Josh Levi: tributes from friends and the world of politics

February 4, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Politicians and friends have sent personal tributes to the memory of Josh Levi who passed away in Melbourne on Sunday at the age of 36. The politicians would reason that they were his friends too.

Josh Levi

Josh was the CEO of The Australian Jewish News.

NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel deputy chair and Shadow Treasurer Walt Secord said: “The news of his death is truly devastating and my heartfelt sympathies go to his grieving family, his widow and newborn daughter.

I was just ready to undertake a Sydney Jewish Museum tour with my NSW Labor parliamentary colleagues when I was advised about the sudden and premature death of Josh Levi. I still cannot believe that Josh won’t be on the end of the telephone line to entertain my arguments to squeeze a couple of paragraphs into the newspaper just before its deadline.”

Josh Levi never saw his role at the Australian Jewish News as a job; he saw it as an honour and a privilege that carried great weight and responsibility. He believed that he was part of a 125-year tradition – charged with documenting and chronicling the activities of NSW and Australian Jewry.

In all my dealings with Josh Levi, he was always a true professional, a diplomat and a thoroughly decent and ethical human being.”

“Josh Levi’s contribution to journalism will be missed for years to come.”

(Mr Secord was a journalist at the Australian Jewish News from 1988 to 1991 in its Sydney office.)

Dan Goldberg, a former editor of The Australian News told J-Wire: “I recall interviewing Josh for a job at the AJN back in the mid-2000s. Although he was journalistically ‘green’, he had genuine hunger for the story and a joie de vivre that was immediately infectious to myself and Chemi Shalev. That he went on to become CEO of the Australian Jewish News speaks volumes about his indefatigable spirit.

Despite the constraints of a Jewish community newspaper, he strived to uphold the journalistic maxim: “News is what someone wants suppressed; all the rest is advertising.”

A gentle giant of a man, Josh personified the idea that the glass was not only half full, it was funny too.

Yehi Zichron Baruch

“Today I have lost not just a dear friend, but the finest journalist I have had the privilege of working with in my 25 years in the profession,” AJN national editor Zeddy Lawrence said.
“No one could uncover a story, or earn the trust of those he was writing about, like Josh.
But it wasn’t just about the story for Josh. It was about making our community a better, safer, more honest environment for all of us.
“Whether it was his award-winning coverage of the child abuse scandal or a simple match report, the commitment to filing the best possible article  – one that informed, one that challenged, one that educated, one that entertained – was the same.
Lawrence concluded, “As a reporter, as an editor and as CEO, Joshua Levi was the heart and the integrity of The AJN. Today, the paper has lost its soul, and the community has lost one of its most dedicated sons.”

Dave Sharma, Federal member for Wentworth said: “So sad to hear of the sudden passing of Josh Levi z”l. He was a kind, smart, happy and generous soul, full of passion for his community. I always enjoyed my talks with him, and I know how much he loved his wife and was looking forward to fatherhood. May his memory be a blessing.”

From Manny Waks: “I’m devastated to hear of Josh’s passing. He was a consummate professional as a journalist, and a real mentch. We spoke quite regularly, on work matters and life in general. There was often laughter, including when we were addressing difficult and sensitive matters. And even when we disagreed, we did so with a smile and understanding. I’ll forever be indebted to Josh for his outstanding reporting on the child sexual abuse scandal in the Australian Jewish community. His untimely passing is an immense loss to his family, friends, the AJN and our community – and to me personally. May Josh’s dear soul rest in peace and may his memory be a blessing.”

From Peter Wertheim

All of us at the ECAJ were devastated by the news of the sudden and untimely passing of our dear friend and colleague, Josh Levi.

Having been in almost daily contact with Josh for the last ten years, I grew to admire him not only for his professionalism and skill as a journalist but also for his warmth, compassion and good humour as a person.  Despite his youth, he had real wisdom. I greatly valued his opinions and judgment on a whole range of communal matters.

In the best traditions of journalism, Josh never flinched from reporting on the things that needed to be reported on in our community, even if the truth was sometimes painful for us to confront.  Facing up to the extent to which child abuse had occurred and been covered up in some of our communal institutions was shocking for most of us, but also indispensable for addressing the problem and for strengthening our resolve never to let it happen again.

