In new book, victims of chlorine bomb, anti-Semitic attack, find healing and hope

During the early morning hours of Aug. 2, 2009, Myles Levine was jolted out of bed by the screams of his wife, Karen. Their front and garage doors were sealed shut. Globs of motor oil, paint, and foam peanuts were strewn along their walkway and driveway. A putrid chemical smell filled the air, emanating from a chlorine bomb that was detonated hours earlier. The improvised weapon produced a cloud that stretched almost a mile wide, forcing an evacuation of the neighborhood.

As the chaotic scene unfolded, the Levines were sure that Todd Russell Fries had attacked them again.

“It’s the same thing that was done to us in Dove Mountain,” says Myles Levine, recalling what he said to the 911 operator.

The couple, along with co-author Dan Baldwin, wrote, “The Levine Project: Fighting Back Against a Campaign of Terror,” which chronicles their years-long journey dealing with a vengeful contractor. The book was released on Aug. 27 by Trafford Publishing.

The Levines hired Fries — former owner of Burns Power Washing, a well-known Tucson business at the time — to resurface their driveway at the beginning of 2007.

On the morning of Nov. 1, 2008, the Levines discovered their home had been vandalized. Motor oil, grease, feces, dead animal carcasses, and foam packing peanuts were littered across their driveway and front lawn. Swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs were spray painted on their garage. 

Within two months of the first incident, the Levine’s moved to a gated community near the Omni National Golf Course. The Levines were attacked at their new home less than a year after the first occurrence. Those crimes would lead to the arrest and conviction of Fries, and consecutive sentences in federal and state prison.

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post article here. Originally published on Oct. 20, 2017.

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AP reporter, a THA alum, to keynote event honoring Gasches

Tucson Hebrew Academy’s annual Tikkun Olam Celebration will honor Danny and Janis Gasch for their continued service to the local and global Jewish community.

Jon Ben-Asher, head of school at THA, says it’s a great honor to recognize the Gaschs this year, because of their involvement and commitment to Tucson’s Jewish community.

“Danny and Janis Gasch exemplify the concept of tikkun olam — being a light unto the world and making it a better place,” says Ben-Asher. “In addition to the many other organizations and people they have supported throughout the years, their service to THA has included essential leadership, mentoring and advising, as well as training and providing direct services to our students for hearing evaluations.”

THA alumnus Josh Lederman, a foreign affairs and national security reporter at the Associated Press, is this year’s keynote speaker, who says it’s flattering to be acknowledged and a great honor to give back to THA.

“I think THA has recognized the way its alumni have tried to go out into the world and make a positive difference, in different ways, and that’s something that I’m proud to be able to represent,” says Lederman.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to reconnect with the issues that are on the minds of the people who formed the community that raised me,” he adds.

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post here. Originally published on Oct. 20, 2017.

‘Stumbling stone’ gives family overdue closure

Active remembrance can provide an alternative to warfare, and taking pause to acknowledge as well as consider human tragedies may force us to search for peaceful means, says Bertie Levkowitz-Herz.   

“You only have losers with war, and killing makes no sense,” she says. “There’s got to be another way to solve differences and be a little more tolerant of people.”

Gunter Demnig, a Cologne-based artist who is not Jewish, designed the Stolpersteine, or stumbling stones, project in 1993. The brass plaques that commemorate victims of the Nazis are installed in the street, in front of the person’s last known residence or place of business.

Levkowitz-Herz attended a Stolpersteine ceremony in Holland this summer that honored her uncle, Ibertus Magnus, who was arrested by the Gestapo for “political speech” at the end of 1941. During a business trip, Magnus shared his opinion about Adolf Hitler with another train passenger, who was a Nazi sympathiser — whether he was baited into the conversation or not is unknown. He was murdered at Buchenwald concentration camp at age 24. Levkowitz-Herz was born eight weeks after his death, and was named in honor of her uncle.

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post article here. Originally published on Oct. 6, 2017.