Moshe Schnitzer, one of the driving forces behind the Israeli diamond industry and a true industry legend, died recently at age 86.
Among his many titles, Schnitzer was president of the Israel Diamond Exchange; chairman of the Israel Diamond Institute; and president of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, the umbrella organization for the world's diamond clubs.
Schnitzer was born in Romania and immigrated to Israel in 1934. He studied history and philosophy at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1942, he joined the diamond business, urged on by his father, as he told Russell Shor in the book Connections. “That was a sure job in a place where you saw doctors and college professors driving taxis,” he said.
He also fought in the Irgun—the Israeli underground group—which helped him later in life since he made connections with many future government leaders.
At a time when most of the Israeli trade was conducted in cafés, Schnitzer organized the first Israel Diamond Exchange and helped develop the business as it expanded rapidly in the 1960s and '70s. 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.
Among the many honors Schnitzer received in his lifetime were the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievements and Special Contribution to the Israeli Society, the country's highest honor, and the Order of King Leopold of Belgium. The city of Ramat Gan named the plaza adjacent to the diamond exchange Moshe Schnitzer Plaza.
World Diamond Council chairman Eli Izhakoff called Schnitzer “a great leader who was an incredible inspiration to me and to everyone in this industry. He had no peer when it came to understanding our industry and its people.”
World Federation of Diamond Bourses president Ernie Blom called Schnitzer “a visionary who led by example.”
“Generations of diamantaires from all over the world considered him a mentor and a leader,” Blom said. “We hope [his family] finds comfort in the knowledge that thousands of members of our trade in dozens of countries are thinking at this time of Moshe Schnitzer and the indelible mark that he made upon our trade.”
Schnitzer is survived by his son Shmuel, who succeeded his father not only in the family business but also as president of IDE and WFDB, as well as his daughter, Hanna, and son Etty. His wife, Varda, died in 2002. Grandson Dan Gertler, head of DGI, is another prominent diamond businessman known for his dealings in Africa.