Alita Zurav Letwin (1932-2020)

Leon Alita Greece 1975Alita Profile Picture

Our beloved Alita died peacefully on January 16, 2020, age 87, in State College, PA. She will be sorely missed by all who treasured her love, friendship, and passion for social justice. 

A forthcoming obituary in a local newspaper can be found below. We invite you to share any thoughts and remembrances at

A celebration of Alita’s life will be held in the auditorium at Foxdale Village in State College from 1-4pm on Sunday, February 2, 2020 (housing information below*). A celebration in Los Angeles is tentatively scheduled for June (details to follow).

In lieu of flowers, donations in Alita’s memory can be made to the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State Law School (details in obituary, below), Palestine Legal, and the Foxdale Village Training and Tuition Reimbursement Fund for staff.

Alita may be gone, but we know her spirit will live on in all of us.
Michael, Ellen, Brian, Chau, Andy, and Luna
Dan, Eva, Nick, and Tim
David and Kristin

*State College Housing Information: Specify “Foxdale” discount rate at the Courtyard by Marriott State College or Ramada by Wyndham State College Hotel & Conference Center, both of which are directly adjacent to Foxdale.


Alita Zurav Letwin September 17, 1932-January 16, 2020 (BA, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1954; MS, Bank Street College of Education, 1961) died peacefully on January 16, at age 87, in State College, PA. Alita was born in Moscow, USSR, the daughter of Manya Tsfasman Zurav and Zellick Zurav. An early education specialist for many years at the Center for Civic Education in Los Angeles, she conducted law-related teacher training programs throughout the United States and around the world. She was a lifelong feminist, pro-labor, anti-war, civil rights, and social justice activist. Most recently, she was a member of Jewish Voice for Peace and the Democratic Socialists of America, and an ardent supporter of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. Her love of life, zest for experiencing the world in all its cultural and natural wonders, drive to connect with people and forge community at every turn, and to champion human rights near and far — all these things animated her from her first days to her last. More information about her life can be found at . Alita was preceded in death by her husband and comrade of 63 years, Leon Letwin (1929-2015). She is survived by sons and daughters-in-law Michael and Ellen of Brooklyn, NY, Dan and Eva of State College, David and Kristin of South Orange, NJ; grandsons Brian and his wife Chau and daughter Luna of Ho Chi Minh City, Andy of Brooklyn, NY, and Nick and Tim of State College. A celebration of Alita’s life will be held in the Foxdale auditorium from 1-4pm on Sunday, February 2, 2020. In lieu of flowers, donations in Alita’s memory can be made to the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State Law School (checks may be made out to Penn State University with “to the CIRC in memory of Alita Letwin” in the memo line, and mailed to CIRC, 329 Innovation Blvd., Suite 118, University Park, PA 16802, attn: Prof. Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia); to Palestine Legal, which defends free speech rights; or to the Foxdale Village Training and Tuition Reimbursement Fund for staff. An online guestbook can be signed and condolences sent to the family at Thoughts and remembrances may be posted at

About Alita Letwin


Alita Zurav Letwin, Teacher/Trainer, Professional Development

A senior consultant with the Center for Civic Education for 32 years, Alita has led professional development for classroom teachers for (Out)Laws & Justice since the year 2000. She joined the (Out)Laws & Justice board in 2010. A co-chair of the Task Force on Minorities and Women in Law-Related Education, Letwin’s most recent publication is the annotated bibliography, Literature for Children and Young Adults: Examining Issues of Violence and Conflict Resolution.

2022.05.25: Michael Letwin Oral History @Activist Video Archive

The Red Tide (1971-1981)
Michael Z. Letwin
Alita Zurav Letwin (1932-2020)
Leon Letwin (1929-2015)

Celebration of the Life of Alita Zurav Letwin (Remarks of Dan Letwin)

Remarks of Dan Letwin

Friends and loved ones, greetings. It’s so good to have you all here (or, at any rate, as “here” as here can be…). Seeing this gathering from Alita’s universe of family and friends, colleagues and comrades, makes it feel more like she herself is here, still amongst us.

And I want to thank Michael for his eloquent overview of our mother’s spirited passage through life, her unflagging optimism, and commitment to the struggles for social justice. These are qualities we need now as never before, in this stormy year of 2020.

One thing you won’t hear about from Michael, but deserves recognition – is all the leadership and effort that he has shown in the aftermath of Alita’s death – in attending to a myriad of details, in being in touch with so many people – and, not least, in organizing today’s event.

But enough about Michael – and back to Alita…

When I think of my mother, I see a spirit of warmth and connection, a twinkle in her eye, a ready smile, a spark of interest, of vitality that just radiated from her, that drew upon the way she interacted with others.

