Moshe Schnitzer, one of the founding fathers of the Israeli Diamond Industry, past chairman of the Israel Diamond Institute, and honorary president of the Israel Diamond Exchange and the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, died Thursday night. He was 86.
He is survived by his three children, Hanna Gertler, Etty Yovel, and Shmuel Schnitzer and their families. His wife Varda died in 2002. His son Shmuel also served as president of the IDE and of the WFDB. The family diamond firm he established, M. Schnitzer & Co., continues to be an important member of the Israel Diamond Exchange.
Moshe Schnitzer was born in Chernowitz, Romania, in 1921 and immigrated to Israel in 1934. He studied history and philosophy at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1942 he began his career in the diamond industry as a diamond sawer and advanced within the industry. With a partner he opened Schnitzer-Greenstein in 1952 and opened his own firm, M. Schnitzer & Co. in 1980 with his son and son-in-law, which became one of the leading firms in the industry. In 1947 Moshe Schnitzer was one of the founding members of the fledgling Israel Diamond Exchange, and became one of the leading proponents of the expansion and development of the exchange, which is now the largest in the world.
From 1967 to 1993 Schnitzer served as president of the IDE, during a time when polished diamond exports rose from $200 million to $3.4 billion a year. Schnitzer served as president of the WFDB from 1968 to 1972 and again from 1978 to 1982. He was voted lifelong honorary president of the WFDB in 1982, and lifelong honorary president of the IDE in 1994.
Schnitzer received the Order of King Leopold of Belgium for his contribution to the international diamond industry, and to the development of ties between the two leading world diamond centers—Israel and Belgium. Schnitzer also received an honorary doctorate from Bar-Ilan University.
Schnitzer was responsible for establishing the Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Museum in Ramat Gan and served as its chairman until July 2003. The municipality of Ramat Gan named the plaza adjacent to the diamond exchange Moshe Schnitzer Plaza, and the campus of the diamond exchange was named the Israel Diamond Center in Honor of Schnitzer in 2002. He was also made an honored citizen by the municipality of Tel Aviv.
In 2004 Schnitzer was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for his life’s work in making a special contribution to the State of Israel and Israeli society. The official announcement of the prize stated: “Moshe Schnitzer is identified more than anyone else with the Israel diamond industry, and his vision and personality have contributed greatly to Israel’s stature in the world. … For the past 60 years, Schnitzer has been the highest-ranking ambassador of the diamond industry.”
Schnitzer’s funeral was held on Friday. It began at the Israel Diamond Exchange compound, where he was eulogized by former Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Mayor of Ramat Gan Zvi Bar, IDE president Avi Paz, Israel Diamond Institute chairman Moti Ganz, past vice president of the Diamond Exchange Bumi Traub, his daughter Hanna Gertler and son Shmuel Schnitzer. He was buried in the Nahalat Itzhak cemetery in Tel Aviv.