How Alison Levine Reached the Summit of Everest and Business

Chronicling an Inspirational Leader's Ascent

Into The Void: Alison Levine drags her sled toward the South Pole.
Erick Phillips, IceTrek
Into The Void: Alison Levine drags her sled toward the South Pole.

By Curt Schleier

Published January 24, 2014, issue of January 31, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 4)

Ultimately, of course, we reach the summit — or at least the 50th floor. While the ladies who munch dine on hors d’oeuvres and sip wine in the back of the room, Levine and I find a quiet place in front where she recounts what by almost any standard is a surreal journey from Phoenix to the mountaintops of both the business and real worlds.

Her greatest hurdles were her illnesses, she says. Levine suffered from a rare electrical defect in her heart that remained undiagnosed until she was 17 years old. An early surgery and medication didn’t help; she made numerous trips to the emergency room before a new surgical technique cured the problem in 1996 — at age 30 — two years before she climbed her first major peak.

She dismisses the problem as being nothing now, in the same way she shrugs off her battle with Raynaud’s disease, which she was diagnosed with when she was 20. The disease limits blood flow to the skin, a condition exacerbated by — yes — cold and stress. “I’ve learned how to manage it,” she says.

It turns out Levine’s quixotic journey tackling the world’s largest windmills actually may be a genetic imperative inherited from her father, Jack. If the name Jack Levine is familiar it is because he was the special agent of the FBI who, in the early ’60s, spoke out against his boss, J. Edgar Hoover, accusing him of, among other malfeasances, anti-Semitism.

He further charged the bureau — and Hoover — of using the threat of the Communist Party as an excuse for numerous civil rights violations and unauthorized wire taps. Jack Levine “was labeled a threat to national security and railroaded out of the bureau. We have a copy of a letter that J. Edgar Hoover wrote to Bobby Kennedy, back when Bobby Kennedy was attorney general, asking to put a wiretap on my dad’s phone and keep his residence under surveillance.”

Hoover, she continues, “basically blocked” her father from taking the New York bar exam.

So the family picked up stakes and moved to Arizona — which “was still the wild West at the time” — looking for a new start. Hoover’s reach followed them there, but because of a court ruling in his favor, her father was able to take and pass the Arizona bar.

It was a relatively idyllic time. Levine remembers spending a lot of time on horses borrowed from a stable near her home, “riding two or three times a week.” She was also involved in community theater.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.