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Isaac Jack Lévy (1928–2020)

Friday, January 24, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Alexandra Sanchez

Longtime American Folklore Society member Isaac Jack Lévy passed away on the evening of January 22.

Isaac Jack Lévy was born on the Isle of Rhodes on December 21, 1928. He passed from this life on January 22, 2020 at 91 years of age. With his family he left Rhodes, Greece in 1939 and went to the international city of Tangiers, Morocco, where he lived with other Rhodeslis who escaped from the terrors of WWII. Isaac, his mother, and his grandmother, all of Blessed Memory, came to the United States through the Port of New Orleans in 1945 while the war was still ongoing. They made their home in Atlanta, Georgia, and in Brooklyn, New York. Isaac pursued advanced degrees at the University of Iowa (MA, 1959) and the University of Michigan (PhD, 1966). He devoted his life to research and writing about his people, the Sephardim. Isaac is survived by his spouse, Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt; children Cathy (Lévy) Ott, Heather Elrick, and Michael Lévy; six grandchildren; and five great grandchildren.

Isaac was a longtime professor at the University of South Carolina and visiting professor at Purdue University (1961), and Texas Tech (1963). Among his awards are the Founders Award from the American Society for Sephardic Studies, and the Quixote Award from the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. He is the author of Jewish Rhodes: A Lost Culture (Judah L. Magnes Museum, 1989) and  Ritual Medical Lore of Sephardic Women: Sweeting the Spirits, Healing the Sick (University of Illinois Press, 2002) with Rosemary Zumwalt. He is the translator and commentator of And the World Stood Silent: Sephardic Poetry of the Holocaust (University of Illlinois Press, 2000). Most recently he contributed to Contexts of Folklore, edited by Simon J. Bronner and Wolfgang Mieder (Peter Lang, 2019).  He published articles with Rosemary Zumwalt in the Journal of American Folklore on fieldwork among the Sephardim (2001) and Sephardic proverbs in What Goes Around Comes Around: The Circulation of Proverbs in Contemporary Life, among other book chapters and journals. You can read Isaac's family saga and photographs of him collected by Rosemary Zumwalt at Sephardic Horizons

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