In Our Care

Lore Levitt, who passed away in Cambridge on May 4, 2021 at the age of 93, loved few things more than sharing stories and nature experiences with children, both young and old. Throughout her life, she helped young people who were in need. She taught them, tutored them, and was a passionate advocate for them in their schools. She was warm and open to all.
Lore was born in the small German industrial town of Hattingen in 1927. As a child, she went to Hebrew school and services at the Hattingen synagogue her grandfather helped build. In elementary school, she remembered being forced to salute and say Heil Hitler. When a teacher began teaching the explicit Nazi antisemitic ideology in class, Lore spoke up and walked out. Her father was called, but the school decided to let her to skip that class and she never returned to it. Lore's Jewish identity helped shaped her values throughout her life. She always retained a strong independent streak and willingness to speak up for truth and justice.
In 1938, when Lore was 11, her father was forced to sell his family business at a fire sale price as Nazism blazed throughout Germany. The family finally applied for visas to the United States and moved to Cologne to await visas. There German law excluded her from public schools so she attended an orthodox Jewish school. During Kristallnacht witnessed the burning of their Roonstrasse synagogue. They later learned that the rabbi had been thrown into the fire. The next year, in the Fall of 1939, her family was granted one of the last visas to the United States. They sailed on the Statendam, a Dutch cruise ship. It was one of the last ocean liners to leave Europe before war was declared (during the trip they picked up some survivors from torpedoed boats at sea). Lore's two older teenage brothers, John and Charlie, who had been at school in Italy. They fled to Holland to joined their family for the voyage.
​After some time in Gloversville, New York, the family settled in Cincinnati, Ohio. Lore was 13. Three years later she was at the University of Cincinnati, joined the NAACP, and began her lifelong commitment to social justice. She participated in protests to desegregate Cincinnati's amusement park. Some years later she participated in the Encampment for Citizenship, a summer program that brought youth of all races, religions and socioeconomic status together and encouraged them to become active in their communities. One of her favorite memories was of a picnic at Val Kill, New York where she was served hot dogs by Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the encampment's prominent supporters. ​
​Lore went on to study early childhood education at the Bank Street College of Education in New York City and she began her life's work: teaching young children and helping young people in difficult circumstances who lacked sufficient family support. In 1954, she took a position as the head teacher of a nursery school in Ithaca, New York. She met the love of her life, David Levitt, then a Cornell graduate student, at a Bayard Rustin concert. Two years later they married, and moved to West Philadelphia near the University of Pennsylvania where Dave pursued his PhD in experimental psychology. They made their home in Powelton Village, an integrated hot bed of civic activism and began raising their two children, Dan and Josh.
​Lore and Dave's shared interest in improving education became one of the central pillars of their lives. If Lore had ever cataloged the many ways in which she helped children she took an interest in, it would go on and on and on. She founded a nursery school in the Mantua Projects, an impoverished African American community a few blocks away from their home, while Dave founded a science club for kids. Dave was active in Philadelphia's Citizen's Committee for the Improvement of Education. When Lore once had the opportunity to briefly meet Martin Luther King, characteristically, she urged King to focus on education for African Americans in addition to civil rights. She recalled that he was non-commital.
In the early 1970s, Dave and Lore moved to Wynnfield, a formerly Jewish neighborhood in West Philadelphia that was swiftly becoming largely African American. She was a teaching assistant at the (John Dewey inspired) School in Rose Valley and founded a free reading and math tutoring program at the Wynnfield Public Library. She obtained a Master's as a reading specialist at the University of Pennsylvania and went on to work in a variety of schools.
This was not always easy because she chose to work with the most vulnerable children, often in difficult and rigid educational systems and institutions. She found the predominantly traditional modes of teaching ineffective and outdated. Lore could not help but be a truthteller, even when it was impolitic. While working at the Methodist Home for Children, an orphanage near her home, she began also working intensively with some of her students on her own time. She tutored them in reading, Dave tutored them in math, and she forcefully advocated for them in their schools and institutions. These efforts brought her great joy and she continued to work one on one with children for the rest of her life.
​Lore loved nature and Dave had the idea of creating Nature Saturdays, a free program for local kids who had never visited nearby Fairmount Park. In the late 1990s, they obtained funding to start the program and recruited a diverse group of volunteers to give the kids enriching experiences. These included a local policeman who brought his collection of animal skeletons.
​In 1999, Lore and Dave moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to be close to their child, Dan Levitt and his wife, Ariadne Valsamis. Lore took daily care of her two grandchildren, Zoe and Eli, and volunteered as a reading specialist in the Cambridge public schools. She continued to help individual children in difficult family circumstances. She and Dave tutored them, took them on day trips, and advocated for them in their schools and programs. Dave and Lore also joined the Friends of Fresh Pond where they helped provide nature programs for young people that fostered creativity.
​ Despite the trauma of her youth, Lore had an extraordinary ability to find joy in the world and the people around her. She made friends everywhere, including supermarket shopping lines and Cambridge streets. And, with her wonderful empathy for and understanding of children, she could engage with them on their level to share stories, art, folk music and wonder about the world. She was a genius at reading children and intuiting what they were thinking.
​Lore was preceded in death by her son, Josh Levitt, her brothers, John Gumperz, a founder of the field of ethnolinguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and Charlie Gumperz, a machinist at Boeing. Lore is survived by her husband Dave, her son, Dan and his wife Ariadne, her grandchildren Zoe and Eli, her niece, Jenny Gumperz and her wife Carol Glaser, her nephew Andrew Gumperz, his wife Liz, and their children, Josh and Emily, as well as her cousin Dan Rahimi, his wife Julie Comay, and their children.
Contributions in her memory may be made to Food for Free, ( a Cambridge-based organization that rescues unused food from institutions and provides it to families and children in need in Cambridge and the Boston area.

Memories, photos, and condolences may be offered to the family at