February 26, 2020

Philanthropist Hyman ‘Jebb’ Levy, 93

Philanthropist Hyman “Jebb” Levy, a mainstay of Los Angeles’ Sephardic community, died July 1. He was 93. 

“We were all his children,” Rabbi Tal Sessler of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel (STTI) in Westwood told the Journal by phone. 

Growing up during the Great Depression in New York state and seeing his Jewish community fade, shaped Levy’s determination to support Jewish education and help the needy. Established in 1974, the Hyman Jebb Levy Foundation helped build the Talmud Torah and Levy Library at STTI, awarded over 100 scholarships for the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem’s summer program and supported groups including the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and the Maimonidies Academy. 

In 1998, Levy established the Sephardic Tradition And Recreation (STAR), an organization that quickly became one of the preeminent Jewish youth groups in Southern California, providing educational and social opportunities for children and teenagers. 

Levy was born in Rochester, N.Y., on May 26, 1926, one of four children of Louis and Bella Levy. Sephardic Jews who immigrated to the U.S. from Macedonia, the family spoke Ladino at home, and they instilled in Levy a love of the Jewish people, his Sephardic heritage and the importance of tzedakeh. He enlisted in the Navy during World War II, serving three years in the Pacific. After the war, he moved to Southern California, joining — at his parents insistence — STTI, and establishing the Loubella Expendables women’s clothing company with his brother Matt. 

The company did well, but Sessler said Levy experienced his share of tragedies. His son, Jack, was born with disabilities and he lost a daughter, Lori, to cancer. But he never let it slow him down. “Don’t feel sorry for yourself,” was his credo, Sessler said. “He carried the pain, determined to be a blessing.”

Levy’s generosity was legendary, Sessler said. If someone was down on their luck, Levy would give them shirts, ties and other clothing. “He derived great pleasure from helping people,” Sessler said. 

Larry Clumeck, a longtime friend, said Levy often made his donations anonymously. But he was no shrinking violet. “He was a big presence,” Clumeck said, “and a straight shooter.”

Sessler added that when Rabbi Yitzchak Sakhai was preparing for the synagogue’s annual trip to Israel this year, he received a call from Levy telling him that no matter what happened to him, the rabbi was not to cancel or cut short the trip. Having the children reconnect with their Jewish heritage was more important than anything, he said.

Levy was preceded in death by his wife, Donna. He is survived by his son Jack, daughter Kathy Devan, grand-children Danielle, Mike, and Chris, and great grandchildren Billie, Kim, Ty and Emme.

The funeral was held July 3 at Sephardic Temple Tiferet Israel.