Dr. Katz was one of the designers of Israel’s welfare state from the early 1960s. His positions over the years formed a tapestry both within the discipline of social work and in the social system itself. At the end of the 1960s, Katz served as the Director-General of the National Insurance Institute. While in this position, he acted as the Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Commission on Children and Youth At-Risk which became known as the Katz Commission. The commission brought about a change in the perception of welfare for at-risk children and youth.
Israel Katz’s association with the JDC began early. From 1973-1977 Katz was the Director of the newly established Brookdale Institute of Gerontology and Adult Human Development (which today is the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute). He then returned to government service and served as Minister of Labor and Social Welfare under Menachem Begin between the years 1977-1981. At this point, Dr. Katz renewed his association with JDC. Leaders at JDC had long understood the centrality of social planning and the idea of a research center had long been on the agenda.
In 1982, during Henry Taub’s presidency and Ralph Goldman’s administration, JDC established what would become the Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel (and later the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel) and asked Israel Katz to be its first Director. JDC quickly understood that unlike other programs, this Center would have to be independent of government involvement in order to provide policy and decision makers with high level research and viable policy alternatives that were apolitical and non-partisan in the social and economic arenas. Israel Katz headed the Center until 1992 when he retired and Yaakov Kop succeeded him.
Israel Katz always sought to raise social issues to the top of the public agenda whether in the government, in the Knesset, in professional and academic circles, in the media, or in other spheres. He continued to give his support to the Center and its activities to the end.
We mourn his loss and extend our sincerest condolences to his family.