I see a spirit of discovery – discovery of people, of nature, of the arts, of ideas…. And not least, of the possibilities of collective efforts to bring about a more humane, a more just, a more peaceful, a more safe and healthy, a more dignified, a more enlivened, a more livable world.

Her unquenchable appetite to experience the world – in all its natural beauty, in all its cultural diversity, in all its splendor and all its poignancy – that was Alita.

And then of course, there was her legendary energy…. Her zest for getting out and living life, tiring out people half her age with her swirl of activities – a concert, a demonstration, a museum, a play, a ted talk, a dance performance, a hike, a political meeting, a reading group, a dinner party, a day trip, a world trip, a memorial. Her calendar was a sight to see – it was always packed!

And I think it’s an understatement to say, and few will dispute, that Alita was a social animal. She was always meeting people, finding connections, forging friendships, building community, all through her life.

A postcard I once received from my father, written while they were on a train traveling around Britain, somehow says it all. After describing what they’d been seeing, he added drily, “Alita’s working the car.”

She traveled everywhere – around her community, around the country, around the world – whether for business or pleasure – and I think it can be said that nowhere was she a stranger. She had this innate ability, and impulse, to connect with people, to empathize, to make them feel that they mattered. And that was part of her deepest charm.

Of course, she was also a deeply political woman. Her activism spanned a range of causes, well described by Michael – the causes of labor, civil rights, free speech, gender equality, peace, human rights around the world, and an organization of society based on social need – on democratic socialist values – rather than profit.

Thinking about Alita as a mother, a mother in law, a grandmother, and a friend… What I got from my mother, along with my father, all my life, was a special feeling – and although they had their expectations of us, their love and support were unconditional.

I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t feel she was happy to see me. She wasn’t always happy with my behavior (I was often a drifty child, kind of wild, and hey, she was a parent…). But from my earliest memories through my last moments with her, she always greeted me with a sweetness and sparkle that warmed my soul – and I carry that warmth within me still; I feel it now. And I think part of the beauty and inspiration of my mother is that she gave that feeling to countless people, both within her family and beyond.

Beyond that, she was, along with my father, and as Michael has mentioned, a model of courage, of generosity, of activism, of supporting and respecting others as they deserved. My brothers and I learned from that.

She was a strong woman – a true feminist (as was my father) – and I think the way my brothers and I have each chosen as life partners women of strength and character, warmth and decency has a lot to do with the example that we saw, growing up.

And I might say that my mother took immediately to my chosen partner, Eva (as did my father), and their respect and affection for each other, really their love for one another, was so evident. Eva and Alita were travel partners, museum partners, salt spa partners, and partners in so much more…

And then came the arrival of our sons Nick 16 years ago, and Tim 12 years ago… My folks were there to greet each from their births, and the bonds that developed between grandsons and grandparents were precious and powerful – first while they were still living in LA, then when they moved to Brooklyn, and then with their arrival here in State College, just down the road from us.

How my mother and our sons relished each other’s company. Recalling their many sleepovers with her… and my mother’s regular presence at their musical, theater, and dance performances… What a gift it was, to have that contact.

One last thing I’d like to say about my mother, is that she never meddled in our lives, never inserted her views into our business.

You’ll notice I said I’d like to add… But I really can’t. Alita was an irrepressible intervener! At every turn, your problems were her problems (even before you knew you had a problem!), and her solutions were your solutions.

Her interventions could, at times, feel excessive. But the thing is, with my mother, it was never about manipulation, it was never about wielding power, it was never about her ego. You could push back, and she’d say “ok” (and live to come back the next day…).

It’s just that she cared, and her sense of connectedness with those she cared about – and that was countless people – was always stronger than her sense of boundaries! And being a keen observer of life – and an experienced liver of life – her advice, whether you were inclined to take it or not, was filled with wisdom.

How I miss those relentless intrusions now, and the love that lay behind them.

How we miss Alita, who lived life so long and so well, and who nonetheless, is gone too soon.

Our world feels like a lonelier place without her.

But look at the outpouring of love here today – and look at the eloquent appreciations of her life that have poured in from her vast galaxy friends and loved ones – and it’s clear, and palpable, that her spirit lives on in all of us.

Farewell, Mom – we love you, and we thank you.

Celebration of the Life of Alita Zurav Letwin (Remarks of Michael Zurav Letwin)

Remarks of Michael Zurav Letwin
September 20, 2020

On behalf of the Letwin family, welcome to this virtual celebration of my mother, Alita Zurav Letwin, who died on January 16th, but who is very much with us today, and who would have turned 88 last week on September 17th.

