By: Chaim Greisman
Dear Deitsch Family,
Please forgive me for posting this long time overdue. It was my intention, since that very sad Motzaei Shabbos, to write to you. I did start writing several times, but found it painfully difficult. There were no words to pen down the many thoughts, emotions and feelings. So I tried to ignore my emotions and focus on some memories.
Much of what I’m writing is surely known to you, as you knew Levi much better than anyone else. Nevertheless, I would like to share some of my personal experiences with Levi and tell you again how much he meant to me.
I first met Levi in the middle of 5752 after moving to Crown Heights from Israel, in order to start learning in Oholei Torah. I was a shy Israeli boy, who had just lost his mother, and was trying to get used to my new life, new friends and a new environment. I had great relatives and grandparents in Crown Heights who were an amazing support but it was Levi who was that extra support amongst the friends, who made the entire process easier. Levi was an open and loud boy who knew everybody and was the anything but shy.
Levi was life. He was full of Chayus. He was always in a good mood. He enjoyed life, his family and friends. I will forever owe Levi so much for helping me adjust and melt in.
As we were entering Shiur Alef Zal we decided to become Chavrusos for Chasidus, and we kept it up until the end of yeshivah, four years later. We spent hours and hours learning, shmozzing, farbrenging and just hanging out both in Yeshivah and at home or in 770.
Often we would continue after night Seder to Levi’s home as Levi loved having friends over at all times of the day and night. You never felt that you were bothering anyone. There was always something to eat and drink, and if you were tired, even a bed.
So much has been written about the amazing Hachnasas Orchim and special Shabbos meals at your home. There was always room for another guest, and everyone felt like they were part of the family. No matter what part of the meal you showed up you felt like the most welcomed guest.
I had the privilege of being Levi’s partner for several summers, mostly in CGI Montreal. Levi was an amazing counselor who cared for his campers’ every need. If a camper wanted to leave after one month Levi found the way of making sure he would stay for both. If a camper was feeling bad, Levi found the way of making him feel special. When Levi was around everything was fun, even a simple hike. There was always something exciting. He would sing, crack jokes, motivate and encourage. He knew how to give everyone around him the attention they needed and always had a good word for everyone.
Levis energy and lebedikeit was contagious, bringing an unbelievable summer experience to his campers and surrounding. After each meal he would start to sing, even if the head-counselor would ask for quiet. Nobody could get angry at him, you just smiled and sang along. With Levi around it is no wonder we always won bunk competition.
Levi loved the Rebbe and would make sure to infuse his campers with feelings of Hiskashrus and Chassidishkeit. Story time at bedtime, midnight activities and just hanging around were all ways of motivating and inspiring the young boys.
We spent two consecutive summers with the same bunk and formed a special and close relationship with our campers. Levi would organize Farbrengens and activities for our campers throughout the year. We went on Mivtzoim together, had Melave Malkas and much more. Levi lived camp year round. At the camp reunions he was the natural central figure.
When our third summer together came around Levi had a revolutionary idea.
Being a waiter in camp was not the most prestige-filled summer job and it wasn't something an average Chasidishe Bochur was looking to do. Levi, with his unbelievable compelling talent, got a wonderful group of great Chassidishe Bochurim to come and serve as waiters (or Mashbak”s as we called them). Although formally I was the learning teacher and Levi the counselor we ended up doing everything together and we had a wonderful summer, spending lots of time learning and Farbrenging, but also going on many trips that Levi managed to arrange for the group.
In my humble opinion it was an amazing accomplishment that contributed to a much stronger chassidishe environment in the entire camp from then onwards.
Our forth summer we spent in the European summer Yeshivah in Italy and France. We traveled a lot and had a great time. Levi spent much time during the pre-summer months on getting good boys to come along, thus ensuring it will be a truly Chassidishe experience for all.
Our fifth summer together was back in Montreal. Levi was head-counselor and I was learning-director. What I miss most of that summer is those Shabbes afternoon Farbrengens in our little condo. These were truly special moments, talking about anything and everything over a Lchaim or two, getting ready for our lives as Shluchim of the Rebbe.
During the Shivah I took out the many albums I have with thousands of great summer pictures. Loads of wonderful memories of unforgettable moments that will be cherished for life came rushing in front of my eyes. I was just sitting and crying while staring at Levi being Levi. Here he is laughing, smiling, dancing, sporting, learning, farbrenging and just enjoying camp like only Levi knew. I will IYH scan some of them and post them on the blog.
