Journalist Yehuda Lev, who smuggled Holocaust survivors to Palestine, dies

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Yehuda Lev, an iconoclastic journalist and veteran of World War II and Israel’s War of Independence who established a European underground route to smuggle Holocaust survivors to Palestine, has died.

Lev died Aug. 3 in Providence, Rhode Island, after a prolonged illness. He was 86.

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Lev became the first associate editor of the newly founded Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles in 1986, continuing until 1993. He was best known for his column “A Majority of One,” which slayed the Jewish community’s sacred cows week after week.

Lev was born in New York City and raised in Forest Hills, N.Y. as John Lewis Low, the son of a successful businessman and a mother noted as one of the first women labor lawyers.

He dropped out of Cornell University to enlist in the U.S. Army during the latter part of World War II and was discharged in Germany when the war ended.

Moved by the plight of Holocaust survivors languishing in Displaced Persons camps, Lev established a route, mostly by foot, to bring the DPs to Mediterranean ports, where they embarked on “illegal” ships, past the British naval blockade, into Palestine.

Returning to the United States, Lev earned master’s degrees from the University of Chicago in political science/Arabic studies and Stanford University in communication arts.

He set off in 1947 to Palestine to help the Jews in their struggle to establish an independent state. Changing his name to Yehuda Lev, he joined the Israeli army when war broke out in May 1948.

While on patrol in the Negev, Lev’s jeep was blown up by a landmine, which killed everyone else and shattered his feet.

Lev remained in Israel at the end of the war and established himself as a highly popular radio host of “Jerusalem Calling,” a daily one-hour variety and discussion show in English on Kol Israel, the country’s national network.

Later, as the only native English speaker at Kol Israel, Lev became the network’s voice in reporting the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann to the outside world.

In Los Angeles, Lev resumed his writing career on Jewish newspapers and a self-published broadsheet, also titled “A Majority of One.”

He moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 1993, when his wife Rosa Maria (Shoshana) Pegueros took up a professorship in history and women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island.