Although she had serious health issues, Alita’s death took us all by surprise. In December, she had intrepidly traveled to Los Angeles for what proved to be a successful mitraclip heart procedure that gave her real hope for a longer and better quality of life. But on her return to Pennsylvania, she had picked up an upper respiratory condition — yes we’ve thought a lot in the light of subsequent events about what that might have been — from which she just couldn’t recover. Thankfully, she didn’t suffer a long, drawn-out illness. To the contrary, she was active and engaged to the very end – participating in a MLK-day commemoration just a few days before she died. Like her mother, Manya, who died nearly 30 years earlier, her mind and will to live was unflagging, but her body was not. As both mother and daughter would often say about death: “Well, we must accept the natural process.”

Since then, all of us have no doubt thought to ourselves: what would Alita have to say about the world today: the needless and entirely preventable destruction of millions of lives from the disaster capitalism of COVID; the inspirational resurgence of the Movement for Black Lives, in response to the lynching of George Floyd and so many other people of color; the upcoming presidential elections; and so much more. But that question really answers itself: Alita would have done what she always did, from the beginning of her life to the end: rally us to speak out against oppression and injustice, wherever and whenever it may be found.

That is paramount among the many gifts that both, Alita and Leon, instilled in us: to stand up for what you believe in, even when it is unpopular, no matter what. It’s not that Alita was always unafraid. But she would, as she told us, “screw up her courage,” and do what needed to be done.

She inherited that moral courage from her parents, Zellick Zurav and Manya Tsfasman Zurav, Russian Jews who participated in the October Revolution of 1917, and who immigrated to this country in the early 1920s. During the Depression, Alita (whose family nickname was “Alla,” after labor martyr Ella Mae Wiggins) early memories included Hoovervilles, the infamous Scottsboro Boys case, pitched labor battles, the rise of Nazism, the Spanish Civil War, and being carried on her father’s shoulders each year for the May Day parade down Fifth Ave. With the onset of the postwar Red Scare, Zellick was fired from the Post Office, and in 1947, she and her parents witnessed the neofascist riot against Paul Robeson’s concert in Peekskill, New York. I’ll leave it to her cousin June Fisher to say more about that.

This family heritage molded Alita’s own courage. As a child in the early 20th century, Manya’s awareness of inequality was awakened upon seeing the Tsar march by in his finery, while ordinary children — including herself — couldn’t afford a decent dress to even attend the parade. As a teenager, Manya went on hunger strike until her traditional Chasidic father, who didn’t believe in education for girls, finally relented and let her go to school. In 1918, Zellick, age 13, was already serving as a Red Army courier. In 1929, Manya was arrested in Newark for supporting a streetcar strike. In 1932, while very pregnant with Alita, she was pinned down by live gunfire in a street battle between Nazis and Communists on the streets of Hamburg.

Their apple didn’t fall far from the tree: in 1940, Alita, age eight, refused to say mandatory school prayers — and won! At age 15, at Music and Art High School in New York City, she wrote a poem against lynching, and became a political activist. As a Labor Youth League leader at UW-Madison during the height of McCarthyism in the early 1950s, she braved anonymous late-night death threats, while she and Leon landed on the FBI’s secret list of dissenters marked for illegal mass detention. Undeterred, she and Leon protested political repression, the Korean War, atomic weaponry, racial segregation, the execution of the Rosenbergs, and the lynching of Emmitt Till. In 1955, she publicly debated future vice-president Hubert H. Humphrey, a Cold War liberal sponsor of Senatorial plans to send Communists to concentration camps. Never taking a back seat to men, she was a staunch feminist long before the term was fashionable. Leaving the Communist Party in 1957 did nothing to diminish Alita and Leon’s activism, particularly in support of movements against racism and colonialism. Alita brought these sensibilities to an illustrious career in early-childhood and law-related education, in which she taught generations of teachers around the world to engage students in critical thinking.

And thanks to my parents and both sets of grandparents, we didn’t fall far from the tree either. In 1961, Alita asked my kindergarten teacher in Milwaukee why a soldier had visited our class; the teacher self-righteously replied that I (age 5!) had started it by saying that this country had no right to be in Vietnam. I vividly remember, at age seven, seeing off Alita and Manya on the bus for the 1963 March on Washington. On June 23, 1967, our family (along with others here with us today) were among antiwar protesters assaulted by the LAPD for protesting the Vietnam war outside of the Century Plaza hotel, where President Lyndon Johnson was holding a campaign fundraiser. In the early 1970s, Alita and Leon were supportive parents to our underground Marxist high school newspaper, the Red Tide, which was based in the Letwin family home at 2226 Manning Ave.

