Dov Levin Memorial

Dov Levin Passed away on December 3rd, 2016 in Jerusalem. Dov was related to the Geffen family via his grandmother being a sister to Sara Hene Geffen . He was a beloved friend, teacher and great human being.

Besides his own role as a partisan in the Holocaust, his research and publications on the armed Jewish resistance to the Nazis were groundbreaking and a major contribution to Jewish historiography and the history of human struggles in general. May he be remembered by all.


Dov doing military service


Dov at his home with his wife Bilha and their second & third generation, Jerusalem 2002

Below are tributes and rememberances for Dov after his death
(In order of Receipt)

From David Geffen

Rita and I had the pleasure of being one of the first couples among the cousins
to meet dov and bilha in 1963 when we came to israel for the year.
We spent a great deal of time with them and they encouraged
us to make aliyah. when we saw them five other times on
visits before we made aliyah, their first question was "when are you coming:"
Rita in her inimitable
fashion of writing hebrew letters tour family in israel
corresponded with dov and bilha,
miriam rabinowitz, sonia ben-zvi and yaakov geffen. Their replies
during the 13 years she wrote them before we made aliyah can
be found in the archives at emory.

it was my honor in 1988 to be able to sit with dov and see the diary
of his trip from vilna to eretz yisrael in 1945. Since it was
the fortieth anniversary of the state of Israel, I read with him
his diary from 1948 and i translated diary entries for a story
I wrote about him in the jerusalem post. The article included
pictures of his days as a palmachnik in march, april, may
and june 1948 as he served on mt. scopus.

In 2011 I was fortunate to be able to write, after discussions
with dov, an article in the jerusalem post about his walk
from vilna to italy in 1945 and then being smuggled in as
one of maapilim in October that year landing in rishpon.

That article I arranged to be translated into hebrew and dov distributed
it to all his colleagues and friends. stanley raskas was kind enough
to send my english version to our entire family.

From Jane Ravid

Dear Family,

Thank you all for sharing your memories of Dov.

Mine began 70 years ago in New Orleans. I was 7 years old and my mother, Bessie, was expecting. One day she told me that if the baby was a boy, he would be called David after her Uncle David Levin who was murdered by the Nazis. She told me about Kovno, the family there, how Zaydie had tried to save them, but how the money/visas came too late - just as the Nazis were marching in.

As you can read in "Dov's article on Tuvia," Dov wrote to the Brills in New Orleans in December 23, 1945 to tell them the sad story of the fate of their family in Kovno. Like my mother and her siblings, Masha was also a niece of David Levin. My mother was named after her mother's sister, Batya, David Levin's first wife and Dov's grandmother. Masha's aunt was David Levin's second wife. Masha and Meir din't leave Kovno until the very late 30's so Masha remembered him well as a very lively little boy. It was through Masha's letter to the Brills that the Geffens reconnected to Dov in February 1946.

My mother told us how Dov had escaped and walked across and got to Palestine.
I also remember the urgency of conversations with Masha to provide whatever was possible to help Dov and Riva in those early days before and after the establishment of the state. Yes, Joel, I remember discussions about the refrigerator.

Like Rela, I was in Israel the summer of 1959 and had my little list Zaydie had given me of the relatives with their addresses. I was with a Young Judaean Summer Course. Our headquarters were in a school in Bet Hakerem - no I sent post cards to everyone. It was a challenge, but eventually I found everyone.

Visiting became more complex when I became part of the Ravid and Klee families. Luckily Ben and Dov were both fellows at the Hebrew University Machon in 1986-87. Dov very generously supported 7 year old Michael's stamp collection, bringing Michael envelopes he had collected from his colleagues and friends and was a great friend to us. One of the last memorable encounters with Dov was visiting with him with Sheila and celebrating the publication that they had been working on together in 2013.Here is Dov making a L'chaim that evening.

I have many more memories... I remember joining Bilha and the girls in a batik project in their yard on Tchernichovsky - before their addition. On later visits I admired Bilha's presidential sculpture at Beit Hanasi and her wonderful paintings that lit up their hospitable home. I always think of Bilha when I think of Dov. My thoughts now go out to her...

We thank you Dov and Bilha for enriching our lives
May Dov's memory continue to bless and inspire us all.


From Joel Ziff

I first met Dov when he came to Minneapolis during a time when Zayde Geffen was visiting. He interviewed Zayde about his experiences in Kovno, especially about the early religious zionists in Kovno and the controversy they created in the Orthodox community. I was proud to be the technician who operated the reel-to-reel wollensak tape recorder. The tape was lost but the transcript, I think, exists and is on file at Yad Vashem.

