Kalman Levine, one of the four rabbis murdered in a meat cleaver and gun attack this morning in the Kehillat Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem, had strong ties to the Los Angeles Jewish community. He was born Cary Levine in Kansas City but found his orthodox faith after moving to Los Angeles. His childhood best friend, Shimon Kraft, lives in Los Angeles and owns The Mitzvah Store. From the Jewish Journal:
After Levine graduated Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in the late ’70s and returned to the United States after six months on a kibbutz, he moved to Los Angeles to enroll at a pre-dental program at the University of Southern California (USC). Although Levine grew up Conservative in Kansas City, Kraft said Levine’s time in Israel led to a religious transformation, and Levine became Sabbath and kosher observant.
While Levine was at USC, Kraft said he visited in him in summer 1977. Levine, after he came to Los Angeles, became very close with Rabbi Zvi Block, who taught at Aish HaTorah in North Hollywood, and Levine’s inspiration from learning Torah with Block helped solidify his religious transformation that began in Israel.
Levine and Kraft decided to travel to Israel together and they attended two years of yeshiva before they returned to Los Angeles to attend a post-high school study program at Yeshiva University Los Angeles (YULA).
Kraft said that Levine decided to return to Israel again in the early 1980s—this time he never left. Over the years in Jerusalem, Levine built a family and continued pursuing the passion of his life—Torah. Kraft said Levine even organized a group of men who would get together for the sole purpose of self-improvement and strengthening character traits.
“He was truly great,” Kraft said. “He was so unusual, so special.”