Time doesn’t permit me to detail all of Alita’s work for social justice, or its impact on those who knew her. Suffice it to say that during her final years in State College, PA, she was a leader of the diversity and program committees at Foxdale Village Retirement Community, a regular at protests, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace and the Democratic Socialists of America, and an ardent supporter of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. As reflected on her Facebook page, in the days and weeks before her death, she was still speaking out against Trump and war on Iran; for Black lives, migrants, #MeToo, and Palestinian rights. Last New Year’s Eve, despite severe laryngitis, she called to make sure that we had sent in her annual political donations. In short, she never lost her youthful sense of hope, and imparted it to all those who knew her — no small gift to those she left behind in these, what seem like the worst of times.

In conclusion, as Alita’s children and family, we miss her terribly, but she will always live in our hearts, as we do our best to cherish and live up to her example. 


1957.10.31 – Alita Letwin (L) and Peggy Seeger (R) Singing at Moscow Youth Festival

1957.10.31 - Peggy Seeger and Alita Letwin Singing at Moscow Youth Festival_Page_1



Alita Letwin

Alita Zurav Letwin September 17, 1932-January 16, 2020

Alita Letwin was smart, funny, kind, and an inspiration to people of all ages.

In 2019, I was fortunate to spend time with my friend Alita when she came to Bellingham Washington. She was heading out to a rally, of course, and ready to lend her voice to the “national injustice of the month.” There have been so many it’s hard to remember the exact unfairness. She was indefatigable in her wanting to make things better.

Here we are at her friend’s home on that special day for both of us.

Alita and Leon, her husband of 63 years, were better together but amazing each on their own in work, community, and making the world better. We lost two steady and bright lights in the world with their passing.

Dinner at their house was delicious, often hilarious, where all topics were welcome at their long table. They became an extended family for me and my family – it always felt nurturing and special whenever I was included.

An early education specialist for many years at the Center for Civic Education in Los Angeles, Alita conducted law-related teacher training programs throughout the United States and around the world.

A lifelong feminist, she was pro-labor, anti-war, a civil rights advocate, and social justice activist. She had a love of life and a zest for experiencing the world in all its cultural and natural wonders. She had a drive to connect with people and forge community at every turn, and to champion human rights near and far. All of these qualities animated her from her first days to her last. More information about her life and just how special she was can be found at

1997.03.13 – Alita Zurav Letwin Resume – OCR

View in PDF format here: 1997.03.13 – Alita Zurav Letwin Resume – OCR

Raw text follows below:

Biographical Statement for Alita Zurav Letwin, Center for Civic Education

Alita Zurav Letwin is a Senior Consultant with the Center for Civic Education. She has been a member of the Center’s staff since 1972 as a specialist in staff and curriculum development for grades Kindergarten through 12. She has served a coordinator of the Law in a Free Society programs, instructor/coordinator of in-service workshops, courses and institutes, and as writer and editor of instructional materials. She also was co-chair of the Task Force on Minorities and Women in Law-Related Education. Her most recent publication is the annotated bibliography “Literature for Children and Young Adults: Examining Issues of Violence and Conflict Resolution.”

Prior to joining the Center’s staff, Ms. Letwin held a number of positions in the field of education, including director of child care centers, college instructor, supervisor of student teachers, Head Start evaluator and teacher trainer, and elementary school teacher.

Ms. Letwin received her A.B. degree in history from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and her M.S. degree in education from Bank Street College, New York City.



Alita Zurav Letwin

2226 Manning A venue

Los Angeles, CA 90064

(310) 415-S207


Staff development and curriculum development for grades K-12, pre-school, undergraduate and

adult education in the following areas: ·

• Law.related education.

• Multi-culturale ducation

• Elementary and early childhood education


1961 M.S., Banlc Street College ofEducation;New York, N.Y.

Major: Hwnan Growth and development

1954 B.A.1 University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin

Major: History

Professional Employment

1994-to date SeniorC onsultantC, enterf or Civic Educatione, stablishedb y and affiliatedw ith

the State Bar of California, 5146 Douglas Fir Road, Calabasas, California, 91302 ..

(818) 591-9321

1991-1994 Senior Associate, Center for Civic Education.



Responsibilities:I nstructoricoordinatoro f mentor teacher institutes, workshop

leader and lecturer: instructor/coordinatoor f in-service courses and National

EndoVYmeonft Humanitiesi nstitutes;w riter and editor of instructionalm aterials;

cuniculum developer1 grades K-12; consultant to school districts and teachers on

the integrationo f law-relatedc onceptsin tot he curriculuma nd the use of the text

and activitieso f the We the People.. . program.

Training and Consultant Services, National Bicentennial Competition on the

Constitutiona nd Bill of Rights,a projecto f the Center for Civic Education

Director,E ducationalS ervices,L awi n aF reeS ociety,a law-related/civice ducation

project of the Center for Civic Education.

Responsibilities: Coordinator of Law in a Free Society (LFS) National Center;

co-director of national Law•Related Education Technical Assistance Project,

liaisonw ith LFS CaliforniaC onsortiumf oLra wa ndt heH umanitieisn Elementary

Education,a nd all responsibilitiesl istedu nder SeniorA ssociatea bove.

