The older you get the less people you remember from childhood. On March 10, I will turn 38 — an age considered still youthful to some and plenty old to some youth — and if it weren’t for Facebook, I probably would’ve forgotten most of the people I knew back then, especially since I now live on the other side of the world.
But there’s one person I don’t think I ever would’ve forgotten. Her name is Stephanie Curry, although when I knew her she was Stephanie Levinson. I didn’t actually know her that well. I’m not sure we spoke much outside of class. But she was in the same educational program as I during middle and high school and we shared many classes together throughout the years, so I’m sure we had our fair share of interactions. Maybe we worked on a couple group projects together. I really can’t remember that well.
What I do remember about her is she was absolutely one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. I know a lot of nice people, so you need to understand that when I say she was one of the nicest people ever, I mean that’s the thing I remember about her.
You know how when you hear a certain song that has meaning in your life, you immediately feel exactly the way you did as when that song was so relevant? That’s how I feel about Stephanie. If I had to choose one word to describe every person I ever knew, and could only use the word “nice” one time, I would choose to use it on Stephanie.
During a period of life when so many of us were jerks, bullies and downright mean people, this girl stood out as being 100% totally pure. I don’t think she knew how to be mean even if she tried. And I know this wasn’t something I thought only to myself. Everyone knew it. Stephanie was the nicest person in our class, and probably our school. The only other thing I remember strongly about her is that she was one of five kids (now seven), and from what I heard, they were all just as nice.
There is another person who will also celebrate his birthday on March 10: Stephanie’s dad, Robert. Except he hasn’t been able to celebrate his birthday for the last nine years.
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson was taken prisoner on March 9, 2007, when visiting Iran’s Kish Island as a CIA contractor. It’s believed he’s being held by Iranian intelligence officials, and while there have been a few drops of information over the years, including pictures of Robert pleading for his life (revealing the heartbreaking deterioration in his health and appearance), he was not included in the recent prisoner swap made by the Obama administration. For some bizarre reason, they felt that five was enough and left him out of the deal, choosing instead to bask in the glory of their improved ties with the murderous Iranian regime that is the world’s largest sponsor of terror and mayhem.
Not so long ago, there was a worldwide campaign for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit that succeeded in pressuring the Israeli government to release 1,027 Palestinian terrorists for 1 Jewish soldier. In Judaism, when you save one life it’s considered as if you’ve saved the world. For Jews, no number is too high if it succeeds in bringing one of our own back home.
So, where is the campaign for Robert Levinson? Are you talking about him in your synagogues, youth groups and other Jewish-affiliated organizations? Where is the collective outrage for another one of our own, whose family is missing him every bit as much as Gilad Shalit’s family did? Has Gilad even heard of Robert? If not, why not?
The truth is it doesn’t matter that Robert is Jewish. I don’t know if his wife is Jewish, or he raised his family with any particular religious orientation. All that matters is that he was taken, and not nearly enough is being done to bring him back. Not nearly enough.
No one seems to know the real story. US Secretary of State John Kerry says he has no idea, which seems hard to believe. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. But every day that goes by where we don’t hear about Robert Levinson means not nearly enough is being done to bring him back. Not nearly enough.
And as long as Jews continue to demonstrate their enormous organizing power when our people are in need — as we did for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, as we did for Soviet Jewry in the 70s, as we did for civil rights in the 60s and for the State of Israel ever since Herzl said we can will it — we must use that power once again to bring the one Jew left behind in this pitiful state of affairs.
For more than twenty-five years world Jewry worked to bring the American traitor Jonathan Pollard home to his family, because he was a Jew and that’s what Jews do. Don’t you think it’s time we started using that power again to bring an American Jewish hero back home to his family?
We’ve done it before and we can do it again.
Just as I remember Stephanie, I ask you to remember Robert Levinson and work within your communities to bring this man home to his family. They’ve spent far too many birthdays and births without the bedrock of their home. One can only imagine the ocean of tears they’ve built up in his absence over nine very long years.
Jews everywhere need to start asking: #WhatAboutBob? Ask it when you meet any US government official. Ask it when you meet any Israeli official. Ask it on social media. Join the Help Bob Levinson page on Facebook. Teach your kids to ask about Bob. Learn from the success of the five-year campaign that brought Gilad Shalit back to his family, and implement the same strategy and tactics to bring Robert Levinson back home to his.
I can’t say I ever met the man, but I do know he raised the nicest girl I ever met. And if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that she deserves the chance to introduce him to his grandchildren.