I have a memory of being told about how the Geffen family in America helped to purchase and ship an electric refrigerator to Dov and Bilha. Up until that time, they had to make do with an icebox. Does anyone else remember that?

On my first visit to Israel in 1972, Dov, as others have mentioned, took time to take me on hikes. His love of the land infected me, and I then started to hike on my own, eventually to take my nieces and nephews on hikes when I visited, and later on my children as well. He and Bilha also hosted me in their home, and I spent hours sitting with them with their friends as the argued, reminisced, and laughed and laughed. I remember being very amazed at his joy. I could not understand how he could have so much joy after all that he had lost and had endured. He is an inspiration to me whenever I start to feel pain over the difficulties in my own life.

I found a biography he wrote of our zayde that I am attaching. I’m not sure who sent it to me, but I thought you might want to read it. Reading this brought me to tears as he describes in detail their close connection and he includes translations of letters he received from Bubbe and Zayde when they first located him after the war.

From Judy Raskas Hellman

Dear All,
I've enjoyed reading the memories that everyone has shared about our
beloved cousin, Dov may he rest in peace.
On my first trip to Israel in the summer of 1969 I was on a tour with fellow
students from Yeshiva University. My mother made sure I knew how to contact
Dov & his Aunt Riva. My tour was based at the Israel Goldstein Youth Village.
During my free time I found myself visiting with Dov, Bilha & family on Tchernikovsky
Dov considered all of us his close family and greeted me with such warmth
and love. Dov also gave me a private tour around the walls of the old city. He was
so emotional that Jerusalem was once again unified.
The next summer when I returned to Israel to do volunteer work
I was fortunate again to spend time with Dov & Bilha.
Years later Dov & Bilha came to St.Louis to visit the Raskas branch of the
Geffen family. He loved meeting our Bubbie & Zaidie Raskas & visiting the dairy.
In December 1992 when Rachel was studying in Israel we took David &Jeremy
on their first trip to Israel and we spent time with Dov& Bilha. In 2000 while visiting
David when he was learning at Kerem B'Yavneh we had the unique privilege of
spending time with Dov at Yad Vashem. He was very excited and enthusiastic
about a new exhibit he was personally involved with.
We hope that everyone's memories will be a comfort to Bilha, Nitzana,
Basmat & Tzvika. May His Soul Be Bond In The Book of Life

From Debra Schlesinger Weil

I have been glued to my email since last night reading all the tributes to Dov, and the memories we all share of the warm, loving welcome that always emanated from Dov and Bilhah's home. I hope that these memories are providing as much comfort to the other members of the family as they are for me.
Like Ami Monson, I first met Dov and Bilhah when I was in Israel on Ramah Seminar, and was staying at the Israel Goldstein Youth Village. I remember walking over to Rehov Tschernikovsky, and being welcomed into their home, and meeting the whole family. When I went to see Dan and Nira Dinari in Tel Aviv for my "free" Shabbat, I got lost trying to find their apartment. I called the only people I could think of - I called Dov and Bilhah! They kept me calm while I eventually found my way.
My favorite memory of Dov was from one of my visits to Jerusalem. I was visiting with Dov and Bilhah and was going to meet up with a friend who was studying in Jerusalem. My friend called the apartment (in those far off days without cell phones) and asked to speak to "Dubie" (my camp nickname). I heard Dov replying "This is Dubie; who am I speaking with?" I was frantically trying to let Dov know that I was also known as "Dubie" - and that the call was, in fact, for me. We all had a good laugh after that experience!
To Bilhah, Nitzana, Basmat, and Tzvika - may you all be comforted in this difficult time.
Thank you to everyone for sharing your memories. It's times like these that I really enjoy the power of the internet for allowing us all to be "closer together."

From Nancy Weiss

The testimonials in all the emails are riveting and heartwarming. I too basked in the glow of Dov and Bilhah during two early trips to Israel. Our hearts can't help but be heavy with this loss. Dov was larger than life and will remain an inspiration forever.

From Heschel and Adinah Raskas

Each of us have many vivid personal recollections of Dov and know of his unique and important role in documenting and understand the Shoa. We know of his personal heroic and courageous efforts on behalf of our people both in Europe during the Shoa and in the early days of Medinat Yisroel.