Assistant Director, Educational Services, Law in a Free Society.

ResponsibilitiesS: ee above.


03,’17/97 15:53 N0.068



ProfessionalE mploymen(tc ont.)

1972-78 ProgramC oordinatori,n •servicel iaisona, nd writerf or Law in a Free Society.

Responsibilities: See above.

1972 Director. UCLA Child Care Center, Los Angeles, California.




Responsibilities:A dministratoor f a day-carep rogramf or 100c hildren.s.i x weeks

to six years of age; liaison with UCLA School of Education and Neuropsychiatric

Institute and supervisor of student teachers and volunteers.

Faculty member, Headstart Leadership and Development Institute, Pacific Oaks

College, Pasadena, California.

Responsibilities: Instructor of courses in (1) Human Growth and Development,

(2) Principles and Practiceso f Early Childhood Education, (3 Teclmiqueso f

Observationa, nd {4 ) Multi-culturaeld ucationc; ounsellorc;o nsultantto participant

Headstart programs; on-site staff development workshops.

Evaluator,1 968L eadershipD evelopmenIt nstitute,P acificO aksC ollegeR esearch

Department, Pasadena, California.

Responsibilities: Developer and Administrator of evaluation instruments;

producer of evaluationa nd recommendationsfo r future program organization.

Teacher Trainer, Cleland House and Headstart and Eastland Community Action

Program, (East) Los Angeless California

Responsibilities: Classes for teachers, non-professionaslt aff, parents, and

volunteers in Headstan programs; on-site consultation and training.

Researcher,H eadstartE valuationa nd ~esearch,U CLA,L os Angeles,C alifornia.

Responsibilities:D evelopera nda dministratoro fHeadstartc lassroomo bservation

instruments; co-producer of an observer training film.

1964 Supervisor of student teachers, Eliot-Pearson School of Education, Tufts

University, Medford, Massachusetts.



Responsibilities: On-sitev isitationas nd seminarle ader.

Director/reacher in pre-school and day care,. Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Substitutete acher.s econdg rade,E thicalC ultureM idtownS chool,N ewY orkC ity.

New York.


15:53 N0.068




“Literaturef or Childrena nd YowigA dults:E xaminingI ssueso f Violencea nd ConflictR esolution,”

an annotated bibliography, Center for Civic Education. 1996.

“PromotingC ivic Understandinga nd Civic SkillsT hroughC onceptuallyB ased Curricula,”M oral,

Character and Civic Education in the Elementary School. Jacques S. Benninga, Editor (Teachers

College Press, 1991)

Staff Consultant, We the People … Level I, II, III, (Elementary, Middle, Senior High School) text

for the National Bicentennial on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, Center for Civic Education

19871, 988. ·

Bibliography of Children’s Literature with Strong Law-Related Content, Social Education, May


Children’s Literature: A Treasuryo f Law-RelatedC onceptsa nd TeachingS trategiesf or Using

Children ‘s Books to Teach about Law, Synergy, Winter/Spring 1979.

Consultant/ContributingE ditor. ElementaryL aw-RelatedE ducationG uide, New York State

Education Department, 1981.

Law ConceptA ctivitiesf or the ClassroomS, ynergy, Winter 1977•78.

Contributing writer, Staff Development Leader’s Handbook, Law in a Free Society, 1978.

Co-author,L essonP lan volumes,L awi n a Free SocietyP ublications:

On Justice, 1976

On Privacy, 1976

On Freedom, 1976

On Property, 1974

ProfessionaOl rganizations

On Diversity, 1974

On Participation1, 973

On Responsibility1, 973

On Authority, 1972

Association for Supervision and Curriculwn Development

Coalition for Law-Related Education

National Council for the Social Studies

Task Force~ n Minorities and Women ~ Law-RelatedE ducation


2019.09.08: Alita Letwin Tribute to Leon Wofsy

Leon Wofsy was the second “Leon” in my life. I met him when I was 18, at the founding convention of the Labor Youth League in 1950. At first, he was an awesome leader who I had no personal contact with. Later, he became my co-worker when we moved to New York, where I became LYL National Student Secretary, and Leon Letwin the New York State LYL Chair. During the next few years (1954-57), we three went through much together: LYL campaigns on academic freedom and civil rights, the Khrushchev speech about Stalin’s crimes, the falling apart of the Communist Party, our decisions to leave the Party, appearances before various “Un-American Committees,” and dissolution of the LYL.

