Temple Israel Honors Leon and Sandra Levine With Shofar Award at This Year’s Fundraiser

By Ken Garfield

With love and admiration, Temple Israel honors Sandra and Leon Levine, whose generosity embodies the true meaning of l’dor v’dor: for all generations, forever.

Sandra is humbled to accept this year’s Shofar Award, the congregation’s highest honor, for their family’s lifetime of devotion to Temple Israel. Though Leon (OBM) passed away on April 5, his legacy endures. That’s why this recognition means so much to Sandra. It’s not about them. It’s about what they have done, and continue to do, through The Leon Levine Foundation. It’s about setting an example for the rest of us to practice tzedakah (charity), and to pay our blessings forward — from generation to generation.

“We feel good about this honor,” Sandra says, “because people are recognizing the good the Foundation is doing.”
Dream: B’Yachad! is the theme of the Dec. 3 Winter Concert Fundraiser, during which the Shofar Award will be presented. The shofar is a powerful symbol of honor, as the ancient ram’s horn sounds forth our devotion to our faith. And what a perfect title for the evening. B’Yachad means “together.” As one, we stand in appreciation for all that the Levines have done for their spiritual home of 50 years — Temple Israel. Sandra and Leon were married there. Their children were raised to love God and their fellow man there. And when Leon, a youngster from Rockingham, N.C., realized his dream of opening a chain of Family Dollar stores to serve everyday folks, it opened the door to another dream: sharing his family’s blessings.

Temple Israel has been profoundly impacted by the Levines’ generosity. The congregation has received more than $2 million from The Leon Levine Foundation, leading to the creation of spaces like the Sandra and Leon Levine Social Hall and the Mindy Ellen Levine Chapel, named in memory of their daughter. These spaces have become vital parts of the community’s life — places to pray, learn, serve, mourn, and celebrate. Rabbi Michael Wolk reflects on the Levines’ influence: “Everything we do is because they helped us with this incredible space we have.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte, another beneficiary of The Leon Levine Foundation, has received upwards of $16 million, with a strong focus on supporting Israel. Sue Worrel, Federation’s CEO, speaks to more than just financial aid: “Sandra and Leon’s embrace of Jewish causes here and abroad goes beyond financial support. Their wisdom and encouragement inspire us to do this vital work. With Sandra’s support, the Foundation’s generosity, and in Leon’s memory, we carry on.”

Shalom Park, too, stands as a testament to their giving spirit, having benefited from millions of dollars for various capital projects and its endowment. At its heart lies the Sandra and Leon Levine Jewish Community Center, a hub that invites people of all beliefs and backgrounds for learning, fellowship, and exercise.
Since its formation in 1980, The Leon Levine Foundation’s impact has been nothing short of remarkable. The Foundation has donated an astounding $458 million to various causes across North and South Carolina. This generous sum, largely focused on Jewish values, human services, health care, and education, includes $61 million specifically directed towards Jewish causes and institutions. Impressively, $43.5 million of this amount has been allocated to initiatives in the Charlotte region alone. This level of giving is a profound testament to the Levines’ commitment to enriching lives and supporting communities across a broad spectrum of needs.

The gathering honoring the Levines will feature inspirational music performed by Cantor Shira Lissek and special guest, Cantor Dan Singer. How sweet, because Shira and Sandra have become, in the cantor’s words, “… really good buds. We connect on music.”

They connect as well around the spirit of the evening, and the mission shared by Temple Israel and the family we honor. To help build a better future. To help our neighbors fulfill their dreams, whatever challenges stand in the way.

“Climb Ev’ry Mountain” will be sung at Dream: B’Yachad! As Cantor Lissek says, “The music is all about dreams.”

Temple Israel president, Amy Udoff, who worked with the Board of Trustees, Temple staff, and the Dream: B’yachad committee to make this celebration possible, speaks for all whose lives have been enriched by Sandra and Leon Levine.

“I grew up right here at Shalom Park and at Temple Israel. When I was younger, I heard their names and about their generosity, but I never understood it. Now that I am older and have children of my own, who enjoy Camp Mindy and the Sandra and Leon Levine Jewish Community Center, running around Temple Israel’s Sandra and Leon Levine Social Hall after Friday night dinners and having Junior Congregation in the Mindy Ellen Levine Chapel, I see it. I understand it. It is l’dor v’dor. I thank Sandra and Leon from the bottom of my heart for providing it from generation to generation.”

Freelance writer/editor Ken Garfield helps Charlotte’s Jewish institutions and charitable causes tell their stories.

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