As he surveyed the passing parade of characters who make up our community, Josh chronicled our achievements and mistakes, our joys and our tragedies with deep insight and understanding.  He had a withering eye for the foibles of some of the more maniacally opinionated of the activists among us, wherever they happen to stand on the political and religious spectra.      Yet his observations were always tempered by moderation, gentle humour and genuine human empathy.   He was a true mensch. The community has lost a real gem of a human being.

Josh’s passing is a heart-breaking tragedy for all of us, but most of all for his family.  Josh and his wife Lia had the joy of welcoming their first child into the world only a few weeks ago, their daughter Lara.  As she grows older, Lara will hear many wonderful stories about her Dad, but perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is that she will not have the opportunity to know him first-hand, and to have his love and understanding to nurture and guide her.   Josh would have been a superb father.

My heart also goes out to Josh’s parents Ann and Ian, Josh’s, brother, Ben, and grandmother Sylvia.  I wish them long life.

With deepest sympathy

From Federal Liberal MP Julian Lesser:

So sad to hear of the sudden passing of Josh Levi z”l. He was a kind, smart, happy and generous soul, full of passion for his community. I always enjoyed my talks with him, and I know how much he loved his wife and was looking forward to fatherhood. May his memory be a blessing.

From NSW State Liberal MP Gabrielle Upton: “I was deeply shocked to learn of Josh Levi’s untimely death yesterday. He has been a powerhouse in Jewish communal journalism for as long as I can remember. Always direct and passionate, he served us all so well. My warm wishes go to his wife Lia and baby girl Lara.”

From Eitan Drori: I am in shock and disbelief. Coming from the tennis world since the ’70s and bringing up my son Assaf a successful tennis player I was seeing and chatting with passion and love to the game with Josh every Australian Open when he landed here in Melbourne to cover the Australian Open for AJN. We had a date every mid-January and shared time together with our buddy Peter Haskin. Josh was a special, sensitive, smiling man.  Sport was in his blood and admiration to tennis, the game, the moral value behind it and his consideration to wheelchair sport was compared to none. He loved to interview the Israeli players and asked me to make it happen for him every year.
I am shattered and will remember Josh for his tenderness, mentschlichkeit  , smile and vast knowledge in any topic he touched.
Australian Open without Josh will never be the same.
Bye tennis lover! Will always miss you, Josh!

Rabbi Mendel Kastel –  Jewish House

Josh lived life to the fullest both on and off the field.

As a journalist, he was focused on what he believed in and would take on the difficult issues and passionately navigate them in the way only Josh could

He recognised the opportunities that he had as a communal voice at the Australian Jewish News and other forums

His compassion and huge heart made him a stand-out friend to many and we all admired his passion for justice and improvement in the real Tikun Olam spirit

Off the communal field, he was a man who had many interests and he enjoyed them to the fullest and share them with others.

He loved life and make others enjoy it with him with his humour, wit and willingness to spend time and have people around him.

On a personal level, he was a good friend to me and I was with him for both happy and sad occasions in his life and his love for his family and commitment to them was outstanding

He was a great support to me and my work in the community over many years and I attribute a lot of my success to his personal support and interest.

He was so happy every time there was a simcha in the family and family get-togethers but to see his joy of getting married and his baby was special.

One of the standout difficult and family connection time was his love for his cousin Ashley and the whole family

His dear family will miss him dearly as will I and the whole community may his soul rest in peace.

From Josh Burns, Federal Labor Member for Macnamara:

“I admired Josh Levi very much and was proud to call him a friend.

We are lucky to have people who protect, enrich and invest in our Jewish Community – and Josh Levi did all three with everything he had.

Josh thought deeply about the issues that united and challenged us.

He always acted in our collective interest even if it meant the Jewish News missed out on a story.

Josh understood the power of a strong story and also the importance of journalistic integrity.

And for that he will always have my respect.

I will cherish our conversations about politics and life.

Josh told me how excited he was to become a father and it is not fair that he only was able to be one for such a short period of time.

He adore Lia and I can only imagine how much joy baby Lara filled him with.

He was a good man and he was taken too soon.”

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