Through all this Leon and his wife Roz became our close friends, a friendship we worked hard to continue. We visited them in New Haven and San Diego as Wofsy returned to school to become a biochemist. And when he and Leon L. were hired the same year (1964) by Berkeley and UCLA, their home became refuge to our family of five on many occasions during our trips North. Both Leons were deeply involved in the Free Speech Movement, antiwar activities, efforts to secure boycott and divestment from apartheid South Africa, and fighting for affirmative action and women’s rights, in both their departments and in the University of California as a whole. So many phone calls!

When we were in London (1970-71), the Wofsys were in Paris at the Pasteur Institute and we visited each other. They came to us in Los Angeles so they could attend the 1984 Olympics. And as the years went by we became even closer, sometimes vacationing together. In later years, we happily welcomed Gail into our life. And as we aged we tried even harder to stay close, fearing that this time would come. Now it has and it’s hit me harder than I thought it would. It is hard to lose two Leons in one lifetime.

2019.08.25: Leon Wofsy, 1921-2019

Leon Wofsy Obituary

Leon Wofsy – scientist, activist, author, and cherished husband, father, grandfather and friend – died on August 25, 2019, peacefully and surrounded by family two days after a stroke. Leon was born in Stamford, CT in 1921. He was raised by parents who, as Leon described them, were deeply committed to building “a gentler world where wars and exploitation would be unthinkable”. Leon shared their hopes and values throughout his life. As a young man, he was leader of the Labor Youth League, which made him a target during the McCarthy period. During that time, and throughout the remainder of his life, Leon demonstrated uncommon courage, honesty, and a willingness to sacrifice in pursuit of the ideals of democracy, racial equality, social justice, and peace.

After almost two decades devoted primarily to radical political activism, Leon returned to school in 1958, received a PhD in chemistry at Yale, and joined the faculty at the University of California in Berkeley in 1964. During his years at Berkeley, he distinguished himself as a scientist through pioneering research on the use of antibodies to deliver effective therapies directly and specifically to the site of disease. His work proved to be visionary in helping to lay the foundation for the later development of ‘precision’ therapies that are now widely used in the treatment of cancer, immunologic diseases, and many other disorders. Also while at Berkeley, Leon was a leader among the faculty in supporting students during the Free Speech Movement, opposing war, fighting apartheid, supporting progressive movements in Latin America, and increasing the representation of women and minorities in the sciences and the broader academic community.

After his retirement from UC Berkeley, Leon wrote extensively on topics related to domestic and foreign policy, including two books, numerous articles, and a blog that was still active in the final month of his life. He never ceased hoping for, and fighting for, a better world. When he could march, he marched. When he could lead, he led. When he could teach, he taught. And when age took him off the front lines, he wrote and continued to inspire.

Leon was the most loyal of friends. He loved music and sports and nature and especially family. He was predeceased by his wife of 67 years, Rosalind Wofsy, and by his daughter Carla. He is survived by his wife, Gail Weininger, his son David, and grandchildren Danielle, Kevin, Susan, and Grace. A memorial gathering will be planned soon. For those who are so inclined, donations in Leon’s honor may be directed to Partners in Health or to the charity of your choice.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Aug. 30, 2019

2019.03.01: Jews stand with Ilhan: There is nothing anti-semitic about calling out AIPAC’s noxious role (Mondoweiss)

Jews stand with Ilhan: There is nothing anti-semitic about calling out AIPAC’s noxious role


The following petition, organized by friends, was signed by 229 people this morning (most of them Jewish; though the organizers welcome all signatories).  

We are Jews who stand with Representative Ilhan Omar. She has been falsely accused of anti-Semitism since tweeting that GOP threats against her and Representative Rashida Tlaib for criticizing Israel were “all about the Benjamins baby.” When asked to clarify who is paying members of Congress “to be pro-Israel,” Omar replied, “AIPAC!”

There is absolutely nothing anti-Semitic about calling out the noxious role of AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), which spends millions each year to buy U.S. political support for Israeli aggression and militarism against the Palestinian people. As the NYC chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace summed up: “Accurately describing how the Israel lobby works in this country is not anti-Semitic. The never-ending smear campaign against Ilhan Omar is racism and Islamophobia in action.”

There is no denying that money rules U.S. politics, and that powerful lobbies from the NRA to the fossil fuel lobby to AIPAC play destructive, anti-democratic roles in our political system, wielding money for legislative influence. The pro-Israel lobby has played an outsized role in producing nearly unanimous congressional support for Israel. It has organized a national campaign to suppress Palestinian activism on campuses, made the Israel Anti-Boycott Act a legislative priority, and for decades has boasted about their power to make or break political careers. To point out this reality is not anti-Semitic.

Genuine anti-Semitism and the growth of white supremacy are indeed growing concerns in Donald Trump’s America. Omar and Tlaib, the first two Muslim congresswomen in this country’s history, are not part of this ugly growth of white supremacy. Instead, they are part of movements which seek to confront it. For that, and for their courageous support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, they are being smeared by a racist and Islamophobic chorus, including the House Democratic leadership itself.

