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!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • 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.