LOS ANGELES – Yehuda Lev, the 86-year-old iconoclastic journalist and veteran of
World War II and the War of Independence who established a European underground
route to smuggle Holocaust survivors to Palestine, died on August 3 in
Providence, Rhode Island, after a prolonged illness.
Lev became the first
associate editor of the newly founded Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles in
1986, continuing until 1993. He was best known for his column “A Majority of
One,” which slayed the Jewish community’s sacred cows week after
Rob Eshman, the Journal’s publisher and editor-in-chief, observed
that “Yehuda took seriously journalism’s obligation to ‘afflict the comfortable
and comfort the afflicted.’ His columns were fearlessly critical of communal
institutions at a time when most Jewish papers played it safe. The angrier the
response from machers and mavens, the happier he was.”
the paper’s first editor and the person who hired Lev for his writing style and
skill, noted: “What Yehuda had not told me [during their initial interview] was
quite how generous and important a mentor to young journalists he would turn out
to be. Or how gracious and witty and loyal a friend the newspaper and I had
Lev was born in New York City and raised in Forest Hills as
John Lewis Low, son of Sol Low, a successful businessman, and Rosamond Trilling
Low, one of the first American women labor lawyers.
He dropped out of
Cornell to enlist in the US Army during the latter part of World War II and was
discharged in Germany when the war ended.
Moved by the plight of
Holocaust survivors languishing in displaced-person camps, he established a
route, mostly by foot, to bring DPs to Mediterranean ports, where they embarked
on “illegal” ships past the British naval blockade and into Palestine.
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the same time, he looked after the physical needs of the survivors. At one
point, he wrote his mother in Forest Hills, asking whether she could collect
some wearable clothes for the refugees.
Three months later, Lev wrote, “I
received word from a querulous American transportation officer in Bremerhaven
that a shipment of 10 tons of clothing had arrived in a military transport and
that I was listed on the manifest as its recipient. A few months later, a second
shipment of 12 tons of clothing arrived.”
Returning to the United States,
Lev earned master’s degrees from the University of Chicago (political
science/Arabic studies) and Stanford (communication arts).
Then, in 1947,
he set off to Palestine to help the Jews in their struggle to establish an
independent state. Changing his name to Yehuda Lev, he joined the Israeli army
when war broke out in May 1948.
While on patrol in the Negev, his jeep
was blown up by a landmine, which killed everyone else and shattered his
Lev remained in Israel at the end of the war and established
himself as a highly popular radio host of “Jerusalem Calling,” a daily one-hour
variety and discussion show in English on Israel Radio.
Later, as the
only native English speaker there, he became the station’s voice in reporting
the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann to the outside world. Before
returning to America in 1965 with his wife, Idell Low, he produced a record,
“Six Million Accuse,” which was nominated for a Grammy award.
Angeles, Lev resumed his writing career on Jewish newspapers and a
self-published broadsheet (also titled “A Majority of One”).
divorce, he married Rosa Maria (Shoshana) Pegueros, and when she was offered a
professorship in history and women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island
in 1993, the couple moved to Providence.
Lev became active in the local
Jewish community and federation, particularly in advising and writing for the
local Jewish Voice & Herald while also contributing to the daily Providence
In 2008, he suffered complications from a series of ailments and
spent much of the following five years in care homes and hospitals. The same
year, he wrote his own obituary, funny and completely honest (see box), in which
he chose as his tombstone inscription: “When he was needed, he was there.
Lev is survived by his first and second wives and four adult
children, Dr. Daniel Low (Jennifer), Dafna Low Smith (Scott) and David Low, all
of Los Angeles, and Ariela Lev Gragg (Clayton) of Providence, as well as five
Interment is scheduled for August 9 at the Veterans
Cemetery in Providence. A later memorial service is planned for Los
Donations in his memory can be sent to the Jewish Voice &
Herald, 401 Elmgrove Avenue, Providence, RI 02906.The family requests
that those wishing to share a recollection of Yehuda Lev’s life email it to
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