As long as the Israeli state continues to militarily besiege, economically choke, and incessantly dispossess the Palestinian people, and as long as it does so with the full backing of the United States government, we need to speak out against these crimes. We thank Ilhan Omar for having the bravery to shake up the congressional taboo against criticizing Israel. As Jews with a long tradition of social justice and anti-racism, AIPAC does not represent us. #WeStandWithIlhan


Elizabeth Aaronsohn
Stephen Aberle
Manal Abed
Husni Abualeinein
Judith Ackerman
Ali Aijaz
Greta Aiken
David Fulton Akin, Human Being & Jewish Voice for Peace
Lisa Albrecht, Emeritus Professor, U. Minnesota, JVP
Deborah Allen
Marcia Almey
Hind Al Sharif
Harriszal Amiruddin
Vered Amit, Anthropologist
Zalman Amit, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Concordia University
Anthony Arnove, Editor, Author, Producer
Kate Aronoff, Journalist
Ashley Auer, Editor
Jonah ben Avraham, Jewish educator, International Socialist Organization
Abdul Aziz
Mohammad Aziz
Nate Baldo
Alice Beauchamp, Jews Against the Occupation, Sydney
Sherry Bender
Anna Berg, Holocaust survivor, JVP NYC
Michele Berkon, Sydney Jewish Left
Ben Berman
Ibrahim Binalsheikh
Jonah Michael Birch
Eric Blanc, Author, Journalist, Democratic Socialists of America
Benay Blend, Independent scholar
Elizabeth Block, Independent Jewish Voices
Robert Brenner, Director, Center for Social Theory and Comparative History, UCLA
Audrey Bomse, National Lawyers Guild, Daughter of Holocaust Survivor
Lawrence Boxall, Independent Jewish Voices
Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, UC Berkeley
David Bragin, JVP NYC
Tibby Brooks, National Writers Union
Austin Campbell-Fox
Ajay Singh Chaudhary, Social and Political Theory, Brooklyn Institute for Social Research
Rick Chertoff, Jewish Voices for Peace – Los Angeles
Molly Crabapple, Author Drawing Blood and Brothers of the Gun Alex Cohen, Cofounder, Earth Defense Coalition
Arielle Cohen, Democratic Socialists of America
Tom Corcoran
Jordan Cummings, Red Wedge Magazine and Glendon College
Mike Cushman, Chair Free Speech on Israel (UK)
Natalie Z. Davis, Historian
Dr. James Deutsch
Tara Ehrcke
Arlene Eisen, Writer
Hester Eisenstein, Professor at Queens College & CUNY Graduate Center
Zillah Eisenstein, Writer, Activist, Prof. Emerita, Anti-Racist Feminism, Ithaca College
Rami Elhan, Co-director, Parents Circle-Family Forum
Jonathan Engel, International Socialist Organization
Wolfe Erlichmann
Annette Exner
Michele Farber, International Socialist Organization
Samuel Farber, Author, Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn College
Jason Farbman, Democratic Socialists of America
Dror Feiler, European Jews for a Just Peace
Marian Feinberg
Madeleine Fenn, International Socialist Organization
Deborah Fink, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, Co-founder
Erik M. Fink, Associate Professor, Elon University School of Law
David Finkel, Against the Current magazine
June Fisher, MD
Hannah Fleury, International Socialist Organization
Maxine Fookson
Inge Fowlie, Grew up in Nazi Germany
Libby Frank, WILPF
Nancy Fraser, Henry A and Louise Loeb Professor of Political and Social Science, The New School
Racheli Gai
Cheryl Gaster
Sarah Gertler
Neta Golan, International Solidarity Movement, Return, Boycott From Within
Steve Goldfield, Activist, Journalist, Musician
Rachel Goldstein
Sandra Goldstein Lehnert, ISO, Camp Kinderland
Yoni Golijov, Filmmaker
Zoe Goorman, JVP, Artist
Sherry Gorelick, Professor Emerita, Rutgers University
Bob Green
Tony Greenstein, Brighton & Hove UNISON
Cathy Gulkin, Filmmaker
Ekram Haque
Mainul Haque
Sam Harb
Stanley Heller, Host “The Struggle” Video News
Charlotte Heltai, International Socialist Organization
Shir Hever
Reem Hijjawi
Tikva Honig-Parnass, Israeli historian and activist, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
Laura Huel
Fayez Idlebi
Ellen Isaacs, JVP,
Sarah Jaffe, Journalist
Louis Kampf, MIT
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Ronnie Kasrils, Anti-apartheid veteran and former South African government minister (1994-2008)
Danny Katch, Author, International Socialist Organization
Bruce Katz, Palestinian and Jewish Unity Montreal
Mustafa Khalaf
Emma Klein
Naomi Klein, Journalist, Author, Professor at Rutgers University
Yael Korin
Dennis Kortheuer, People for Palestine – Israeli Justics
James Leas, Attorney
