Faces of Philanthropy: Leora & Steve Levy

LEORA LEVY

I was born in Havana, Cuba. Just after my third birthday, my family fled from Fidel Castro and his ruthless Communist Revolution, leaving behind everything — homes, businesses, money and possessions — to start a new life in Charlotte, North Carolina. America is a country of opportunity, and my father was able to build a successful business and life for us. My parents always stressed the importance of helping others, and they taught me that it was our responsibility to give tzedakah, which means “justice and charity” in Hebrew.

I believe that my purpose in life is tikkun olam, which in Hebrew means “to repair or heal the world,” and I have been involved with philanthropy and political activism ever since I was a young girl raising money to help Jews who faced anti-Semitism under the former Soviet Union. After graduating from Brown University, I went to work in New York as one of the first female commodity traders. After Steve and I married and started a family, I left work to raise my sons – the best career I’ve ever had. Steve and I raised our children to understand we are blessed and that we must share those blessings by helping people who are less fortunate. They know that we have a charitable foundation and that one day they will have to make the allocation decisions that we make now.Steve and I believe strongly in supporting our active duty soldiers and our veterans, and we have raised money for a number of important organizations. I’ve worked with SoldierSocks, which provides exoskeletons suits, known as wearable robots to paralyzed veterans, enabling them to stand and walk. I also helped establish the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, to ensure that our soldiers with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and other mild traumatic brain injuries could be treated in Afghanistan, rather than be flown to Germany for treatment.

Dogs have always been part of our family — currently we have two Labrador Retrievers and a Havanese, in tribute to my Cuban origins – and we support several programs that train service dogs to work with veterans, including Educating Canines Assisting with Disabilities, which recently honored us for our work, and The Tower of Hope, where I am a member of the Board of Trustees

I support local animal-related causes, including the Shelter Our Strays, where as the chair of the Advisory Board, I helped raise $900,000 to update the municipal animal shelter in Greenwich. And I served as a Trustee of Adopt-a-Dog in Greenwich, CT., a local rescue organization for dogs and cats, where I did everything from raise thousands of dollars to personally saving animals from euthanasia.

In addition, I dedicate time to local cultural and religious organizations I am a trustee and past Co-Chairman of the Board of the Bruce Museum, and I served on the boards of the UJA-Federation of Greenwich and the Young Leadership Division of the UJA/Federation of New York. I was involved with my sons’ school, serving on the Parents Board of the Brunswick School. As a Parent Director of Trinity College in Hartford, I work with the Development Office to raise funds and get other parents involved with the college.

I am very involved with politics at all levels of government. I currently serve the Town of Greenwich on the Selectman’s Nominating Advisory Committee which identifies and recommends qualified candidates to fill positions on the boards and committees that run our town. After Hurricane Sandy, I served on a committee organized by Peter Tesei, our first selectman to develop an Emergency Plan for the Evacuation of Greenwich residents and their pets. I am an associate member of the Greenwich Republican Town Committee.

I am the Finance Chair of the CTGOP and raised a record amount, $1.8 million for the party for the 2014 election. I am on the National Finance Committees for the RNC, the NRSC and the NRCC and have held events for those organizations as well as for individual Congressional, Senatorial and Gubernatorial candidates in my home. In 2012, I was very active in Mitt Romney’s campaign on Romney Victory’s National Finance Committee and The Romney Victory Jewish American Advisory Board; I was also one of the State Chairs in CT for Women for Romney; I was a delegate to the CT State Republican Conventions in 2012 and 2014 and the Republican National Convention in Tampa in 2012. Had Romney won, I was designated to be a CT State Elector and would have voted in the Electoral College.

I believe that I have been successful in fundraising because I am passionate and ethical about the organizations for which I work and people know that. I never ask for something that I do not believe in. In my spare time, I love to travel, entertain, cook – mostly French and Italian cuisine – and collect French wine. I collect antique sets of china, crystal and objets d’art because we lost all of that in Cuba, and I would like to have something to pass on to my children — plus I just enjoy using them when I set the table!

levy-1024x1024STEVE LEVY

Born in New York City and raised in Scarsdale, I have a BA from Connecticut College in the Enlightenment and the American Founding.

My faith has taught me to do justice to others, that is to say, we each have a responsibility to care for those in need, to help all people live lives of value and make a better world. These values were reinforced at home through the examples of my father and grandfather.

I have been active on a number of boards and have taken leadership roles in philanthropy for 35 years, serving as President and Chairman of Greenwich Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, President and Chairman of the Henry Kaufman Campgrounds (an organization which runs day camping grounds for New York’s underprivileged children and serves 6,000 campers daily), Fleet Captain of the J/120 Offshore One design Fleet at Indian Harbor Yacht Club, where I am currently a Director.

I serve as Chairman of the Middle East Forum, a scholarly research institute which promotes American interests in the Middle East and protects western values at home. I have been active in Republican politics for 15 years, and I organized support for my cousin’s Army intelligence unit in Iraq and Afghanistan during the years that he served. I attended the National Security Seminar at the Army War College and served as Council Member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

My wife, Leora and I have found that leading by example is the most effective technique for bringing others along on a cause. Asking for a contribution of time or money is far easier when you, yourself are doing at least as much as you are asking of others.

I have been a real estate broker, owner and manager in New York City for 38 years during which I was recognized by the Real Estate Board of New York with the “Most Ingenious Deal” Award. Currently, we operate office space in Manhattan and shopping centers along the Eastern Seaboard.

I am an avid racing sailor, and skier both on snow and water, and a budding sporting clay shooter. I am a fan of classical music, art of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and the wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux. I also serve as Héraut (Herald) of the Commanderie de Bordeaux of New York.

Leora and I have lived in Greenwich for the last 27 years where we raised our 3 sons, David, Michael (twins) and Benjy, now 25 and 21 respectively, and 5 Labradors and a Havanese. We have taught our boys these same values of justice and aid to others.

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