At 83, Levy Celebrates His Bar Mitzvah

Ask Louis Levy what motivated him to be bar mitzvahed at age 83, and he responds. “In my day, young men in the Reform movement did not become a bar mitzvah. So, when the opportunity recently arose, I took it.

“While our temple, the Washington Hebrew Congregation (WHC), in Washington, D.C. traditionally celebrates the bar mitzvah of a man who reaches age 83 in the current year, whether or not he was previously bar mitzvahed,” Levy continued, “this practice is not unique to WHC.”

It is based on a growing belief in the Jewish community that if a man has lived the “normal” life span of 70 years past the age of 13 (when he was first eligible to be called to the Torah), he should celebrate a bar mitzvah.

Since Louis had never studied Hebrew, I helped him learn the words through transliteration. We also solicited the assistance of the teacher at the temple who prepares adults of all ages for a bar/bat mitzvah. At the Yom Kippur service on October 4, 2014, Louis, surrounded by family and friends, proudly walked to the bima and recited the blessings. He has since received a bar mitzvah certificate, which he happily displays in his office.

Although Louis has lived in the Washington, D.C. area for many years, he has never forgotten his Jewish roots in Louisville. Having grown up in the Highlands, Louis is still a member of The Temple where, in honor of his parents, he established the Louis, Evelyn and Markham Levy Audio Visual Fund. He also donated the Levy Great Hall in the Klein Center at The Temple.

In addition, Louis is a member of the Jewish Community Center (JCC), where he established the Louis Levy Film and Theatre Arts Fund. In 2006, Louis received the JCC President’s Award for unique contributions to the JCC and the community.

When asked what Louis considers to be his greatest legacy in the Louisville Jewish community, he enthusiastically and unequivocally replies, “the Louisville Jewish Film Festival!” Louis spearheaded the establishment of this festival 17 years ago, and provided its initial funding.

This festival has grown considerably and is highly recognized. Directed by Marsha Bornstein of the JCC and Film Festival Committee Chair Keiley Caster, a committee consisting of about a dozen members reviews a wide array of films (this year the committee reviewed more than 50 films) and selects those which it feels will be of greatest interest to the entire Louisville community. Various venues are selected for viewing.

This year’s festival began February 5 and will conclude this Sunday, February 22. Louis regularly participates in the planning meetings for the festival, and also returns to Louisville to attend it. Before the 2015 festival began, he said, “this year’s festival will be the biggest and best ever.”

As if Louis does not have enough to do, he remains involved in acting, voiceovers and cabaret singing. A member of SAG-AFTRA, Louis has appeared in numerous plays in the Washington, D.C. area, including a production in the Page-to-Stage Festival at the Kennedy Center. Louis also appeared as the rabbi on Broadway in the play, Bernie’s Bar Mitzvah, and then reprised the role in Louisville at the JCC’s CenterStage a number of years ago.

Additionally, he has appeared in more than 30 feature films. His voiceover experience includes narrations for an exhibit at the National Archives, and in 2010, Louis received the Peer Award from the Television, Internet and Video Association for his Public Service Announcement on Motorcycle Safety. He also regularly performs cabaret at different locations in the Washington area, and has appeared at the Smithsonian Museum’s “Steinway Series.”

Louis and I have lived in Alexandria, Virginia since we married nearly 11 years ago and remain active members of the Jewish community in the area. In addition to belonging to The Washington Hebrew Congregation, we are involved in the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, where I serve on the Board of Directors and am cochair of the Program Committee.

In past years, Louis volunteered for the Jewish Federation, and both of us were involved in the early stages of the Washington Jewish Film Festival. Louis is the kind of person who is always encouraging other folks to get involved in community service.


  1. From Frank Allenza 317-403-2014. Saw about Louis’ Bar Mitzvah. I know 2 more bar mitzvad after age 70. I attended many L’ville Jewish Film festivals. I now live in Roch. NY at a senior place. Lots of beanies meals movies trips etc. My wife died in 2012. Pls pass on to Louis.

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