Alita Letwin, Jewish Voice for Peace
Daniel Letwin, Associate Professor of History, Penn State
David Letwin, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
Michael Letwin, Attorney, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Labor for Palestine
Les Levidow, Jewish Network for Palestine (UK)
Joseph Levine
Daphna Levit, Author, Israeli Rejectionism
Kathryn Levy, Poet, Arts Educator
Lesley Levy, IJV
Avi Lewis, Filmmaker
Jennifer Loewenstein, Independent researcher
Jason Lowenthal
Mary Lucchese, JVP
Ken Luckhardt, Retired National Rep, CAW (Canada) Former Chair, South African Congress of Trade Unions Solidarity Committee
Moshé Machover, Israeli dissident, founding member of the socialist organization Matzpen
Laurie Izaks MacSween
Rania Madi, Switzerland
Jad Mahdi
Harriet Malinowitz, Ithaca College
Naseema Mall
Tom Mayer, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Colorado at Boulder
Helaine Meisler, Jews Say No!
Chris Mejia, ISO
Manijeh Moradian, Professor Barnard College, Columbia University
Marion Munk Munk
Sarah Nesbit
Marcy Newman
Alex Nissen, Women in Black
Bertell Ollman, Professor, Department of Politics, NYU
Karin Pally
Rufus Palmer
Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian, author, activist
Maya Pasternak, Anarchists Against the Wall
Miko Peled, Writer, Human Rights Activist
Dan Macheret
Richard F Marcuse, Independent Jewish Voices
Aaron Martel, Tech Workers Coalition, ISO
Eva Steiner Moseley, Mass Peace Action
Henry Norr
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Hilton Obenzinger, Writer
Laura Ottaviani
Adam Overton
Haley Pessin, International Socialist Organization
Rosalind Petchesky, Jewish Voices for Peace
Karen Platt, JVP San Francisco bay area chapter
Karen Pomer, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Granddaughter of Holocaust survivor
Charles Post, City University of New York
Denise Rickles
Elizabeth Roberts
Ned Rosch, Network Against Racism & Islamophobia
Keith Rosenthal, International Socialist Organization
Yehoshua Rosin, Gush-Shalom (peace block)
Martha Roth, Independent Jewish Voices-Canada
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Reuben Roth, Professor, Laurentian University, Canada
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Karl Schwartz, International Socialist Organization
Stephanie Schwartz, International Socialist Organization
Yossi Schwartz, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency
Carole Seligman, Socialist Viewpoint
Jennifer Selwyn, History Department, California State University
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Katharine Shapiro, Gardners Supply
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Hassan Shishakly
Yael Shomroni
Harold Shuster, Independent Jewish Voices – Winnipeg
Julia Shpirt
Abba A. Solomon, American Zionism researcher
Rebecca Anshell Song
Eric Soucy, International Socialist Organization
Marsha Steinberg, BDS LA
Alice Sturm Sutter, Union Square Women in Black
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Tahir Abba Tahir, Young World Leaders Forum
Nuni Tal, Human Rights Activist
Pedro Tamames, NYU
Laura Tanenbaum, Professor, City University of New York
William Taylor
Daphna Thier, Israeli-American activist and writer
Hadas Thier, Israeli-American activist and writer
Tzvia Thier, Israeli Holocaust survivor, Jewish Voice for Peace NJ
Uri Thier, Ex-IDF Paratrooper
Maureen Tierney
Jane Toby, JVP and MECR (Middle East Crisis Response)
Bob Tripp
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Joseph Van Leeuwen, Musician, great-grandson of Holocaust survivor
Rebecca Vilkomerson executive director, Jewish Voice for Peace
Lois Weiner, Author and independent researcher
Philip Weiss, writer, co-editor, Mondoweiss
Suzanne Berliner Weiss, Holocaust survivor
Suzi Weissman, Saint Mary’s College of California, Jacobin Radio
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Paul Werner, The Orange Press
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Brett Wilkins
Ben Williams
Craig Willse
Rabbi Alissa Wise, Deputy Director, JVP
Ron Witton
Noga Gahl Wizansky, Artist, adjunct professor and union member, CCA and SEIU local 1021
Sherry Wolf, Author, International Socialist Organization
Derek Wright, Activist, musician, computer scientist, ISO
Richard Yanowitz
Zari Zalmai
Steven Zekowski
Annie Zirin
Dave Zirin, Author, A People’s History of Sports
Zohar, Artist, London England
Yotam Zohar, Artist and teacher