Our community is in mourning this week for the passing of our communal pillar, Mr. Jebb Levy.
I sense a great coming together of our community this week, in honor of Mr. Levy. So much has been said about Jebb this week. About his philanthropy and personality. I’d like to share with you two brief anecdotes about encounters that I had with Jebb.
One encounter has to do with a disagreement we once had about running a certain service. Jebb was very impassioned about it, and spoke very assertively about his perspective. Naturally, there was nothing wrong about that. However, that night, I received a voicemail from Jebb, in which he said that he’d like to apologize to me if he spoke too harshly. He stated that he is sorry, and that there’s no need to call him back. The next day I saw him, and went out of my way to thank him, and added that there was really no need to apologize, that he did nothing wrong, and then I gave him a big hug. I find this anecdote remarkable because Jebb was already in his 90’s when this incident occurred. All-too-often we can be too proud or stubborn or self-absorbed in our own perspective to apologize to another person. I was in awe of Jebb apologizing in his 90’s to me, someone not even half his age. When it comes to apologizing, there’s an Eastern saying which states: “If you’re going to bow, bow low.” Meaning, if you’re going to apologize, then you might as well apologize whole heartedly.
The second incident has to do with the art of constructive criticism. Jebb always gave me feedback privately, and he always praised me publicly. He was very sensitive to that. We should all learn from Jebb how to offer people constructive criticism privately, and positive reinforcement publicly.
Lastly, Jebb also detested lashon harah/evil speech. Jebb was very good at avoiding lashon hara, which is one of the most psychologically challenging mitzvahs out there. May we all learn from you Jebb to apologize sincerely and whole heartedly, to criticize people sensitively in private and to praise them generously in public, and to avoid spreading malice and divisive speech which only serves to undermine the very fabric of our families and communities.
Jebb, in addition to all the superlatives you are receiving this week for your generosity, character and personality, you were also a real fun guy to hang out with, crack a joke with, and enjoy life. We will miss you Mr. Levy, and we will also carry you in our hearts and minds for as long as we live.
Dear Jebb, we all wish you now Shabbat Shalom for the very last time, from us – your extended family, Everyone at the Sephardic Temple community.