I will forever be thankful to Levi that he allowed me to be part of those wonderful days.
During the Shiva I wrote the following words to my weekly e-mail list:
This week I learned an important lesson about friendship.
One of my closest friends and classmates, Rabbi Levi Deitsch of Chabad of Tysons in Virginia, passed away last Shabbat after a three-year battle with cancer. Levi was a true friend who’ve I spent lots of time with in Yeshivah, summer camps and travelling. I will always be thankful for getting to know him and being able to learn from his many qualities. I will truly miss him.
But what inspired me most about Levi, during his life but especially the last week reading so many emails and blog posts, was the fact that there were literally hundredths of people that considered Levi one of their best friends. He had an amazing ability of giving all he came in contact with the feeling that he was their best friend, that he really cared for them and that you can always count on him. Everyone was just happier when Levi was around. And it wasn’t a show, it was just who he was: a true friend, who cared for so many, with his entire being.
Levi was a living example who demonstrated that love and friendship are not limited. We can befriend many more people then we think. Let us not hesitate to reach out and acquire another friend. No one has ever suffered from having too many friends.
There is so much that can be written about Levis amazing friendship quality. But for me the most amazing thing was that Levi was able to connect with anybody, young and old, far and near, he was simply everyone’s best friend. For real.
I remember a period in yeshivah where Levis was trying to surprise his friends on their birthdays. Not only was the present itself a surprise but also the way he handed it over. At one occasion he found an old kindergarten picture with one friend. He enlarged the picture to a 20x30 poster and framed it. He then sneaked in to the friend’s bedroom at home and hung it up at the wall over his bed. As far as I remember he didn't even ask for permission. When Levi wanted to do something, he just did it. With his laugh and a good word, you just accepted it with a smile. What else could you do?
At another occasion he purchased a leather Siddur, personalized it with a friends name and hid it in his Tefilin bag so he will find it the morning of his birthday.
These were small things and thoughts that made Levi so loved by all his friends.
Naturally, after leaving to Shlichus we were less in touch as there were time differences etc. but we kept in touch and would speak every so often. What amazed me most was Levis ability of remembering details of names and people. He would ask how this and this is doing and how did a certain program develop. It could have been months later, but he remembered it all.
In general Levi felt very close to Stockholm, as he was a great-grandson of Rabbi Yaakov Israel Zuber who served as a Rabbi and Moehl in Stockholm during the 1930’s and 40’s. Rabbi Zuber was a Rabbi in Adat Israel Shul, where I Daven today. Levi was very interested to know how is “Zeides Shul” is doing and would ask about as much details as possible.
After Levi’s father, Reb Zalman, passed away we decided to start a phone Shiur on Thursday night / Friday morning where we learned together a sicha bechavrusa. The first year or so we learned together but after a while some classmates joined and this kept for several years. The Shiur was very dear to Levi and he would make an effort to join, even when he was already sick and it was getting more difficult.
Unfortunately due to Levi’s condition the Shiur weakened the last period. But Levi promised me several times that as soon as he gets better he will join again. Now his friends have decided to renew the Shiur, and it resumed during Shivah. Every Leil Shishi friends from around the world join in learning in his memory and I’m sure Levi is joining us too from Gan Eden. (If any of Levis classmates are reading this and would like to join please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for the details).
I saw Levi last during the Kinus Hashluchim, in NIH hospital, just over a week before he returned his purified soul to Hashem. It was very obvious that his condition was not good. Nevertheless he made an effort to joke around and talk about whatever as if all is well. Tracht gut vet zein gut was his motto until the very end.
Levi, I will forever remember you for all the love, friendship and happiness you spread around you. Your amazing ability to think positive will be a motivation and inspiration for me. Often, when things are difficult and I have a hard day, I think of you and get encouraged to keep it up. You will forever remain with us.
Soon, Moshicah will come and we will be able to continue our Farbrengens together. Until then, may Hashem give your wife, children, mother and siblings the Koach they need to go on with life. Often, when such events happen we say Life must go on. Levi, YOUR LIFE must go on, the amazing of a person you were must live within all of us and continue be an inspiration for all who knew you during your short, but so accomplished, life.
May we share only Simchos and Besuros Tovos with the Deitsch family from now on, Simchos that we will all share in.
Levi at my wedding.