I remember hearing of Dov long before Adinah and I made our first trip to Israel in 1963. Dov became part of my vivid memory the summer of 1949, after Bert Lewyn arrived in Atlanta. Sitting on the front porch of Bubie and Zadie’s house on Washington Street, I learned about part of our family I was to never meet and that Dov, who was in Israel, and Bert, newly arrived in Atlanta, were those who survived.

Until 1963, I wondered who was Dov? Within moments of meeting Dov and Bilha, we realized their exceptional qualities and their enduring love for our family, an experience we all had with them.

At that time I was about to enter graduate school in biochemistry. Dov and Bilha invited us to a motzei Shabbat party at their home with their friends. Dov introduced me to one of his friends, Yehuda Lapidot who had recently received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry . Many years later, as I was reading a book, I learned that Yehuda Lapidot had been a key leader of the Irgun in Yerushalayim. It was only then that I really appreciated the amazing network of individuals who were friends of Dov’s, practical and intellectual leaders of the early critical years of the Medina.

One day during that summer, Dov and Bilha invited us to join them on a hike. We all remember how they walked together everywhere around Yerushalayim . Bilha said she would bring lunch. Around mid-day we stopped for the lunch that Bilha had been carrying. It was sliced cucumbers and cut-up green peppers. That day we learned what a typical Israeli lunch was in the 1960s.

One day we came by to visit and Dov was proudly talking about Bilha’s artistic talents. Bilha suddenly said, “You have to see my friend’s art.” We followed her to a nearby residence and eventually bought a drawing from her friend Eliyahu Schwartz (see attached picture). The drawing remains one o f our treasured possessions.

Fast forward to February 2012. I was in Israel for a Jewish Agency meeting and came over to visit. By coincidence it was, I believe, Dov’s birthday. Nitzana had come that day to vist because of the birthday. She took the attached picture. It was my last opportunity with Dov when we could reminisce about the past in great detail. He regaled me with anecdotes from his visit to St. Louis years earlier; his active, expressive face lighting up as he leaned forward to tell me stories of my Bubie and Zadie Raskas , his visit to the dairy and what he knew about their lives in Lithuania. Smiling, telling a story, sprinkling it with a mixture of Hebrew, Yiddish, and English and gesturing with his hands is how we will remember Dov.
May all of our descendents know of him. Tehe zichrono baruch.

From Peter Geffen

It was our family’s great privilege to have the hero of Dov Levin in our midst all these years. When Susie and I first met him we were very young, and he was, in truth, much younger. There was a spirit in the man that you could see in his eyes and feel in his fiery Hebrew. When we returned from our first visit to Kovno in 1972 Dov was very angry with me. He could not accept anything positive about his non-homeland homeland. I, an American and a Jew was trying to build bridges that would span the past and link us to the brighter past that had been. But Dov anticipated then what would happen when Lithuania was free…that it would not honestly confront its past…that it would try to sweep history under the rug. This he spent his life making impossible, for his scholarship has left a lasting record for anyone and everyone to see. He pulled back the curtain. And his diaries of the days of the 1948 war give a human glimpse into an otherwise already distant and forgotten era. His memory is a blessing not only to all who knew him, but to the many many who will read his books and know him into eternity for his brilliance and his honesty. Thank you Dov!

With Love,

Peter Geffen

From Shari Schlesinger Baran

I have found it fascinating to read everyone's memories of Dov z"l, and have finally found a moment to share with you my memories.
My first memory of Dov was going with my mother to pick Dov up from Idelwilde Airport (now JFK) to bring him out to stay with my grandparents in Great Neck. I remember looking down into the baggage area and seeing this man with a backpack--not such a common sight at the time. I think I tried speaking to him in the little Hebrew that I knew .
I remember seeing him, Bilha, Nitzana, Basmat and Tzvika on other trips that they took to America, and always being fascinated by his stories.
Like Ami and Debra, I too visited Dov and Bilha often during the summer that I spent at the Goldstein Youth Village.
A special memory that I have is the first time my husband Ted met Dov.
Ted's mother and her family were from Kovno, and when we mentioned her name, Cipora Port, Dov said that he remembered her. In addition, Dov knew Ted's aunt and uncle who had been in the partisans with him . (It was quite special to see their names, Lea Port and Sam Ingel, in the book that Dov wrote and Robert translated.)
I am fortunate that my children, living out Dov's wish for all of us to come live in Israel, had the opportunity to meet him.
May his memory be a blessing for all of us.

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