life, his grandson, Aaron. I had the honour of working for Mark and with him for 9 1/2 years. The years have flown. Countless visits to Vancouver, mezuzahs in two offices and working with three regional presidents: Victor Elias, Si Brown and Adam Korbin. Mark got to see it all including holding a Gala, something he waited years for us to do. Everyone in my family was part of his family. My wife, my dog, my children. Mark hosted each of my kids at his home and delivered care packages during COVID to my son soon after he arrived in Montreal. You will be missed, my dear commander-in-chief and friend.



Simon Bensimon

Executive Director
BGU Canada – Montreal

In 37 years working in education, community development and philanthropy I have been fortunate to have amazing “bosses” and colleagues, I was able to learn from each one. When I joined BGU Canada 5 years ago, I got to know Mark and he was different. A passionate and dedicated professional and a “bon vivant” – we became fast friends. He was an open-book, sharing his many life experiences in Montreal, New York and of course Israel. He was passionate about his family and so very proud of their accomplishments. Before Mark, I had heard about foodies but had never really “lived” with one. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were experiences to be savored and enjoyed. Meetings were ALWAYS better around a meal. At our staff retreats the program was almost as important as the meals. He was a special man and will forever be a guiding force for me and many others. BDE – May his memory be for a blessing.


Shimmy Wenner

Executive Director
BGU Canada – Toronto

My favourite memory of my relationship with Mark was our daily 8am Whatsapp video calls. I was always the first staff member at work and not a day would go by without Mark calling me first thing in the morning while he was having his breakfast. This was a special part of my daily routine and I know there will be a certain emptiness in my life now that this daily happening is no longer.

Mark was my boss for only three years but he had a huge impact on me in those years. The most important lessons I learned from him were to not take everything too seriously and not allow daily occurrences to give you too much anxiety. This is something I continue to work on.

What also made Mark so special was his care and dedication not just for me, but also for my family as well. He really got to know Ayala and my children and he became a part of our extended family. I have never been treated better by any boss in any job in my entire life.

I had the opportunity to travel with Mark very recently. First at the BGU Board of Governors meetings this past May in Be’er Sheva, I had a chance to spend some quality time with Mark and Edna driving from Be’er Sheva back to Tel Aviv. Mark and Edna showed me where they used to live and then we grabbed a falafel at 10:30 am in the morning as Mark said, “the Best Falafel in Israel.“ Even more recently Mark and I travelled to New York for BGU business. It was always so fun and exciting to travel with Mark.

Mark, you were larger than life and I learned so much from you. I am hoping you are proud of what we have accomplished for BGU in Toronto and I am so happy you were able to see the fruits of our labour at the recent Michael J. Fox Gala.

We will do our best to continue your legacy. We are going to miss you more than simple words can express.


Galit Solomon

National Director of Marketing and Communications

When I joined Ben-Gurion University Canada two years ago, my new CEO, Mark Mendelson said, “Welcome to the family.” And that’s precisely how he led his team! With love, affection, understanding and compassion. It’s why I feel like I lost a relative. Mark passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on November 14th. I, like so many who knew him, am heartbroken. A void has been left that will take a long time to mend. Thank you Mark for the mentorship, for believing in my abilities, for the investment you made in each of us every day. The legacy you leave behind will be felt for many generations to come. May Mark’s memory be for a blessing.