Irit Davidovitch-Gertler: Sustaining society

Dr. Irit Gertler Davidovitch (photo credit: Merav Ravitz Moshel)
Dr. Irit Gertler Davidovitch
(photo credit: Merav Ravitz Moshel)

Leket Israel, the National Food Bank, is the leading food rescue organization in the country. Irit Davidovitch-Gertler, the chief operating officer of the NGO, talks about her position and her passion.

As COO of Leket Israel, I have the opportunity to see the organization from every angle. While I directly manage the logistics of the organization and everything that comes with it, it is important that I understand every aspect of Leket’s work to ensure that we are as efficient as possible and that we are keeping our mission at the forefront – rescuing fresh and nutritious surplus food for those who need it most. 

I started my career, with a Ph.D. in physics and education, as a lecturer at the Technion, the University of Haifa, and Oranim College. After leaving the education sector, I joined my family’s business and became CEO of a metal casting and machining plant. From there, I served as CEO of a number of companies in the metal industry and then HaMeshakem.

After years in the industry, I changed direction to the nonprofit world and joined Leket Israel as COO. 

Leket Israel is the leading food rescue organization. We collect surplus nutritious food and distributes it to those in need throughout the country. Leket Israel works to create change and awareness in Israeli society regarding food insecurity, reducing food waste, and having an impact on environmental protection. Last year, Leket rescued 26,500 tons of agricultural produce. Two million meals were delivered to more than 234,000 people in need through a network of 265 nonprofit partner agencies each week. 

Coming from a business background gave me a different perspective on the work that Leket does. I see it as my personal mission to combine the world of business with the nonprofit sector and help create significant change that has a broad impact on society.

My toolbox includes skills that I acquired from the business world derived from my experience as CEO; from the world of education and academia as a lecturer; and from the experience, I gained in managing in the nonprofit sector. My professional experience enables me to see the overall picture and combine different management methods with diverse populations.

But what I believe helps me more than anything is creative thinking. In our field, creativity and mental flexibility are required in order to provide answers and immediate solutions in every situation, as well as implement new ideas or opportunities.

There is no doubt that being COO of an organization with over 130 employees, 1,000 partners, and a quarter of a million clients is an all-consuming position. I am also a full-time wife and mother offive children. We live up north, a three-hour drive from the Leket Israel Logistics Center. When I started working at Leket, I went to the office every day, which didn’t leave me any free time for my family or my home life. Thankfully, Leket recognizes that it is possible to be efficient without being in the office every day. We understand that parents need to be home with their children and that not everyone has to be on the same work schedule. Now I’ve managed to create a productive work/life balance that gives me time to spend with my family, have dinner together, go for nature walks, or just spend time having coffee with my husband. 

I am very proud to work for an organization that provides ample opportunity for men and women alike. On Leket’s management team of 10, seven members are women.  I encourage more companies to support their female employees and create more opportunities for their growth and advancement. 

Of the people who receive food from Leket Israel, 62% are women. They are single mothers, homeless women, elderly ladies or women in battered women’s shelters. Leket takes its responsibility very seriously and understands that by providing them with healthy sustenance, we enable these women to have the strength to improve their lives in other areas. It is our goal to lighten their burdens and enhance their daily life.

This article was written in cooperation with Leket Israel