Allen Levithan spoke softly and had no need for a big stick. He was a master attorney and a partner at Lowenstein Sandler in Roseland and served as a mentor and role model for young lawyers. He was always available to offer his pro bono expertise toward resolving complicated matters in Jewish organizations, including Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, where he served as a lay leader for decades at the highest levels.
“Any time there were any contentious issues, he lowered the temperature in the room with his statesmanlike demeanor,” said Max Kleinman, former executive vice president and CEO of federation. “He had a good sense of humor and a soft tone, but everyone listened. He always found a way for reasonable and good compromises.”
Levithan, of Short Hills, died Dec. 24. He was 72. The cause was small cell cancer of the esophagus, according to his wife, Beth.
Since the 1980s, Levithan served in many leadership roles in the local Jewish community. He was president of the Jewish Counseling and Service Agency — the forerunner to the Jewish Family Service of MetroWest NJ — and served on the boards of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ and the NJ chapter of the American Jewish Committee.
A recipient of federation’s Julius and Bessie Cohen Young Leadership Award in 1983, he served over the years on a variety of federation committees, including as chair of a task force on health and aging, vice president of the Community Relations Committee, and chair of the allocations committee. He also co-chaired the 1989 young men’s mission to Israel, and led, along with Beth, many other missions.
He had a “yearning” to help others, according to Beth. She credited Allen’s mother for setting an example through her early involvement in the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), but mostly, Beth said, “It was just his personality to help.” In fact, she remembers him doing pro bono work even in law school, and she said that one of the reasons he joined Lowenstein Sandler was its reputation for doing extensive pro bono work.
Allen Bryan Levithan was born on the Fort Totten Army Base in Queens, where both his parents, Lou and Alice Levithan, served at the time. When he was 5, the family moved to Englewood, where he was raised, and Levithan graduated from Dwight Morrow High School in 1964.
A mutual friend set him up with Beth Golber the summer after their high school graduations. He attended Lafayette University and Golber headed to UCLA, but she eventually transferred to Boston University to be closer to Allen. They married in 1968 and settled in Cambridge, Mass., where he attended Harvard Law School.
Allen joined Lowenstein Sandler LLP in 1972 following his clerkship with Chief Justice Joseph Weintraub of the NJ Supreme Court. During his 42 years at the firm, he shaped the corporate department and launched the investment funds and mortgage finance practices. He served in almost every position in the firm, including as general counsel and as chair of the corporate department, and he set an example in his pro bono and community service work, according to colleagues.
“For me, he was a true mentor,” wrote Gary Wingens in a letter to the firm on Levithan’s passing. Wingens, the firm’s chairman and managing partner, served as chairman of the board of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union (now Golda Och Academy in West Orange) and was a member of the executive committee of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, in addition to numerous other leadership positions in Jewish and communal organizations. “He encouraged me to dive into the most significant professional and community opportunities that I have had in my career.”
Wingens added, “Allen was always kind, caring, whip-smart, and a trusted advisor to his many clients and friends. There was no one better to work through a hard problem — whether it was structuring a deal, an ethical conflict, or working through the political maze of a favorite nonprofit organization. Allen modelled a true commitment to his family that many of us found difficult to emulate.”
A sports enthusiast with a sense of humor, Levithan loved to travel. He and Beth celebrated their 50th anniversary with a family trip to South Africa in June. But above all else, Beth said, his family was most important to him.
Services were held Dec. 26 at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston where the Levithans have been long-time members. Arrangements were made by Bernheim-Apter-Kreitzman Suburban Funeral Chapel, Livingston.
Predeceased by his brother Robert, he is survived by his wife of 50 years, Beth; children David and Adam (Jen); three grandchildren; and brother Jack.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Allen Levithan Fund at the Jewish Family Services of MetroWest, jfsmetrowest.org.