Levine Academy L’Chaim gala to honor its namesakes
Photo: TJP Archive
Ann and Nate Levine at the entrance of Ann & Nate Levine Academy during the school’s renaming and dedication ceremony Sept. 26, 2005.  In her remarks, Ann Levine said, “(The school’s name) is just a name. It’s what goes on here that really matters — and that hasn’t changed a bit.” The Levines will be honored at Levine Academy’s annual gala at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, March 3, 2024, at Gilley’s South Side Ballroom.

By Deb Silverthorn

A celebration of chai, of life, and the gift shared to the Solomon Schechter Academy 18 years ago by Ann and Nate Levine, is planned for 5:30 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at Gilley’s South Side Ballroom. The community will honor the Levines, for whom the school, which has provided quality Jewish and general education to thousands of students, was in 2005 renamed Ann and Nate Levine Academy.

“Ann and Nate are the most gracious people, steeped in commitment. Their involvement has meant opening windows to whatever is possible,” said Tom Elieff, head of school at Levine Academy. “They put the wind in our sails and continue to inspire us as we’ve become one of the finest Jewish day schools in the country.”

In 1979, the preschool on the campus of Congregation Shearith Israel entered the day school platform as Solomon Schechter Academy, adding one grade a year to its program. Founded by members of the Donsky, Pailet, Lewin and Levy families, the school moved to its location at Hillcrest and Frankford in the early 1980s and has grown to more than 435 students from infant programs through grade eight.

Elieff points to the school’s 2022 accreditation by Independent Schools Association of the Southwest, parent satisfaction surveys at the highest levels and families looking for a strong Jewish community and education who are moving to the area from across the country and choosing Levine Academy.

“As donors, former Levine grandparents and each of them as past board members, the Levines undergird our spirit, our absolute embrace of ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ and that is all reflected in what we develop here each day in every way,” said Elieff. “We look forward to raising a lechayim to them and to appreciate publicly all that they are.”

“Everything about Ann and Nate is about community. More than their very appreciated financial support is their in-person and hands-on attention, time and involvement,” said Yael Twito, director of advancement, a class of 1998 graduate and parent of two Levine Academy students. She is one of many who have brought a second generation to the school. “They both care deeply about our children and the future of the Jewish people and we are grateful for all they mean to us.”

Tuition alone is not enough to cover the costs of operating the school each year. The annual gala is central in providing support to every aspect of the school. This year it is co-chaired by Jacqui Felder and Petty Weiss; its raffle, silent and live auctions and dinner are catered by Spice of Life Catering under the supervision of Dallas Kosher.

“Our school is all about community. This gala is a chance for everyone to help support all that the faculty and staff of Levine Academy do,” said Petty Weiss, a parent of two Levine Academy students and co-chair of the event with Jacqui Felder. “We have the best teachers who bring out the best in our children, helping them to succeed not only academically but in every way as strong Jews, strong humans, strong people.

“It’s been 18 years,” said Weiss, “and it’s an honor to be celebrating the Levines and the example they have set for us all.”

Sandy Marks, sponsorship chair of the event, Levine Academy past-president, board member and parent of a current student and a graduate, says “We are very grateful Ann and Nate had the foresight to enhance the foundation of our school and to continue to strengthen Jewish education in our community.

“Their continued support and involvement, and how they’ve remained as leaders for all of us, has helped cultivate so many aspects in and beyond our classrooms,” added Marks. “The self-confidence and leadership, the voice and strength of self our children take in at Levine Academy is a gift. For my own children and for all ‘our’ children, I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough.”

Neither Ann nor Nate Levine had the opportunity to attend a school like their namesake, yet they both reflect their parents’ mantra to live as proud Jews and to make Jewish life a priority in their homes. Combining that pride with the best education is the gift they wanted to share.

“I spoke almost no English, only Yiddish until I went to school and then it was in a one-room schoolhouse with eight children and I was the only Jew,” said Nate. “From my parents I saw the examples of Jewish support and contributions however they were able and that living a life of righteousness and justice was what I was supposed to do.

“We visit the campus from time to time and it always brings a special feeling in our hearts,” Nate added, noting the annual Zimriyah concert is a favorite event for them both. “It’s a feeling that keeps us connected, caring and wanting to do more.”

For Ann, it’s about one person and then another giving and doing whatever they can for the continuity of the Jewish people. “We have to be strong together and it starts when our children learn to be proud of who they are.”

To RSVP, sponsor the event or participate in the Tribute Journal, raffle or auctions, visit  levineacademy.org/gala. Submissions to the L’Chaim gala tribute journal in the form of honoree congratulations, greetings on behalf of teachers and faculty or students or advertisements (due by Feb. 14), will be included in both a print edition and sent digitally to more than 2,500 people.

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