Today is May 29, 2024 ()

Bernard Levin

Bernard Levin was born in Beaumont, Texas, on March 16, 1921. At the beginning of World War II, he joined the U.S. Army Air Force and was accepted despite poor eyesight. Some say he cheated on the eye exam.

Bernie was a radio operator on a bomber. In 1943, his airplane was shot down over Brennan, Germany. Bernie and others bailed out. They made a run to the forest. Bernie tossed away his dog tags which showed his religion. Before nightfall, the villagers summoned Nazi soldiers who arrested them all. A Nazi soldier clubbed one of the American flyers. Bernie protested the rough treatment given to his buddy. The German soldier turned and hit Bernie in the mouth with his gun-butt. Bernie was unconscious for two days and lost all his teeth. The captured flyers were taken to Austria, Stalag 17, where Bernie remained for two years until the prison camp was liberated. He returned to Texas and lived in Baytown at the Y and got a job as a salesman. 

It was on a sales trip to the Valley that he came to Brownsville and saw opportunity in the business climate downtown. In 1949, he moved here and established his Amigo Store in downtown Brownsville and started attending services at the first Temple Beth-El building on St. Francis Street. The Brownsville Jewish community was never the same.

 He started coming early to Shul to make sure the coffee was made for the oneg. If he saw a lightbulb out, he changed it. He rarely missed services, but he sure knew who was not there – and during the following week he could pass out guilt better than any Jewish Mother.

In 1969, with the help of match-maker Ester Moskowicz, he met and married his beloved wife, Betty, and they raised 4 children.

Later, his brother, Louis Levin, joined him in the business which expanded valley-wide. In his office at the Amigo Store, Bernie paid homage to Judaism and Israel, which he loved, with photos, decorations, and plaques on every wall and on his desk. His efforts for Israel Bonds were recognized by the State of Israel with
Bernard Levin being honored with the “David Ben-Gurion” and “Jerusalem 3000” awards at dinners in his honor at Temple Beth-El.
He organized the B’nai B’rith, a men’s organization, and enticed the membership by providing the lox, bagels and eggs served at the old Holiday Inn. 

Here is a question for all who knew him. Can you look at a Latke without thinking of Bernie? He organized the cooking of Latkes by the men of the congregation for the annual Temple Beth-El Hanukkah party. Bernie superintended, legislated, dominated and was the executioner. His Latke secret ingredient was ashes from his cigarette.
Bernard Levin was important to Temple Beth-El and Temple Beth-El was very important to Bernard. A large Temple Yahrzeit boards was donated in his memory by his family. His legacy continues with Sharon and Javier Huerta who are members of the congregation. Javier is on the Board of Directors. 

Bernard Levin died on January 17, 2001. Betty Levin died on April 21, 2015. Their graves are next to each other in the Hebrew Cemetery.