Obituary: Stanley Plotnick, 82, an e-commerce pioneer in Montreal—and a major philanthropist for Canadian and Israel-based projects

Stanley Plotnick

Stanley Plotnick, who played multiple leading roles for decades in the Montreal and Canadian Jewish community and was a major philanthropist for Israel-based projects, died on Feb. 19 at age 82.

A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Plotnick was a pioneering entrepreneur in the field of information technology, specifically e-commerce, and founded successful businesses in the field.

His notable community roles included president of Montreal’s Federation CJA from 1997-1999 and later of Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA. He was a founding vice-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Plotnick was an active board member of The Canadian Jewish News and, with Steven Cummings, was instrumental in halting the planned closure of the publication in 2013.

When he was presented in Israel with the 2012 Keren Hayesod’s Yakir Award, Plotnick was hailed as “one of Canadian Jewry’s most distinguished leaders.” At the time, he sat on the Keren Hayesod executive and the Jewish Agency board of governors.

After graduating with a bachelor of commerce from McGill University in 1962, earning the Governor General’s Gold Medal for finishing in the top of his class, Plotnick went on to get a master’s degree at MIT’s Sloan School of Management two years later, again with academic distinction.

He founded and was president of AVS Technologies, an early computer and electronics manufacturer. At his death, he was chief executive officer of SelectShops Canada Inc., an online home décor retail business.

Among his other community posts over a 40-year period was president of Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital, of the Jewish Education Council of Montreal (later named the Bronfman Education Centre), and of Solomon Schechter Academy, an elementary Jewish day school.

He chaired the Montreal and national organizing bodies for the March of the Living.

As Federation CJA president, Plotnick was a prime mover behind the development of the Montreal Jewish Community Campus, a $30-million project which physically linked the federation’s main affiliated institutions over four city blocks.

Plotnick was the honoree of the 2002 Jewish National Fund (JNF) Negev dinner, which raised funds to create the Montreal Oasis (Barbara and Stanley Plotnick Family Park), part of the largest park of its kind in the Negev. Among his many other accolades, Plotnick was the recipient of the Samuel Bronfman Medal, the federation’s most prestigious citation, and named Outstanding Montrealer by State of Israel Bonds.

In 2016 Plotnick was honoured again by JNF when he was awarded the Bernard Bloomfield Medal for his vision of the Negev’s development.

On that occasion, he recalled that local officials were skeptical when he told them, looking out on a garbage-strewn dried up riverbed in Be’er Sheva, that he envisioned a lush full-service recreational area. Despite the doubters, the project was completed in 2010 within the Be’er Sheva River Park, and is credited as a key component of the revitalization of the Negev’s largest city.

In a condolence, then JNF president Eileen Borsuk said, “Stan didn’t just accept the honour; he worked harder than anyone else to make it the tremendous success it was. What an inspirational leader, not just then, but for every community cause he endeavoured to undertake. Above all, he was a family man and devoted to (his wife Barbara), the love of his life. We mourn his loss but we were proud to call him our friend.”

Senator Marc Gold, a past Federation CJA president, said Plotnick was “a great leader, a great friend and a great man. We have so many wonderful memories of time spent together in Montreal and in Israel. Stan will be remembered for all his great community work and also for his warmth, his honest straight talk, intelligence, his deep caring and commitment to the Jewish people. He was a kind and wonderful person and he will always be in our hearts.”

Rabbi Mordecai Zeitz, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth Tikvah, noted Plotnick’s passionate love for Israel, calling him “a great community and world wide respected Jewish leader who led with sechel and vision. I was privileged to partner with him in so many projects , especially in Jewish education, and marveled at his ability to raise the bar to levels that made such a positive difference. His ‘can do–must do’ philosophy inspired us all and his achievements remain testimony of the fruits of his labour.”

Former Federation CJA CEO Deborah Corber said she will “always remember Stan as a smart, gregarious, charming and generous man, and remain grateful for his friendship and guidance during my communal service. His confidence was infectious – he made you feel as though you could literally take on the world! “

In all his endeavours, Plotnick’s wife Barbara (Barbi) was a close collaborator, and he repeatedly spoke of how her support had enabled him to accomplish what he did. He also often paid tribute to his parents, the late Gertrude and Henry Plotnick, for providing the example for hard work and integrity that guided him through life.

Besides his wife, Plotnick is survived by his children Laurie and Philip and his brother Larry and their families.