Sudden loss of an old friend, Beatrice Levavi

By Rebecca Asch, Features Editor

About 300 people dressed in dark formal clothes sat out on former headmaster Dr. Jerry Friedman’s tennis court on the cool summer evening of August 5 to share their memories of former director of admissions Mrs. Beatrice Levavi, who passed away suddenly on July 26 from pancreatic cancer.

The crowd sitting in the backyard of Dr. Friedman’s Beverly Hills estate laughed and cried as at least 20 people — who were not only family, students and teachers, but rabbis, parents and neighbors — told stories about their time with Mrs. Levavi.

“My mom was brilliant, honest, funny and filled with a deep, encompassing love,” her daughter, Rebecca Levavi, said at the memorial in prepared remarks. “I take pride in just how darn cool she was.”

Added Dr. Friedman,”Beatrice didn’t only work at Shalhevet, but she was also a very close friend. Any student who had a problem knew they could go to Beatrice.”

Beatrice Levavi worked at Shalhevet in various roles from 1997 through 2008, and six of her seven children graduated from the school. For her last three years she was Director of Admissions, which meant she decided who was admitted to the school.

Mrs. Levavi also initiated the always-crowded “Open House” nights, when students and teachers introduced the school and answered questions from prospective incoming freshmen in a room surrounded by tables representing every academic department, committee and extra-curricular.  Applications and class sizes rebounded from a slump the previous few years.

After prepared remarks from Dr. Friedman and Rebecca Levavi, guests were invited up to a small stage to share remembrances. Many of the remembered Mrs. Levavi not only as a faculty member, but as someone to have an interesting conversation with.

“No matter what was wrong at school that day, Beatrice could always erase any problem,” remembered former General Studies principal Dr. Michael Parmer.  “My years with Beatrice were the highlight of my life.”

“I spent many hours avoiding preparing for class in her office,” said English teacher Mr. Roy Danovich, the evening’s first speaker, as he leaned over the Town Hall podium, which had been loaned by Shalhevet for the event.

Linda Tabak, mother of Shalhevet alumnus Josh Tabak ’06, helped organize the event and said about 250 people had RSVPed in advance.  But another 50 people came unexpectedly and stood at the back of the tennis court for the two-and-a-half hours of the memorial.

“I liked hearing from all the people I didn’t know previously,” said Dov Levavi, her second-youngest, when it was over. “ It made me proud to see how many people she affected as a friend.”

“Everyone had something good to say about Beatrice and it all was all true,” observed junior Noa Brandes, who was present at the memorial. “The speeches that really got to me were the ones made by various students who wanted to say something about her.”