Editor's note: This story was written as a part of the Observer's Explorer Post program, which gives high school students the chance to learn about journalism.
Throughout their lives, Jerry and Barbara Levin have had an impact on Charlotte, especially the Jewish community. Through their involvement, they resurrected the B’nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO) for the city and helped build the foundation for the community that exists today.
Jerry was a member of the boys’ chapter of BBYO in Charlotte from 1938-1942, even becoming the chapter’s second president. As he reflects on his time in BBYO, he said it was “gratifying because I got to meet a lot of people my age.”
Though their population was small, consisting of “15 members tops,” the Jewish community continued to thrive and grow. He took a 10 month leave from college at UNC Chapel Hill to fight in World War ll, as almost all the advisors of the programs had done, and joined in the Air Force.
When he returned, BBYO had disbanded.
He saw the organization that gave him so many memories begin to dissolve. A member of the temple pulled him aside one day and told him they needed his help. He took an advisor job and helped the organization grow back bigger and better than before.
Around this time, he was set up in a blind date with Barbara. Once they married, he told her, “You take the girls and I’ll take the boys,” and she became an advisor for the girls’ chapter in Charlotte.
Jerry enjoyed watching the organization grow because he believed the most important thing it offered was “to give the kids the ability to become leaders.” He witnessed it with himself, his children, and now his grandchildren.
The two remained very active in the Jewish community and Temple Israel. They even were some of the first investors in Shalom Park, an area still thriving today with the Jewish Community Center and two temples. They were part of the young couples club, which was very prominent in their social lives.
They had four children who were all active in the community, including the school and BBYO. Jerry and Barbara even hosted a BBYO convention in their backyard for more than 200 teens, hosting the dance in their basement.
Jerry became president of Temple Israel. They donated time and money to create a Jewish middle school.
“They saw the needs of the community and had the resources, so they were very philanthropic in Charlotte and the Jewish community,” said Marnie Moskowitz, a member of the JCC Federation.
The pair resides in the same house they have lived in for the past 50 years, though the city has seemed to grow around them. They have recently celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary. They remain active members of the temple, as Jerry is an honored life-member president.