“Today is the day; my youngest son, Jordan, begins his journey as a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. There is no adequate way to express how fiercely proud I am of him and his decision to protect citizens of all religions and nationalities from persecution by extremist groups who strive to destroy the freedom we all cherish.”
— Ellen Blinder Ross
Leonard Levy was a Jew. I believe I knew that before I knew what it meant. And, when I did know what it meant, it was just a small footnote, I couldn’t have cared less. He was like all the big businessmen in Oxford. He was respected and he was always good to my mother. And that was about all I needed to know. But there is more that’s worth the knowing.
The Levys came to town in the last days of World War II, with their name and their work ethic. They started a meager grocery story on the Square and never looked back. They knew no difference in color of customers and Oxford seemed to know no difference of religion. When Leonard Levy finally did look back, Jitney Jungle covered a whole city block and he’d fathered and grandfathered sons and daughters of his faith. But from those happy Oxford generations, he would be forced for the rest of his life to look back to the Holocaust.
Mr. and Mrs. Levy both had their family’s Jewish blood spilled in Germany and Poland. Numerous aunts, uncles and cousins had not come to America a generation before. And during the war they suffered on both sides of the Atlantic, and their aunts, uncles and cousins died over there. While at home, groups gathered around Parks and Blaylock’s and Morgan’s to recount their boy’s parts in it all, there would never be a group of rapt boys around Mr. Levy, hanging on his every word about his family’s part in it all. There would never be any interviews by high schoolers for book reports on the concentration camps. We knew not to ask and it was said that for the rest of his life he could not bring himself to talk about it. It was just too much.
My grandfathers could go back a full eight generations since we had been Americans, had landed here as proud Americans. Leonard Levy could go back hundreds of generations since his family has been defending Israel, or the dream of her. The Levy name holds a noted place in Israeli heritage and now the great-grandson of Leonard, the grandson of Allis, the son of Ellen, American Jordan Ross, has left an easier life, built here by his Jewish forefathers, to defend the honor of his tribes and the borders of the dream of the Jewish people.
If our Mr. Levy were here today, the void left in him by the tragic misfortune fate dealt, for which he was void of words, would to be filled with an overflowing pride in the Levite’s return to the Land of Israel. And while the hopes and dreams of hundreds of generations go with Jordan, so too, do the prayers of the Levy’s and Blinder’s friends in Oxford, Mississippi.
John Cofield is a HottyToddy.com writer and one of Oxford’s leading folk historians. He is the son of renowned university photographer Jack Cofield. His grandfather, J. R “Colonel” Cofield, was William Faulkner’s personal photographer and for decades was The Ole Miss yearbook photographer. Cofield attended Ole Miss as well. Contact John at email@example.com.